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The first-ever Africa Institute of Sanitation and Waste Management was launched in Accra yesterday to serve as an education and training resource for sanitation and environmental management experts. The institute, known as Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology-Africa Institute of Sanitation and Waste Management (K-AISWAM), is a collaboration between the KNUST and Zoomlion Ghana Limited.

It would concentrate its efforts in the areas of research and development; provide public/private consultancy services as well as tertiary education. Mrs Cecilia Johnson, Chairman of Council of State, who launched the institute, said it was heart-warming that a national need had once again been identified by the leadership of Zoomlion Ghana Limited to address the critical knowledge and capacity need of the waste management sector of Ghana’s economy.

“The institute, I am told, is dedicated solely to training and increasing the capacity of our human resource to analyse, design and implement effectively the solutions that will help make not just Ghana but countries in Africa clean,” she said. Mrs Johnson said over the last two decades, Ghana had seen rapid urban growth as a result of the increase in the country’s population, rural-urban migration and the classification of settlements from rural to urban.

She said the country’s urban population was expected to increase from about 44 per cent of the total population in 2000 to around 65 per cent by 2030. That rise in urban population, she said, had put a significant strain on the social infrastructure in urban areas and the ability of cities to manage the sanitation and waste implications.

Mrs Johnson said while Government had provided the regulatory and continued to strengthen the capacity of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to manage waste generation and disposal, it was also clear that increased private sector participation was needed to surmount that problem. She said while the country was on course to providing access to safe drinking water, “we remain far behind in making progress towards the sanitation goals.

“It is in this regard that private sector participation has become critical for us as a country,” she said and commended Zoomlion Ghana Limited for its efforts to solve the waste problem in Ghana. Professor Kwamena Ahwoi, Architect of Ghana’s Local Government, said an institute such as K-AISWAM was long overdue, as a logical consequence of the decision to decentralise critical service provision functions to the MMDAs.

“We have decentralised the sanitation and waste management function to the MMDAs, but we have not developed the capacity of the MMDAs to manage the waste; and neither have we developed the awareness of the localities, communities and the general public to the dangers of indiscriminate waste disposal and of their real costs. This is what K-AISWAM has set to do,” he said. He emphasised that capacity building is a sine qua non to effective decentralisation, “unfortunately, capacity-building has often been seen as necessary for political, administrative, planning and fiscal decentralization only”.

“K-AISWAM has, therefore, come at a most opportune time to fill a vacuous gap that has been crying to be filled. The institute’s vision of making Ghana and West Africa a cleaner, greener and healthier environment is in accord with the original vision of using Ghana’s decentralisation programme to deliver on district-level development and effective service delivery,” he said.

Dr Joseph Siaw Agyepong, Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer of the Jospong Group of Companies, said Zoomlion Ghana Limited was delighted to be championing such a worthy cause to provide professional training to help manage issues in the country’s waste management sector.

GNA