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Post  polka23dot on Fri Nov 07, 2014 2:23 am

Ghana has a dirty little secret. The peaceful transition to democracy, the years of double-digit growth, the offshore oil find, the promotion to middle-income status: None of that came with jobs. Unless you’re educated, connected, willing to pay a huge bribe, or able to work for nothing for years as an apprentice, you’re on your own. Of course, you wouldn’t know it from looking at unemployment figures (anywhere between three and ten percent, depending on who you ask) because the government counts every last hustle, down to hawking Mentos on the Airport Road, as legitimate, taxable employment. If you stripped out the informal economy, unemployment could be as high as 80 percent... Shit is everywhere in Accra. Medical researchers bought plantain chips from hawkers all over the city and tested them. There were traces of feces on every last bag. The consequences are devastating. Tens of thousands of people die from entirely preventable diseases every year. Children exposed to poor sanitation are slower to develop, mentally and physically. This literal shit storm costs Ghana $300 million a year in deaths, hospital bills, and sick days. None of this is likely to change any time soon. Even multi-million dollar mansions in the most exclusive neighborhoods drain into glorified cesspits called soak-aways (because the sewage eventually soaks away—right into the water table). “Even if you live in an Accra neighborhood with sewers, or you have a septic tank, it all ends up in the sea,” Esseku says. And that’s not because Accra doesn’t have any sewage treatment plants. There are about a dozen. But none of them work, he says, “And nobody cares...” London started building sewers in the late 1850s; American cities started in the 1860s. Today half of Mumbai’s waste is pumped into the sea, and workers in India’s financial capital crawl through the drains to clean them out before monsoon season. Beijing’s current sewage system is an old Russian design built in the 1950s that was completely overwhelmed by one storm in 2012. While Accra’s problems are not unique, the situation is especially grim. Aside from the dredging project, there are no other plans to stop the city from being incapacitated by its own waste. A ludicrously small number of Accra neighborhoods have trash collection, so much of the city’s rubbish ends up in the nearest gutter, storm drain, or stream, bound for the lagoon. Then there’s the effluent from industrial plants and factories all over Accra and the deadly concentrations of heavy metals from the electronic waste dump. As if that toxic soup wasn’t enough, most of the city’s raw sewage is dumped into the ocean less than 200 meters from the mouth of the lagoon, and surges back into the channel every single time the tide comes in. All of this has turned the Korle Lagoon into one of the most polluted bodies of water on earth. Today at the dump almost everything is on fire. The two twenty-foot heaps of trash skimmed from the lagoon have started to spontaneously combust. People are doubled up, coughing. “It’s too much for us, you see how bad it is,” says a man carrying a sack of trash towards the dump. “Somebody needs to help us out...” Right after the most recent election, as the results were being contested in the High Court, slum residents from one party hunted down activists for the opposition and attacked them with machetes. Ten or fifteen men were hacked to death in broad daylight near the police station... Today there’s no water in Accra, which is nothing new. The state water company doesn’t actually know what happens to most of its water. The pipes are old, so most of the water is either lost to leaks or stolen. The only difference this time is that this water shortage had an actual cause: The government had shut down the supply for a week to fix broken water mains... In Accra, the mayor is appointed by the president, so most decisions about the city are temporary and politically expedient, says Ohene Sarfoh. “Nobody criticizes them, so they do what they please.” Because the state can barely keep its capital functioning, wealthy Ghanaians have built a parallel city by finding private solutions to public problems: the roads are bad, so they buy four-wheel drives. The educational system is broken, so they send their kids abroad. Last year, when the West African gas pipeline ruptured and energy shortages led to rolling blackouts, poorer Ghanaians got used to living in the dark and richer Ghanaians bought more generators. But the people who can’t afford to build their own private city, the majority of residents, are at Accra’s mercy. source:


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