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The quality of air in Ghana’s capital, Accra, remains poor and high above national standards and World Health Organisation (WHO) requirements, Dr Henry K. Kokofu, the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, has said.
Contributors to poor air quality include mining, forestry, cement, manufacturing industries, vehicle emissions, and waste burning.
The EPA Boss said though there had been some improvement, the current pollution level was more than the national standard of 35 microgrammes per cubic meter of air and WHO’s yardstick of 10 microgrammes per cubic meter of air.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark this year’s International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, Dr Kokofu said air pollution affected the quality of life and caused cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, upper and lower respiratory tract infections.
The United Nation’s event, which was on the theme, “Healthy Air, Healthy Planet,” sought to prioritize the need for healthy air for all, while keeping conversations broad enough to encompass other critical issues such as climate change, human and planetary health, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals.
Dr Kokofu said EPA in 2015 estimated that 2,800 lives were lost due to the effects of air pollution and that the number could increase to 4,600 by 2030 if urgent action was not taken.
“In the Ghanaian context, the economic cost associated with air pollution is estimated at US$2.5bn or an equivalent of 4.2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (World Bank Country Environmental Analysis, 2019),” he said.
Dr Kokofu said as part of efforts to reduce air pollution, the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) through the EPA and other collaborating Ministries and Agencies had taken steps to develop a comprehensive Air Quality Management Plan, Fuel Quality Standards and Standards for Vehicle Emissions.
He said the Ministry and EPA with support from the World Bank was implementing the Pollution Management and Environmental Health programme to collect real-time regulatory data for health impact assessment and decision making.
The Executive Director noted that MESTI in collaboration with EPA and other partners had completed the installation of state-of-the-art air quality devices at the University of Ghana, Adabraka and Dansoman to further control Air Pollution in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA).
Mr Mohammed Adjei Sowah, the Metropolitan Chief Executive Officer of Accra, said poor air quality was one of the top public health challenges that the local Assembly was working to address.
He said available data indicated that 1,400 people died of poor air quality in Accra alone, explaining that the figure could increase if adequate measures were not taken to keep air pollution low.
The Accra Metropolitan Assembly, he said, as part of efforts to address the situation had collaborated with some academic institutions to install sensors to gather data on air quality, embarked on tree planting in the city, beautification public sensitization, and safe waste disposal.