E-waste threatens Ghana’s beaches
By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Accra, Ghana
Many beaches in Ghana, already stressed by human faeces, errant animals such as dogs, swine, live chicken and cows looking for food, plastic waste, water pollution, and poor maintenance, are now facing a new threat: e-waste.
Old TV sets, printers, cellphone batteries and covers, keyboards, cables, computer screens and motherboards lie freely on the country’s beaches, as swimmers and walkers enjoy their day - probably unaware of the dangers of such gadgets around their environment. Children playing at the beach also use this old equipment as toys.
Scientists say when the toxic chemicals contained in electronic waste is exposed, they can cause lung cancer, damage to the DNA, liver, heart and spleen if inhaled.
“This is the consequence of ICT explosion, but most of all when a country is being used as a dumping ground by the West for old electronic equipment,” environmentalist Samuel Asumang told Biztechafrica in the capital Accra.
A Greenpeace report, Poisoning the Poor, said containers filled with old and often broken computers, monitors and TVs - from brands including Philips, Canon, Dell, Microsoft, Nokia, Siemens and Sony - arrive in Ghana from Germany, Korea, Switzerland and the Netherlands under the false label of ‘second-hand goods’.
Asumang said most of the discarded ICT material comes from Agbogbloshie, the world’s largest e-waste dumping ground, before being ‘dispatched’ throughout the country, and eventually landing on its beaches.
“Beaches are places of entertainment and relaxation and they shouldn’t become dumping sites for electronic waste,” he said, blaming consumers and ICT technicians for a lack of respect towards the environment.
A computer technician living in the vicinity of a beach in Accra’s impoverished suburb of James Town denies throwing undesired computer parts on the beach.
“I throw them right there at that dumping site overlooking the ocean, but I don’t know how they end up on the beach,” Kofi Owu said.
“Ghana has some of the ‘dirtiest’ beaches in West Africa,” Umaru Essandoh, a lone volunteer cleaning up e-waste, used plastics and bottles of mineral water washed away from a beach in Accra Central, told Biztechafrica.
"I think it’s the government’s fault for not speaking out loud about such issues,” he added.