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In Defence of the Polythene Bags in the Era of Floods

chronicle May 31, 2019

The polythene bag is being unnecessarily demonised in this country with calls for its head. Social media helps make matters worse for the life of this bag and all things plastic, when it shows pictures of African nations like Ethiopia and Rwanda banning for life anything that is a plastic bag.

The polythene bag, especially the black polythene bag, has played and continues to play a vital role in the lives of media practitioners, politicians, traders, business transaction dealers and the household, to mention a few.

We all heard of a certain senior journalist who was alleged to have been voluntarily and willfully compelled to kill a very important story of great public interest, when a heavily loaded polythene bag exchanged hands in his favour. He was also alleged to have immediately acquired a high imperialist taste, and relocated from his humble abode in a downtrodden locality to a bourgeoisie environment, where top world celebrities will envy with green eyes. That was an allegation which was hotly disputed, even without documentary evidence to show.

With our cities and towns lacking proper waste and sewerage disposal facilities, it was the black polythene bag which came in to offer free services. In fact, it is so humble and very tolerant to accept waste dropped in it by diahorrea patients or any such patron who got caught unannounced in the night.

The general complaint lodged against polythene bags is that they are all over the place, turning what is beautiful into things nasty and an eyesore. In fact, this applies to everything plastic as well. They are found at the beaches, either swimming or relaxing on the shores while basking in the sun. Statistics went on to prove that some of these polythene products have become aquatic, and are gradually out-numbering the fish in our water bodies, including the sea, since fishing nets draw in more of polythene of late, than fish.

In the fields and the woods polythene can be found everywhere and social media keeps showing polythene in our gutters unprofessionally deregulating the natural flow of water, resulting in the floods we always have.

As stated above, there is a call for the head of all things polythene, with social media showing us countries where such plastics are converted into energy and made useful in everyday life. In Israel, for example, a certain type of polythene bag is developed that can easily dissolve in water, and even be very wholesome and hygienic enough to be drank. This is the best way of disposal of polythene bags to date, but unfortunately, the Israelis have not come out with how to dispose of polythene bottles with this new method they have developed, and what happens if the sachet water in such a bag starts leaking.

In all these, we are yet to develop such technologies in Ghana so that the population of polythene products can be reduced to almost zero. We are always reminded that polythene products have a longer life span of, at least, five hundred years under any natural condition, even without food and water.

And that is the danger to humankind, because, soon, and maybe very soon, polythene products will take over the world and humans will go extinct.

In all this, why should polythene products be defended if they can easily end civilisation as we know it?

One clear and strong point is that, polythene products, that is bags and bottles, do not have the mobility to be able to move from one point to the other. The agents or catalysts for the movement of such products are, we the humans. Clearly, we recklessly dispose of such products anyhow and in any manner without considering the harmful effects.

The Chief of Tema, Nii Adjei Kraku II, some time ago embarked on a prestigious project of ridding the beaches of Tema off filth, most of it being polythene products. The remarkable ambition was, however, very difficult to achieve, because not all the waste is generated in Tema, for they could come from all over the country, by air and by water. Tema, at the coast, only receives deposits of these undesirables and openly exhibit them to all indigenes and visitors alike.

We humans are the problem; we are the agents of the disposition of filth in our environments, our homes and in public places. The polythene product just stays where we put it until some other agent carries it to some other place.

We have no public litter bins to be used to accommodate, even if temporarily, polythene products. And even if we have, we will naturally develop, at least, two undesirable habits. One, we may never regularly empty the bins so that they will be full and heap beyond their edges and spill over, helping other agents carry the polythene elsewhere, and two, we may have miscreants who may either steal the bins or damage them.

Our refuse dumps are, in themselves, transition points for these polythene products, for the reckless arrangements there make it possible for the filth to be scavenged by humans and animals, and get transported to other areas by the wind or the floods as well.

Now, since it is now very obvious who is to blame for the filth around us, we need our political and social leaders to have that strong will to educate us on what to do, and severely punish those who violate the rules. Commercial vehicles have been mandated to have small litter bins on board, so that anyone who needs to dispose of waste can safely dump it in the bins. These days, such bins are very impossible to find on such vehicles, because of lack of implementation of the regulation by drivers and passengers. So the tradition goes on – just throw that waste overboard as the vehicles move along.

Every place is a dumping ground, and that also means the one at the receiving end is more of the drainage. Our drainage system is so archaic that one wonders what our developers see in repeating the same method of drainage construction and hoping to get different results.

Come to think of it, we must allow our political leaders to have that political will, and give them all the support they will need to spend good money in constructing underground sewerage systems like the types in France, even if it means destitute persons and tramps could make that place their home.

All drains must be covered to make it highly impossible to allow waste to be lodged into them. The law on proper solid and liquid waste disposal in compound houses and densely populated areas must be implemented to the letter, and those who violate such laws must be severely punished, with heavy fines attached.

We also hear people blaming houses built in waterways that become one of the causes for the floods. One point here is that if we construct proper drainage systems, we can divert the natural streams and open up the environment for well laid out townships. It is another problem for houses to be constructed haphazardly, as if the buildings we broadcast, as in the way farmers broadcast their seeds during planting. This creates problems for the easy flow of water, and it has got nothing to do with blocking of natural waterways, here.

One other thing is that when buildings are demolished for rightfully or allegedly blocking the waterways, the debris is not collected and well-disposed off. We see such areas now represented by concrete elevations blocking the flow of water and creating a serene environment for the population of reptiles and insects to live and grow.

Even what becomes worse is that miscreants may take shelter in what is left of the buildings and put up temporal structures for their homes. There they engage in all forms of vices. Nothing is done about this, and such eyesore can be found in very serene residential areas like Labone.

Somewhere in the eighties, Jerry John Rawlings ordered the destruction of mansions from the Yahoushua School in a single line right through to the walls of Ababio clinic, a private health facility of a one-time Secretary of Health. The area for demolishing cut through half of the compound of the Carr Family. The official reason was that those mansions were in a strip demarcated for a service road with cul-de-sacs at both ends.

There was no reason at all for that, since the area is well laid out and the buildings posed no obstruction at all. To this day, the area is not developed into that service road, rather wild reptiles and stray domestic animals, with rats and mice, have found shelter there, and with miscreants having made that place their home, it poses health and security threats to the nearby houses.

The unofficial reason given for the demolishing of the building was that one person was singled out to be punished for refusing to join the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), and his building must go. To make it look as if he was not the reason for that, someone pulled the original layout plan for the area, and it was found out that the targeted person had his house in the way, and as such, all others were also to go.

Talking about putting up buildings in unauthorised areas, I believe to put an end to this, not only should the building owners be punished, but also those in authority who gave out building permits must be made to suffer the consequences of their actions. It does not matter whether that officer is still in office or is in retirement, he or she must pay for gross professional misconduct, and this will deter others in signing building permits for areas that buildings should not be put there.

In Labone and most residential areas, plots earmarked for playgrounds and markets have posh residential buildings sitting on them.

Now that it is clear that the human is the one guilty for the filth and not the polythene bags and bottles. Stringent means should be implemented to make such undesired waste disposals unnecessary and adequate punishment meted out on all offenders.

The floods are back again, and surely, we need to rethink and implement lasting measures to resolve this situation, and stop blaming polythene.

Hon. Daniel Dugan









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