An Accra-based television station recently broadcast a news item where some dealers in used electronic appliances in Kumasi were seen protesting vehemently against the government’s decision to ban their importation into the country. According to these dealers, the sale of used electronic appliances is their only source of livelihood and that the ban will kick them out of business.
They also argued that since the government has not provided them with alternative jobs, it will be wrong to completely ban the importation of electronic appliances, since that is the only business they do to take care of their families. They, therefore, threatened to demonstrate against the intended ban until the decision is reversed.
Though the dealers in the products have every right to protest against the ban, we, as a nation, must also look at the other side of the coin, which is the health implication it brings along. Available research indicate that electronic waste contains toxic components that are dangerous to human health, such as mercury, lead, cadmium, polybrominated flame retardants, barium and lithium. The negative health effects of these toxins on humans include brain, heart, liver, kidney and skeletal system damage.
Since some of the banned electronic appliances contain these toxic materials, one can conveniently argue that the government is right in trying to ban its importation into the country. Treatment of brain, heart, liver and kidney related problems is very expensive in Ghana and if these electronic appliances contribute to the emergence of these diseases in the country, then no amount of interest can override or stop the ban the government intends to impose on the products.
This notwithstanding, we do not think it is also right for the government to just get up and impose a ban on these products. In our opinion, the state agency responsible for the sector must first of all conduct a scientific research to establish the pros and cons before announcing the ban.
In this case, we are referring to the economic gains and health implications that come with the importation of the products. If it comes out after the scientific research that the health implications far outweigh that of the economic gains, then the ban will be justified.
On the other hand if the research proves that the economic gains will benefit the country more than the health implications, then there will be no need to ban the importation of the products.
But for Ghanaians to properly understand before choosing to either support or reject the imposition of the ban, these research findings we are advocating for must be made public. In the absence of this, it will be very difficult for these dealers and their dependents and in fact Ghanaians as a whole to accept the ban.
Already, the minority spokesperson on Energy, John Jinapor, according to media reports, has kicked against the imposition of the ban. In our view, he is justified in saying so because those behind the imposition of the ban have themselves failed to justify their action with any incontrovertible evidence.
Since Ghana is part of the global village, we must be seen to be doing things that are globally accepted. Denying people of their livelihoods is a serious matter, but if there are evidences that what the government is doing is right, then nobody should raise a red flag.
To be honest, we are in support of this ban because e-waste is indeed very dangerous, but since the government has not provided the evidence to back the danger we are seeing, it must be shelved for the time being, until the right things are done.