Mr Andrew Barnes says even though there are bound to be enormous transition challenges when a ban on plastics is announced and enforced, he has confidence in the Ghanaian to find a way to do without plastics.
While refraining from directly asking government to ban particularly single-use plastics, Mr Barnes said plastics posed a great environmental challenge globally.
Unacceptably large volumes of plastics are used and strewn on the streets in Ghana, creating a huge sanitation problem for city authorities.
Water bottles and plastic bags clog drains and lagoons and other water bodies in the country’s towns and villages.
Fishermen have complained about catching garbage instead of fish when they go fishing as the beaches are choked with plastic bottles.
“It upsets me when I see people on the streets throw away their water sachets just on the ground,” he said.
Mr Barnes said while he recognized that “water sachets are important because people need to be able to have access to clean water, when they just dispose of them by throwing them on the ground which washes into the gutter which blocks the gutter and causes floods or [they] get washed into the sea or the beaches and it damages the marine life or makes the beaches unattractive, that is a problem.”
This, he said, is a problem everyone must be involved in finding the solution to. A sustainable solution may lie in banning single-use plastics as done by countries like Rwanda and Kenya.
“Everyone has a responsibility in society to raise awareness of the issue, to educate people and to take steps to provide alternatives for disposing of rubbish.”
The Australian High Commission says it is doing its bit and encourages all to do same by minimizing if not avoiding entirely the reliance on single-use plastics.
The High Commissioner said he personally rejects plastic bags whenever he goes shopping and wants others to do same.
The High Commission itself, he said, was liaising with hotels such as Kempiski to stop using bottled water as a way of discouraging the use of single-use plastics.
Within the High Commission’s building, “no one is allowed to bring bottled water,” something Mr Barnes said he is pleased by.
With a task to pay priority attention to gender issues, Mr Barnes said the High Commission was constructing a shelter for women who are escaping violence and abuse in their homes.
Ghana does not have enough places to serve as shelter for women and their children who become victims of domestic violence.
In response to this problem, the High Commission raised 200,000 Ghana cedis through a fundraising event last for the construction of emergency accommodation for thirty women.
“There is a huge issue around the world and in Ghana as well. Women who are trapped in a violent relationship at home need somewhere where they can go [and] escape from a violent partner, a violent husband. In Australia, we have many women shelters where women can go and take refuge and escape from their husbands…we are very pleased to be able to help provide this safe haven,” he said.
Mr Barnes said the centre will approve psychological supports and training for victims and domestic violence who seek refuge in the centre.
The High Commission is also helping girls in some basic schools with sanitary pads and sanitation equipment in schools.
This Mr Barnes believes this will significantly help their education and empowerment.
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