Dangerous siting of cement factory

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· EPA moves to protect residents, traffic, ecology, edible salt ponds

There is a joke making the rounds about Ghana and Nigeria. And it is this: While the Delta area is devastated with oil spills; and illegal galamsey miners openly destroying the ecosystem (forests, cocoa farms, water bodies, etc), the debate raging away among the two stressed countries is, Who makes a better Jollof rice?

And to think those are two important nations in Africa: Ghana being the first in sub-Saharan Africa to achieve independence in 1957, and Nigeria being the most populated and largest economy.

Green Ghana Project

It was pleasing to read the caption in Daily Graphic (June 14, 2021): “Green Ghana project to be institutionalised.” I jumped for joy on further reading that June 11th each year would coincide with the World Day of Forests to ensure that the over 5 million trees planted were properly nurtured into maturity.

How lucky and refreshing that ministers, public officials and organisations joined the exercise, to support the Lands Ministry and others to plant more trees to preserve and protect the country’s natural environment “to commemorate the International Day of Forests.”

That vision reminded me of Kwame Nkrumah when he established the Ministry for Parks and Gardens, February 1965. I was in form four at Mfantsipim when in that very same decade, the visionary Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore introduced a “clean and green movement” to create an oasis in Southeast Asia. He had surmised that the new nation “needed a department dedicated to the care of trees after they had been planted” and established one in the ministry of national development. The chief purpose is for ecological balance, that is, to protect the environment and the health of the people who live in it.

Cement factory wrongly sited

It’s for the reason of protecting the environment that resulted in the protests and recent media coverage against the wrongly sited location of the Empire Cement factory.

For one thing, the Empire Cement owners intentionally avoided engagements with residents in that area including Tetegu, Weija, North and South McCarthy Hill, Gbawe, and Mallam bordering Sakaman and Odorkor – all in the Weija and Ablekuma constituencies. The residents were shocked to see the speed and the extent of construction that had occurred so quickly, night and day.

And that should alert the nation’s officials and concerned citizens about the environmental degradation happening on their blind side. Prevention is better than cure. It is better to stop the wanton destruction of the environment than try to save it when the ruin has already occurred.

Floods on roads

For the construction of the Empire Cement factory, the lowlands and wetlands were filled to street levels and that contributed to massive floods after the shortest rainfall. With the lowlands elevated without any recourse to the destruction of the natural ecological balance.

The plot on which the factory was sited was filled and refilled to a point where the road has now become in effect the low-lying area and a manmade flood zone. Try estimating the cost of redirecting the new floods to the original lowland areas, to fathom the damage done that could have been avoided in the first place.

For example, that cement factory in itself has already added to the flooding in that stretch from lower McCarthy Hill and Gbawe, on the main Accra-Winneba road, affecting delayed trips to Cape Coast, Takoradi and beyond.

During the slightest rain fall, traffic from Accra bound for Kasoa, Winneba, Takoradi, and Cote d’Ivoire and beyond are affected by the floods. That stretch is a major West African highway. The major highway – quite new as it is – has already began to disintegrate with potholes.

Air pollution

Air pollution, for example, is one of the fastest rising causes of ill health in the country, implicated in increasing asthma attacks, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Travelling long distances, the air pollutants puts the people at risk over a long stretch.

Cement processes produce such toxic elements and gases that can cause several ailments including respiratory diseases. Such factories – as important as they are – have to be sited away from heavily populated areas.

EPA orders de-commissioning

Bits and pieces of neglect may each be seen small in itself, but in the aggregate, they have assumed a proportion which cause calamities with overall national and local consequences

It’s amazing how some parliamentarians and policymakers for the maintenance of roads, stood by while such massive destruction took place. Bad politicians give good politicians a bad name. How on earth site a cement factory without considering the effect on traffic, the ecology, the residents, and an edible factory situated next door! It’s ridiculous.

On 10th June 2021, the EPA  (established December 30th, 1994 with the responsibility to regulate the environment) issued the following letter to Empire Cement: “You are by this letter directed to stop all construction and installation activities that relate to cement production on the site with immediate effect. You are further directed to decommission all equipment, structures, machinery, and any other facilities for the production of cement within two weeks from the receipt of this letter.” Time to support the EPA to carry out its mandate.

Email: anishaffar@gmail.com

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