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Local Governance expert, Prof. Kwamena Ahwoi, has tasked the government to put in the needed resources and initiatives to build on the capacity of the various Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to enable them manage waste, since that was the way to go in contemporary communities. "We have decentralized 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. Capacity-building is a sine qua non to effective decentralization," he argued.

Prof. Ahwoi made this observation at the launch of the KNUST - Africa Institute of Sanitation and Waste Management (K-AISWAM) in Accra on Tuesday. According to the longest-serving Minister of Local Government, who lectures at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), sanitation and waste management were two of the "cradle to grave" services which human beings ignore at their peril, but hardly does the country hear of initiatives or institutions specifically set up to manage waste effectively, efficiently and scientifically.

To the Professor, for the country to derive the best from its governance system, which has been decentralized, empowerment of the MMDAs should not be overlooked, since what makes decentralization an attractive governance option for residents of localities and communities was its ability to deliver services efficiently, cheaply and timeously. To this end, he urged the newly set-up sanitation and waste management institute to take up the challenge and fill the vacuous gap "that has been crying to be filled."

Prof. Ahwoi further urged the institute not to see itself as an exclusive academic enclave, insisting on qualifications and specialized admission requirements for all its programmes since the real movers and shakers of sanitation and waste management in the country were the uneducated and not-so-educated sanitation and waste management staff and employees of the MMDAs.

"The institute must specifically target them and formulate custom-made capacity-building programmes for them, so that their knowledge can be improved and their capacities built to enable Ghanaians have real practical benefit from the institute's existence," he averred. The Executive Chairman of Zoomlion and Jospong Group of Companies, Dr. Joseph Siaw Agyepong, commenting on the institute said the initiative was a product of "industry-academia cooperation."

He said Zoomlion considers the Africa Institute of Sanitation and Waste Management as an embodiment of its commitment to facilitating the development of a clean and healthy African environment contributing to enterprise development and the creation of jobs for the people. The Vice-President, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Dr. Toga Gayewaa McIntosh on his part lauded the brains behind the setting up of the institute, Zoomlion and KNUST, with their mission to enlighten people and to shape policies, programmes and industrial culture to deal effectively with the challenges of indiscriminate waste disposal in the growing communities of West African States.

K-AISWAM intends to expand, within the next decade, its research, education, training, consulting, and advisory services with activities into broader innovative chemical, biological, and electronic waste management areas. To Mr. McIntosh, not only will the sustained research establish facts, solve problems, and develop new processes and products, but it would also provide a useful regional platform for analysing existing and emerging information needed to arrive at new and more effective conclusions.

"The opportunity to develop information and the requisite technology now exists. If it is missed, our development objectives will miss their mark and we shall continue to trail the rest of the world. He said despite the gains made in the waste management sector, a lot still remains to be done. "There still remains a major practical challenge for which the availability and utilization of adequate systems, processes and know-how become a cardinal policy issue at both national and regional levels.

"Greater awareness of how the new found technology works and what it can do to foster indigenous capacity and to facilitate research must be created," he noted, adding "Meeting this challenge transcends national boundaries and requires an integrated regional approach."