Pollution Problems That Exist In Ghana
It is just a few months that the world entered the 21st Century. We have, indeed come a long way from the ancient and primitive ages to the modern day world. During this long span of more than many million years, man’s life has been through several drastic and fundamental changes. But one of the most difficult challenges that it faces even today is the menace of environmental degradation that has been posed by mankind to a large extent by polluting it over the ages.
Environmental pollution is an undesirable change in the physical, chemical biological characteristics of the natural environment, which usually caused by man's technological activities like deforestation.
In Ghana today, there are too many pollution problems to pen down. Some of the worst and the deadliest are water pollution, soil pollution, and air pollution. by Joachim
AIR POLLUTION IN GHANA
Even though water and soil pollution are catastrophic, the type of pollution, which is of global concern, is air pollution, unlike water or soil pollution, which are of regional and provincial concern.
Air pollution is the contamination of air by the discharge of harmful substances.
Air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, is a significant cause of health problems in Ghana. In Ghana, both urban and rural outdoor environments contain toxicants and irritants that reduce the quality of air. All these come about by the activities of man in the environment.
Air pollution can cause health problems including burning eyes and nose, itchy irritated throat, and breathing problems among others.
•CAUSES There are many obvious causes of air pollution in Ghana. All these causes fall under the activities of man on the environment.
Agricultural: Ghana being an agriculture country, there are many activities which are performed by farmers which leads to air pollution. For a land to ready for any agriculture activity there should be clearing of land which deals with the clearing of the land. This includes the cutting down of tress and burning of slash. Furthermore, the increasing use of agricultural chemicals also helps the air to be polluted.
Industrial: Tema being Ghana’s most industrious city has its industries always polluting the air. Almost everyday, effluents gases are released in the atmosphere by these industries.
Fuel Combustion: Also the emission of greenhouse gases and hydrocarbons to the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels helps promote air pollution in Ghana. This mostly occurs in the rural areas of Ghana. This is because the use of fossil fuels such as coal is among the people in the rural areas. Again, the burning of fuels by most machines pollutes the air by releasing gases in to the atmosphere. One of the gases produced is Carbon Monoxide (CO). Also, the continued smoking of tobacco products helps promote the pollution of air in Ghana.
Chlorofluorocarbons: Again, the emission of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from compressed cans and sprays. Out of these, the emission of CFCs are the most catastrophic as it destroys the ozone layer, which protects the Earth from the harmful Ultra-violet rays of the Sun causing skin cancer.
Mining Activities: Moreover, one of the most drastic causes of air pollution in Ghana is the centered on the unscientific mining activities which is popularly known as “Galamsey”. In Ghana, because of its rich sources of minerals, there are many activities day in and day out. Taking the city of Obausi for example, it is known for its gold mining activities. Through the mining activities, the air is polluted by introducing much dust in the atmosphere.
•EFFECTSThere are many effects air pollution has on the environment and the people who live it in.
Health: An effect of air pollution is that it harms the health of mankind. For example, when the gases that cause carbon monoxide are inhaled, it may reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood that is needed for the effective functioning of the body. In some major cities, these gases could cause dull mental performance and make people prone to accidents. Besides, sulphur oxides can cause cardiovascular ailments (heart diseases), such as asthma and bronchitis. Other diseases caused by air pollution are cancer, anaemia, and pneumonia.
Agriculture/Vegetation: Also, air pollution has widespread damaging effects on vegetation. Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides combine with water vapour to form sulphuric and nitric acids. These acids fall with the rain which is popularly known as acid rains which causes plants to wither. Sometimes when wind scatters these pollutants, rain or snow washes them to the ground. This causes acidity to the soil and destroys its nutrients and consequently threatens the life of plants.
Depletion of the Ozone Layer: Air pollutants can also damage the earth’s upper atmosphere (the ozone layer). This ozone layer is like a shield, which prevents the ultraviolet (UV) rays from reaching the earth because of its harmful effects. Chemical pollutants, such as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) damage this ozone layer. They cause deadly skin cancer, global warming, and can blind thousands of people with cataract.
Climatic Changes: In addition, air pollution may affect the climate. Both gases and particulate can cause changes in the average temperature of an area. Particulates scatter the sun’s rays and reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the earth. Such interference with the sunlight may cause the average temperature of the earth to fall. On the other hand, a gas like carbon dioxide allows the sunlight to reach the earth but prevents the heat of the sun from going back into space. This results in the greenhouse effect, thereby causing average temperatures to rise.
SOIL/LAND POLLUTION IN GHANA
“The nation that destroys its soils destroys itself”.
