SMOKING GUN: Multiple Reports on Agbogbloshie, Ghana, source pollution!!

"Urban waste pollution in the Korle Lagoon, Accra, Ghana" ("Urban Waste") is an article that appeared in The Environmentalist in November, 2002.  It was written by Markku Kuitunen and Kwasi Owusu Boadi at the University of Finland, following announcement of a major grant (mostly OPEC) to dredge the river and abate annual flooding.

BANG BANG.  E-Waste Hoax is Dead.  (note that CAER has removed all the Agbogbloshie Boy photos from the website, and is now a "national security" focus for RERA... E-Wastegate Agenda Shift)

Anyone writing any report on E-Waste Crime in Agbogbloshie is incompetent if they don't do background research.  I don't have time to cite every one of these, but this one has a great bibliography, and is really a "smoking gun" for the Agbogbloshie "E-Waste Hoax", as well as a sobering account of past grants and efforts to "save Accra" from urban pollution.

The pollution and flooding is described as a problem since the early 1970s and 80s, and is attributed to "rapid urbanization" of Accra, Ghana's capital city.
"The Korle Lagoon in Accra, Ghana, has become one of the most polluted water bodies on earth. It is the principal outlet through which all major drainage channels in the city empty their wastes into the sea. Large amounts of untreated industrial waste emptied into surface drains has led to severe pollution in the lagoon and disrupted its natural ecology. The increased levels of industrial activity and consumption by the urban population lead to the generation of copious quantities of waste. Managing the volume of wastes poses a major challenge for the city authorities, particularly, ensuring that all the waste generated is collected for disposal. In Accra, the Waste Management Department is currently capable of collecting only 60 percent of the waste generated daily. The rest is dumped in open spaces, in surface drains, and into water bodies which end up in the Korle Lagoon. High eutrophication levels have developed in the shallow water body. The net effect is that, at the slightest downpour, the lagoon overflows its banks causing regular flooding in parts of the city.
"The Government of Ghana, having realized the adverse impacts of pollution in the lagoon on the physical and economic environment of Accra, with the support of donor agencies, is implementing measures to restore the lagoon to its natural ecology. Attempts are also being made to get the communities in the catchment area to become involved in managing their environment through environmental education and awareness programes."[sic]
The article stresses that problems cited in two previous studies (Biney, 1982 and Mensah, 1976) had continued to increase, and that by the time of the 1976 and 1982 studies, the lagoon was dead.  As Accra (and Lagos, Douala, Nairobi, Kinshasa, etc.) has grown, so has pollution from the waste generated by people who live there.
Before the onset of this severe pollution, and in the early 1950s, the lagoon supported a thriving fishery of both fin and shellfish, which served as a source of employment and income for some people in the nearby shantytown, which incidentally derives its name from the lagoon. However, due to the grossly polluted state of the waters, the lagoon has lost its fishery (Biney and Amuzu, 1995), and it is hard to believe that this black, nauseating muddy water could ever have supported any such life. The Korle Lagoon is the major basin into which the greater proportion of the flood waters of Accra flow before entering the sea (Biney and Amuzu, 1995). The lagoon receives water from a total catchment area of 400 km2.
It receives discharges from three main sources—the Odaw River and two major drains on its eastern and western sections (Fig. 3). These major drains are mostly uncovered and usually collect silt and debris which are transported into the lagoon (Mensah, 1976). Waste discharges, including industrial effluent, are the major sources of pollution. The wastes originate from residential, commercial and recreational areas, offices and institutions, such as hospitals and schools. They include food waste as well as paper, batteries, glass, plastics, textiles, excreta aerosol cans, and much more (Biney, 1982; Mensah, 1976).
So Mike Anane's descriptions of the "E-Waste Tragedy" starting with bad e-waste exports in Europe is late to the game.  Here are descriptions of the dumps upstream of the river, citing reports from Amuzu 1976, Laing 1994, etc.
"The water in the upper part of the lagoon is muddy, and the stench emanating from it is unbearable.  An abundance of saw mill dust from the timber market industrial area is disposed into this part of the lagoon.  Also, the Waste Department's dump which is covered with industrial sawdust, is gradually encroaching into the water body. Sediments in this part of the lagoon trap effluents from upstream.  These include industrial, domestic, and hospital wastes which have further deteriorated the water quality upstream. According to Liang (1994; 141), a survey of manufacturing industries in the Greater Accra Region showed that the metal industry creates 16 percent of the total industrial waste, garment and textiles - 30 percent, chemicals and cosmetics - 20%, electricals and electronics at 1 percent and mineral products at 0.7 percent.  Most of the untreated industrial waste waters are discharged into surface drains which flow into the Odaw River and Korle Lagoon.  Since the upstream part of the lagoon is the usual point of discharge, and the receptor of wastes, it is the most affected." 
So we knew in the 70s, 80s, and 90s that the lagoon was already polluted and dead, and that the source of the pollution was upstream of Agbogbloshie.  And the 2002 study estimates the contribution of electric and electronics as contributing 1%.  I'm not saying that Accra isn't polluted, and I'm not saying that pollution isn't tragic.  But accusing African Techs, Geeks and Nerds, or Dagbani scrappers, of making this mess amounts to not much less than criminal defamation.

