Mr Muntaka Chasant, a social entrepreneur concerned with the health effects of air pollution in developing cities, has cautioned that air pollution now kills more people in Ghana than malaria and AIDS combined. He, therefore, called for urgent measures to address the country’s deteriorating air quality.
He said toxic fumes from car exhausts, open burning of garbage and biomass, road dust, the use of inefficient cook-stoves and polluting fuels indoors were causing millions of premature deaths annually, a problem which was being overlooked in Ghana and in many low and middle income countries.
Mr Chasant, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Accra, said estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that more than 28,000 annual deaths in Ghana are attributable to air pollution and recently the country’s annual air quality is more than five times above WHO’s recommended safe level.
He indicated that air pollution is a leading stroke risk factor and causes more than 20 per cent of global stroke burden, adding that lung cancer, ischemic heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are also associated with air pollution.
Mr Chasant said: “Air pollution is prevalent in most parts of Ghana, with the surrounding areas near Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, Ghana’s premier healthcare facility, being one of the hotspots in the country. The nearby areas include James Town, Chorkor, and Agbogbloshie, a notorious electronics waste dumping ground, where roughly 40,000 Ghanaians reside.”
He drew the attention of the public to a 2018 study by a scientist, Jennifer Burney, and others, which estimates that air pollution was responsible for 449,000 infant deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015, about one-fifth of infant deaths in the Region.
Mr Chasant urged Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency and other stakeholders responsible for the protection of the environment, to intensify efforts to tackle the problem of air pollution. “I think that developing cities are at a crossroads.
On the one hand we have to pursue growth relentlessly to better the lives of our people, and on the other hand our methods are causing the early deaths of millions of the same people. The mess we have made of our environment is increasingly diminishing the possibilities of survival of the next generation,” he said.
Mr Chasant suggested rigid and urgent measures to solve the problem, saying; “We need to start serious countrywide air quality monitoring and reporting. Without data showing that global or national standards are being breached, there will be little urge for authorities to act.”
“We need to consider taxing or limiting the number of polluting cars entering the city centers, and I think it will also benefit us if we look at waste recycling technologies and other municipal waste incineration options again.”