Soil is one of Ghana’s most fundamental and precious resources. Like clean air and water, life cannot survive without healthy soil. Since over 95% of Ghana’s food comes from the land one way or another, managing soils so they remain healthy and productive is a matter of survival. But as days pass by, the soil is being polluted al the time.
Land pollution or degradation is the gradual process by which the natural state and quality of land is destroyed through the activities of man, to the degree that the natural environment becomes insufficient to support living organisms.
Soil is mainly polluted by the excessive use of pesticides and similar substances so as other human activities. Some of the causes are:
Disposal of Trash (Solid Wastes): The major cause of land pollution or degradation today in Ghana is the careless disposal of municipal wastes from homes and commercial enterprises. People use land such as an open dump for paper, wood, cans, faces, rags and other non-decayable packaging materials such as ice-water and yoghurt plastics wastes. In other developing countries, land degradation is mainly in the form of disposal of solid materials. These include the abandoning of cars, refrigerators and scraps of metal on the land.
Mining Activities: The open cast method of mining, as well as the traditional “Galamsey” and commercial mining is another factor that contributes to the degradation of land. These mining practices often leave huge scars on the land. Sometimes, the dusts from mining sites are carried by the wind and deposited on agricultural lands thereby making farming activities impossible.
Bush Fires: Another common form of land pollution in Ghana is bush burning. These bush burning occur mostly from the slash and burning method of farming, hunting palm-wine tapping etc. The result of this practice it that is exposes the land to both rain and wind erosion. Repeated bush fire also bakes the land and makes agricultural activities impossible.
Agro-Chemicals: Agro-chemicals include pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. These chemicals are used for agricultural purposes and when applied properly, they could give good effects. However, the wrong or excessive application of these chemicals damages or destroys the soil by causing acidity to the soil.
Air Pollutants: When gases are emitted into the atmosphere it can contribute in damaging fertile lands. When these gases combine with water vapour and other precipitation, they fall as acid rains. Acid rains cause acidity to the soil and damage it.
Destruction of Vegetation: The effects of mining, bushfires, etc also have environmental impacts, in terms of destroying plant species. Either large tracts of land are covered with sand, or left with scars, trenches, and unfilled holes that may destroy plants as well as farms. This mostly affects Ghana’s chances of earning foreign exchange.
Soil Erosion: One of the effects of a polluted land is that it increases the chance of all the types of erosion – sheet, gully, etc. to work against the land. Sheet erosion is caused when wind carries away the top layers of the soil. Gully erosion on its part, takes place when both wind and rain widens and deepens the land. This may spoil a once-productive land.
Loss of Soil Fertility: A further effect of erosion is that it may destroy the land and wash away all its nutrients and organisms. Soil nutrients may therefore be too low to support crop production. It is not only erosion that destroys the soil nutrients, but also the wrong application of agro-chemicals. This may cause acidity to the soil and destroy its organic matter.
Extinction of Rare Animals: When a land is deprived of its vegetative cover and plants, rare (scarce) animals such as the deer, gorilla, tiger, lions etc are endangered because they are deprived of their habitat.
Comprising over 70% of the Earth’s surface, water is certainly the most precious natural resource that exists on our planet. Without the apparently invaluable compound comprised of hydrogen and oxygen, there would be no life on Earth. Water is essential for everything on our planet to grow and prosper. Although we as humans recognize this fact, we disregard it by polluting our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Subsequently, we are slowly but surely harming our planet to the point where organisms are dying at a very alarming rate.
In addition to innocent organisms dying off, our drinking water has become greatly affected as is our ability to use water for recreational purposes. In order to combat water pollution, we must understand the problems and become part of the solution.
Water pollution is any chemical, physical or biological change in the quality of water that has a harmful effect on any living thing that drinks or uses or lives (in) it. When humans drink polluted water it often has serious effects on their health. Water pollution can also make water unsuited for the desired use.
•CAUSES OF WATER POLLUTION
In Ghana, water pollution is usually caused by human activities in the environment. Different human sources add to the pollution of water.
There are many causes for water pollution but two general categories exist: direct and indirect contaminant sources.
Direct sources include effluent outfalls from factories, refineries, and waste treatment plants etc. that emit fluids of varying quality directly into urban water supplies.
Indirect sources include contaminants that enter the water supply from soils/groundwater systems and from the atmosphere via rain water. Soils and ground waters contain the residue of human agricultural practices (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) and improperly disposed of industrial wastes. Atmospheric contaminants are also derived from human practices (such as gaseous emissions from automobiles, factories and even bakeries).
Solid Wastes: The chief source of water pollution in Ghana is the careless disposal of waste materials. It is common in most coastal (Ocean) belts of Ghana, not forgetting our lagoons where you will find people dumping refuse and human excreta (faeces) into our lagoons and oceans. This practice is mostly found in the Korle Lagoon in Accra. Also, most of the waste materials come from the industries which come in the form of chemicals and metals affects the smooth flow of rivers.