Sample clip, 1994 Accra Waste
So certainly ownership of second hand electronics increased in Ghana homes, certainly teledensity increased, as did pollution, sewage, and people throwing batteries and car stuff in the gutters and river.  But arresting internet cafe owners, TV resellers, cell phone repairers, etc. seems like the most hideous, disgusting, moronic solution to the problem that anyone but a planned obsolescence industry could come up with.

And the Urban Waste Pollution articles bibliography, on page 309, involves numerous water studies of the Odaw River and Ghana pollution.  Not a single one of these, however, is cited in Greenpeace (Poisoning the Poor), Basel Action Network (Digital Dump), or Blacksmith Institute (aka Pure Earth) report with CUNY.

So this study oddly isn't cited by the #whitesaviorcomplex NGO's like Greenpeace and Basel Action Network, or Mike Anane, who blamed recent dumping from Europe and American "ewaste" for the destruction of the lagoon.   Jack Caravanos, Richard Fuller, Edith Clark, and Calah Labertson's study for Blacksmith Institute (PureEarth) published the most respected recent report on the subject of Agbogbloshie:

It starts with the introduction:
Background. It is estimated that 20-50 million tons of electric and electronic waste (e-waste) is generated per year of which 75-80% is shipped to countries in Asia and Africa for recycling and disposal.  -
- Jack Caravanos, Edith Clark, Richard Fuller, Calah Lambertson

Yep.  They cite the statistic BAN made infamous by claiming never to have said it.

"Never has BAN ever stated that 80% of US e-waste is exported." 
(Jim Puckett written comment to -Bloomberg News)

Now over the past year, I've developed a very frustrated relationship with Richard Fuller's organization.  Dr. Caravanos has presented to the Society of Environmental Journalists ( and has done more than anyone I can think of to carry the concerns about gold mining, and lead mines, like Kabwe in Zambia.  The horrific pollution at these primary metal mines was the very reason I became an environmentalist and recycler in the late 1970s.  

Some of the time, I feel like Pure Earth and poor old Dr. Caravanos are victims of this hoax.  In "It has been estimated that 70-80% of e-waste is exported to countries in Asia and Africa" on page 17, they no doubt did nothing worse than Dr. Josh Lepawsky has discovered everyone did...  the statistic was one of the most cited in all academic journals on e-Waste.  But when the source of the statistic denies ever, ever having said it, and starts spinning like a top, you'd think they'd want to know about it and address it when that source in turn CITES BLACKSMITH in saying Agbogbloshie's e-waste dump is not a hoax.   
"My organization, the Basel Action Network (BAN) – which has become the object of an all-out Ingenthron obsession, has never done a study of any kind in Ghana.  We have written about Ghana using figures from other sources.   I know that the Blacksmith Institute and Greenpeace have done studies there.   But I don’t think those organizations play fast and loose with numbers. " - Jim Puckett
So Blacksmith and Greenpeace cite Jim, who in turn says he's never studied Agbogbloshie and cites them.  If you were Joe Benson, or someone like him, under threat of prison for "common knowledge" of dumping, who would you contact?  Well, they are contacting me, so what can I do?

