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A new study has found that toxins from e-waste activities at Agbogbloshie is contaminating Ghana's food chain, but Ghana's EPA dismisses this, and says it won't be taking any urgent actions to stop pollution from the Agbogbloshie scrapyard.


By Muntaka Chasant | 1477 words | Reading time: 5.5 min






Agbogbloshie E-waste Dump, Accra, Ghana/ April 2019. Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant


Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana 


Despite rising global wealth, much of Sub-Sharan Africa is still in a state of extreme misery with millions mired in unimaginable poverty.


Thousands of people in places such as Agbogbloshie face significant hardship and poverty.


This could partly explain why it is easy to turn a blind eye to young men openly burning insulated copper wires for copper recovery near the center of Accra, Ghana’s capital city, since this provides them desperately needed work.



Agbogbloshie E-waste Dump, Accra, Ghana/ December 2018. Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant


The personal circumstances of the young men in the above photos upset a lot of us.


Do not conflate this issue with the unsafe dismantling of e-waste at Agbogbloshie.


The burning of insulated copper wires for copper recovery at Agbogbloshe has very little to do with the illegal importation of e-waste. Most of the wires are locally collected.


So don't be too quick to start pointing fingers.


There are several environmental and health hazards related to recycling at Agbogbloshie.


The release of hazardous chemicals from this intense copper recovery process into Accra's air, the land, and the Korle Lagoon, is only one among several recycling and related environmental and health issues at Agbogbloshie.


The burners in the photos and videos are usually the visible manifestation of the precious metals business at Agbogbloshie.


To the world, they are the villains.


But there are several layers of people involved, which you do not see.


You have the scavengers who roam through Accra every day to collect electrical wires and auto parts.


Then the intermediaries, who pick up the wires and resell them to scrap dealers inside the Agbogbloshie scrapyard, and elsewhere.


The wires are then turned over to the burners, who use the crude methods in the videos below to remove the plastic sheaths off the copper wires.




Agbogbloshie E-waste Dump, Accra, Ghana/ April 2019. Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant


The dirty copper are then carted away after the burn, weighted and sold inside the Agbogbloshie scrapyard.


The copper changes several hands before reaching the point where they are reprocessed and used in newer products, mostly outside of Ghana.


These burners are usually the least earned in this process, and the most impacted.


I see them as victims of this terrible place.


Lots of people make money off this Agbogbloshie copper recovery business.


It is Accra residents and the burners who suffer the most. 


You can see why employment opportunities for these guys won't be changing the game at Agbogbloshie.


The people making money off this business would find their replacements the next morning.


Regardless of their situation, this should not be going on at Agbogbloshie, not at the city’s largest open-air food market.


Learn a bit more about what is going on at Agbogbloshie in the links below.


RELATED: Videos and Photos of Agbogbloshie, Ghana


RELATED: A Small Glimmer Of Hope Comes To Agbogbloshie



What is the most recent research finding concerning Agbogbloshie? 


A recent study by IPEN and the Basel Action Network (BAN) has found high levels of toxins such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), among other highly toxic substances in chicken eggs from Agbogbloshie.1


There are several livestock ranches around the Agbogbloshie e-waste dump.


If you look carefully in some of the scenes in the videos below, you can actually see cattle and sheep moving about on the Agbogbloshie e-waste landfill, looking for something to chew on.


Where do you think their meat ends up?


See also: Agbogbloshie And Africa's Bulging Youth Population


Soon after the IPEN and BAN publication on Agbogbloshie, John Pwamang, the Acting Executive Director of Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in an interview with a local radio station mentioned that, for now, there’s not much the EPA can do, except to wait on a yet to be constructed e-waste facility (to be mainly funded by the German Government) at Agbogbloshie.2


Kwabena Frimpong Boateng 

Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, Minister responsible for Ghana's Environment - The Inauguration of the Abgbogbloshie Technical Training Centre/ March 2019. Credit: Muntaka Chasant


Ghana's EPA is an agency of Ghana's Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI).


So the minister pictured above is somewhat partly responsible for the worsening pollution situation at Agbogbloshie.