Oil Spillage: Tema being one of Ghana’s industries cities has many industries whose waste products are mainly oil. This mostly occurs during the production, distribution, and refining stages. These oil spills enter oceans and rivers from faulty and accident tankers as well as offshore oil wells. Also the oil may pollute water from our homes where we spill oil in our gutters which therefore gets into our water bodies.
Sewage: Water pollution also occurs due to untreated sewage from plants, animals, and humans. They create offensive odour, use up the oxygen in waters, and make rivers impossible for human use. A typical example is Tema - New Town, where untreated sewage, are transported into the Chemu Lagoon in the town. If too much oxygen is used, organisms in the water cannot survive. Sewage that is treated could also be harmful because they contain nitrates and phosphates that increase the growth of algae. The algae upset the natural or free flow of rivers and other water bodies.
Agriculture: Agriculture, including commercial livestock and poultry farming, is the source of many organic and inorganic (pesticides and other agro-chemicals) pollutants in surface waters and groundwater. These contaminants include both sediment from erosion cropland and compounds of phosphorus and nitrogen that partly originate in animal wastes and commercial fertilizers. Animal wastes are high in oxygen demanding material, nitrogen and phosphorus, and they often harbor pathogenic organisms. Wastes from commercial feeders are contained and disposed of on land; their main threat to natural waters, therefore, is from runoff and leaching.
Acids: Because mining is one of Ghana’s major activities, there are usual discharges from mining firms in the form of acid mine-water and also acid rain contribute to water pollution.
•EFFECTS OF WATER POLLUTION
It is a well-known fact that clean water is absolutely essential for healthy living. Adequate supply of fresh and clean drinking water is a basic need for all human beings on the earth, yet it has been observed that millions of people worldwide are deprived of it this due to it effects on our daily activities of polluting it.
Health Problems: Water pollution poses a number of health problems. Water-borne pathogens (that is organisms that present health hazards) can cause such diseases as typhoid, fever, cholera, and hepatitis. Mostly, the point infection is through drinking or swimming the contaminated water.
Viral infectionsInfectious Hepatitis (jaundice)
Protozoan infectionsAmoebic dysentery
Water-borne diseases are infectious diseases spread primarily through contaminated water. Though these diseases are spread either directly or through flies or filth, water is the chief medium for spread of these diseases and hence they are termed as water-borne diseases.
Most intestinal (enteric) diseases are infectious and are transmitted through faecal waste. Pathogens – which include virus, bacteria, protozoa, and parasitic worms – are disease-producing agents found in the faeces of infected persons.
These diseases are more common in areas with poor sanitary conditions. These pathogens travel through water sources and interfuses directly through persons handling food and water. Since these diseases are highly infectious, extreme care and hygiene should be maintained by people looking after an infected patient. Hepatitis, cholera, dysentery, and typhoid are the more common water-borne diseases that affect large populations in the tropical regions (especially the Northern Region in Ghana).
A large number of chemicals that either exist naturally in the land or are added due to human activity dissolve in the water, thereby contaminating the water and leading to various diseases.
Effects on Aquatic Life: The environmental effect of polluted water on aquatic life is very upsetting. It needs to be emphasized that, solid wastes and sewage create fertile grounds for the germination and growth of algae (sea plants). Algae has faster growing rate and dies at the same rate. After the algae die, they contribute in reducing the level of oxygen in a river, which threatens the habitat of certain fish of economic value. This is very serious because when oxygen levels approach zero, only sludge worms and red blood larvae can survive in rivers. Oil spilled from ships or offshore oil wells and acid rains can also cause pollution that may kill water birds and shellfish.
Destroys Water Bodies: Pollution of water with heavy metals and other toxic wastes may lead to the death of rivers, lakes, and lagoons. The situation becomes more serious when these metals are deposited at the source of these water bodies. This is because it may prevent the flow of water from its source and consequently kill the river.
Effects on the Use of Water: Polluted water also prevents people from using it for domestic purposes. The offensive odour of polluted water, such as the Korle Lagoon in Accra, reduces the amount of pure, fresh water that is available for drinking, washing and swimming.
How to minimize Water Pollution in GhanaThe solutions to these problems are that, raw sewage should be treated before discharged. Also, the Municipal Assemblies and the other assemblies should provide rubbish cans so that rubbish empty tins and plastics can properly be disposed off.
Furthermore, programmes on environmental issues must be organized to educate the public on the need for them to keep the environment clean and also the need for them to organize themselves and go for clean - up exercises. For it is when we THINK GLOBALLY that we can ACT LOCALLY. by Joachim