Sadly, Blacksmith/PureEarth refuses to accept our invitation to correct a single mainstream press report citing their "Top Ten" list as the source of the "data" about Agbogbloshie.  Unfortunately, the last thing I heard from them was "Please don't contact us anymore", which was directed not only at me personally, but the invitation I had just given them to meet with Ghana representatives of WR3A (Emmanuel Eric Nyalte and Wahab Odoi).

Will the project to "Transform Agbogbloshie" be successful?  Another quote from the 2002 Kuitunen / Owusu Report describes what had to go "right" for the OPEC Grant to "Transform" Agbogbloshie.
"Communities must be provided with both economic and social incentives that will enable them to contribute meaningfully to the project's success. Since pollution in the lagoon is related to lack of basic sanitation facilities, providing communities with such facilities will reduce the pollution and make the project sustainable."
The studies of pollution of African urban landscapes, of river pollution, stormwater runoff, and sewage, are fairly easy to find.  The Basel Action Network's "solution" of boycotting and imprisoning African Technicians, putting men like Benson in Western prisons, shows that people aren't even reading the previous studies... the "solution" is aimed at making Westerners feel responsible, and giving African leaders an excuse to blame Western dumping.

The exaggeration and simplification of development-driven pollution is not confined to Agbogbloshie.  Guiyu, China, is the home of a major textile dying industry.  Telling reporters that "ewaste killed the river" isn't just irresponsible.  It's basically defrauding Interpol of its scarce resources, defrauding funders who donate to "saving Africa" by shredding computers, and defraud collectors of computers who shred rather than sell them to people who want to buy them.  African technician entrepreneurs are forced into back alleys, forced to buy from people who could care less about "ewaste atrocities", and everything gets worse.  Lord Chris Smith (UK Environmental Agency) should have simply spent a day at the library rather than speaking with NGO leaders who made it up as they went along.

Keep in mind I've met Joe Benson.  I've met other Africans whose goods were seized.  I saw an R2 Company in North Carolina call Malaysia DOE to report a certified contract manufacturer. I lived in Africa for 30 months between 1984-87, and was quite aware of the pollution occuring in Africa's rapidly emerging cities.  We all wanted the cities to develop, and to balance the concerns of pollution and development has been a large part of my career.  If you were me, you'd really have no choice but to write this blog and follow Jim down the river to unite with his family.

So yeah, it's a little frustrating when millions of dollars are given to Accra in 2002 to dredge a lagoon, and it never happens, and millions again in 2012 (by IMF), and nothing happens, and then hundreds of thousands given through GAHP to buy a wire stripper that's worth a few thousand and which is completely inappropriate and by several accounts was never used.   If PureEarth/Blacksmith is going to take the trouble to "double down" and announce in July 2015 that the grant is a success, and that Agbogbloshie is being "Transformed" - at the same time the homes are being knocked down and Interpol has announced Puckett and Anane to describe Agbogbloshie to Interpol agents ... I'm sorry, this is Orwellian.  This is Animal Farm.

The fact is that cities like Accra werehad less than a million residents in 1980 and now have up to 5 million (depending on where you draw a rapidly expanding city line).   Most of the homes and businesses still dump their municipal solid waste, batteries, freon, diapers, etc. in the ditches and canals leading to the Odaw River, and virtually nothing has changed direction since all these reports were written.  The only stuff that is getting recycled - what we want - is getting recycled by the linguistic minorities (like Dagbani) who lived in the slum of Old Fadama.

Westerners are taking money to declare the West is dumping pollution in boats from the sea, and that stupidity is distracting Interpol wildlife agents from enforcing ivory and rhino and endangered species hunting laws.

A couple of studies cited in the Urban Waste report below.

  • Biney, C.A. (1982) Preliminary survey of the state of pollution of the coastal environment of Ghana. Oceanologia Acta No. SP, 39–43.
  • Mensah, G.G. (1976) Water Quality and Pollution Survey of Inland and Coastal Waters in Ghana. Accra, Ghana: Water Resource Research Institute.
  1. Africans imported millions of CRT TVs in 1990s, in use decades. NGO visits Africa dump, claims wastecrime against UK, UK EA arrests African

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