The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered two steel factories – United Steel and Rider Steel – to shut down for not complying with Ghana’s environment safety regulations.
This order follows investigations by Joy Business Charles Ayitey on how smoke emissions by some steel factories at the Free Zones enclave are not just polluting the atmosphere but also endangering the lives of factory workers.
Deputy Executive Director of the EPA, Ebenezer K. Appah-Sampong told Joy Business a taskforce has been deployed to the site to ensure both steel factories have indeed shut down.
"As per the procedures when you have such noncompliance issues you engage them after your investigations and then agree on a certain roadmap to ensure that it is fixed permanently, our records indicate that we have exhausted that process and we are not waiting anymore we wrote to the two companies on the first of July to shut down operations and then fix the problem before we can allow them to work," he told Joy Business.
Upon visiting some steel factories at the Free Zones Enclave in Tema, one is met with plumes of smoke. The thick smoke darkens the environment making it hard to see or breathe.
Some workers of MND Metals Co Ltd who are mostly victims of the pollution complained of respiratory issues to Joy Business.
One such worker, Felix, narrated how he “visited the hospital frequently since starting this job”. Other workers also claimed of “coughing blood” and “feeling week” after hours of working in such a polluted environment.
Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) action
Information picked up at the office of the Acting Executive Director for the EPA, Acting Executive - John A. Pwamang, indicate that “letters have been served manufacturing companies flouting environment regulations to either shut down or comply”.
Health publications have shown that the presence of chemicals, particulates or biological compounds in the atmosphere can harm human and animal health and damage the environment.
Factories and other industrial installations have caused such pollution since the dawn of the industrial age by burning fuels, carrying out chemical processes and releasing dust and other particulates and Ghana is no exception.
Ghana ranked 124 in the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) which ranks 180 countries on environmental health and ecosystem vitality. What this means is that the country has performed poorly when it comes to being environmentally safe.
Poor air quality kills people. Worldwide, bad outdoor air caused an estimated 4.2 million premature deaths in 2016 out of which about 90 percent of them are in low- and middle-income countries like Ghana. That’s according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In Ghana, WHO estimates that air pollution from all sources caused about 28,000 deaths in 2016, over 4,000 of them being children under the age of 16.
In the Greater Accra Region alone, outdoor pollution caused some 2,000 deaths in 2017, the WHO asserts.