EPA's response to the IPEN and BAN findings is disappointing.


It seems to me the Government of Ghana is not much bothered by scenes such as those in the videos below, as it has failed to intervene to protect the city's population from this toxic pollution.


I have visited Agbogbloshie once every two weeks in the last 8 months, and things are getting worse, as new burning spots seem to be springing up every now and then.


Things are not looking good at Agbogbloshie, and won't be looking good if the Government of Ghana does not intervene immediately. 



RELATED: Agbogbloshie 2019


60% of the scenes in the first video below were captured on 29 April 2019. This goes on from morning till evening, mostly from Monday to Saturday.


Despite the environmental health risks, the Government of Ghana has done nothing to stop the use of scrap tires to singe livestock at Jamestown, Accra.


I would be skeptical about what Ghana's EPA, MESTI and AMA say about Agbogbloshie, if I were you.


Ghana's EPA is underfunded and under resourced.


Ghana's EPA has only 15 air quality monitors (plus 10 low-cost sensors) in the whole of Ghana. All located in the Greater Accra Region.


To make things worse, Ghana's EPA does not issue air quality alerts to inform the public about air quality and air pollution hotspots.


And Data from their insufficient air quality monitoring networks are not publicly accessible.


They only monitor particulate matter - no monitoring of gaseous pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone.


As you can see here, Ghana does not have the resources to identify and analyze the toxic air pollutants (except particulate matter) from the burning of electrical wires and e-waste for metal recovery at Agbogbloshie.


Go there and assess the environment, and determine for yourself if EPA's Acting Executive Director's full response is ridiculous or not.


Agbogbloshie is probably still one of the worst polluted places on earth, as you will see in the videos below.


And Accra residents still eat vegetables, fruits, beef, and fish from this 'toxic hell'.


Is there a way to tackle Agbogbloshie immediately? 


This is already illegal, so no new Legislative Instrument is required.


Enforcing environmental laws (and all branches of law it seems) is a major problem in many developing countries, including Ghana.


Ghana has very comprehensive environmental laws.


It was easy to copy and paste laws from other jurisdictions, but they are rarely enforced.


If not, why is this still going on after more than two decades?


Why are urban areas in Ghana drowning in single-use plastics?


See also: Plastic Pollution in Ghana: Causes, Effects and Solutions


Plastic Pollution in Ghana 

Plastic Pollution in Accra, Ghana / October 2018. Credit: Muntaka Chasant


Why are Ghanaian roads filled with dirty and polluting cars?


See also: Air Pollution Killing More People in Ghana


This should explain why Mr. Pwamang of Ghana’s EPA thinks Agbogbloshie does not require immediate intervention.


He is part of the system that is overseeing to the environmental mess you see in Ghana today.


While my generation (I'm a millennial) may be responsible for a lot of Ghana's environmental problems right now, we were not, and are not responsible for policy.


My generation cannot be blamed for the woes of Ghana today, as we are rarely allowed the opportunity to participate in policy making.


It's still the older people, who shouldn't be working, who make policy.


Mr. Pwamang, your age cohort, and those that came before you took everything from us, and are leaving us with nothing but misery, poverty, and grossly polluted environment.


A court should be able to order the enforcement of existing laws to stop the hazardous pollution from Agbogbloshie.


I may be exploring legal options on the toxic air pollution from Agbogbloshie if things do not improve by 1 August 2019.


More than 90% of the videos below were captured with a cell phone.    




Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana





Agbogbloshie, Ghana - A short film




See also: Pictures: The Rwandan Genocide


See also: Air Pollution in Kenya: Causes, Effects and Solutions


See also: Air Pollution in Ghana: Causes, Effects and Solutions


See also: "Urban mining" and Air Pollution in Accra, Ghana



Please leave your comments below, and let us know what you think!









1. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/apr/24/rotten-chicken-eggs-e-waste-from-europe-poisons-ghana-food-chain-agbogbloshie-accra (Retrieved May, 2019)
2. https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/business/Agbogbloshie-dump-to-remain-open-as-EPA-targets-e-waste-recycling-facility-741852 (Retrieved May, 2019)










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