Thursday, October 1, 2009

ghanaian perspective

Comment: Is Ghana bridging the digital divide or creating a digital dump?

Have you thought about the impact of all the used computers, second hand fridges, televisions, mobile phones and other used appliances imported into the country and what becomes of them at the end of their life span? The West speaks a lot about global warming and how fast the world is overheating and ice in the oceans are melting. However, the impact of their electronic waste or E-waste could have far reaching consequences for our health in the future.

They come under the disguised description of second hand goods and donations from the West meant to bridge the digital divide and improve the lot of Africans. Research and investigation on e-waste into Ghana has revealed Ghana is gradually becoming one of the world’s digital dumping grounds for electronic waste. On the outskirts of Accra, Agbobloshie is fast becoming a record breaker in e-waste compilation. One study estimated that a hundred million tonnes of e-waste each year piles up at Agbobloshie and other surrounding dump sites in the country.

Why should we be concern? Our health and that of young men and women are being endangered by the highly toxic fumes released from the burning of electronic cables and components. People’s lives are being endangered daily in the name of earning a living for themselves and families. Children mostly under eighteen are seen at Agbobloshie and other areas burning toxic plastics and electronic scraps in search of copper and iron to sell for a living. Magnets from old speakers are used to gather small pieces of minerals left at the burn sites.

The health implications are deadly and destructive in the long run. Toxic chemicals are released into the environment for us to inhale and slowly destroy the system. The scrap components contain chemicals like lead, mercury and brominated flame retardants. Other chemicals such as phthalates which interferes with sexual reproduction are laden within the fumes released. Cancer, lungs infection and a destruction of children developing reproductive system are some of the effects of the gases released from these burning electronic gadgets.

Do we need such donations and second hand electronics to endanger the lives of our people? Is the environmental protection agency, the ministry of trade and industry and civil society interested in reducing or eradicating the dangers these imports have on our society? We need to take more interest in what is imported in this country and how each one of us dispose of our electronic gadgets. Family members of ours who are engaged in importing heavy consignments of these scrap electronics called second hand goods must be made aware of the effects of their trade on society.

Ghana’s Communications Minister has given hints of the possibility of government enacting legislation to stop the dumping of e-waste into Ghana in a telephone interview with on Tuesday April 14, 2009. He added “we have taken a serious view of the situation and we are considering the passing of anti-dumping legislation, particularly of used computers.”

Emmanuel K. Dogbevi on Ghana business news website asserts the following: “Since April 2008, when the country’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the formation of a committee to deal with the situation nothing concrete has happened.”

Much of what has happened, have been paper work and tough talk by public officials who appear not to be fully aware of the specific extent of the dumping and its measured effects on the country’s environment and human health.

Indeed, much of what has been done in concrete terms in direct relations to the dumping of e-waste into Ghana, have been done by foreign countries. The European media also, unlike the Ghanaian media has given the situation serious coverage and broadcast.”
The legislation should be implemented now without delay. We’ve heard a lot of empty talk before. Immediate action can avert the dangerous consequences that lie ahead.

Responsible governance is a partnership between government and the citizenry. We in Africa should be more proactive about our future and not take such issues for granted. If our health and future is important to us, no one should force us to take action on these things. Spread the word and let us take steps to remedy this situation.
Africa has hope because Africa has you.

Credit: Joseph Foray Jnr.
[vice president, strategic planning for the 42nd Generation - an African Youth organization.]
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1 comment:

Joseph said...

the fight for environmental sanity is a must and everyone of us must contribute to bringing the needed change in Africa.