Ghana: Open burning of contraband goods raises environmental concerns

Open burning of mattresses in Accra, Ghana
Open burning of mattresses in Accra, Ghana

By Kofi Adu Domfeh

Hundreds of illegally imported mattresses confiscated by Ghana’s customs authority were recently burnt openly at a landfill site. The destruction of the impounded goods is in line with laws prohibiting the entry of used mattresses into the country.

It is common place to see thousands of cartons of cigarette, canned food, drugs, wax prints and other restricted or unwholesome goods burnt openly.

Environmental concerns have however been raised about the practice of burning such materials, due to the gases emitted into the atmosphere.

Kwaku Abeeku, who manages Green Energy and Logistics Consults, says Ghana as a signatory to various international agreements on climate change, including the Paris Agreement, must reconsider alternatives to the burning of impounded goods as soon as possible.

“In the case of these open burns, aside the issue of Carbon Monoxide, these imported mattresses are mainly synthetic foams containing petroleum based chemicals and sometimes even fire retardants,” he observed. “Aside emissions, people living in the immediate environments of these burn sites and the country at large are put in a rather bad situation as we commit to global moves in combating climate change”.

Ghana, in its international obligations as a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is guided by its own commitments in the nationally determined contribution (NDC) to climate change mitigation.

As an obligation at the multilateral level, Ghana reaffirms its resolve to support global efforts to define a common future that seeks to safeguard the collective interest of all nations by supporting the 2015 Paris global agreement on climate change.

The implementation of climate actions is expected to help attain low carbon climate resilience through effective

Open burning of contraband items in Ghana
Open burning of contraband items in Ghana

adaptation and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction.

In 2017, Ghana at the UN Conference of Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, pledged the country’s commitment to help combat climate change and adapt to its effects.

The destruction of contraband mattresses, clothing, food and pharmaceutical products through open burning is therefore regarded as negating the country’s commitment to climate mitigation.

Kwaku Abeeku has challenged the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), the

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and other institutions responsible for best environmental practices to help halt the open burning of materials.

“I believe the time to make climate and environmental concern a culture and environmental responsiveness a mandatorily measured policy is now,” he said.

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