For work, we (Kelsey and I) visited one of the most toxic dumping sites in the world. When we told the cab driver that we were going to Agbogbloshie he looked confused, so we followed up by saying “the dump” and he claimed that, the dump was not in Accra. So we showed him on a map and he said “Oh the Market”. We told him that we did not think that there was a market, he asked another person on the street and they said the same thing, so we thought that we would go and give this “market” a shot.
When we arrived I was very shocked to see that directly surround one of the world’s most toxic dumping grounds was a community growing food, specifically onions. Kelsey and I walked through the market and made our way over to the dump. Within about 20 metres it transitioned from a marketplace to a huge e-waste dump. To give you an idea, in our 360 degree view there was; huge chunks of garbage on fire, people living out of old shipping containers, people peeing, food being grown, animals being herded and children/teenagers rummaging through the garbage to find scrap metal to sell. This was just the edge of the dump… As far as we could see there was tons of smoke and piles of garbage. We made the conscious decision to not go any further because their is something about having “White Woman” shouted at you consistently that starts to make you feel unwanted/unsafe.
When I got home I realized that Accra is one of the more progressive cities in Africa and it is considered to be one of the more democratic and civilized nations, but here in the heart of this city was a huge dump that had major health risks and environmental risks. This was eye opening because this was not considered to be a problem by many locals. While reflecting on my day I went to the washroom to wash my face, and I quickly realized that the entire towel had turned black. I was in Agbogbloshie for under an a hour, so you can only image what it would be like if you lived there. It was unsettling for me to realize that large amounts of people live in these conditions, grow food in these conditions and rely on the land for livelihood everyday.
Later I met with a Master Candidate from the University of Michigan, she is doing her research on e-waste in Ghana. She said that people that don’t have land or income go to Agbogbloshie and grow food. To them it is not a dumping ground it is a free/cheap place to live and grow a food. She also said that this area was formerly a wetland and that there are now very high levels of lead, mercury, arsenic, dioxens, furans and brominated flame retardants within the water and soil. She claimed that all of these toxins are being inhaled from the burning and ingested through the food that is being grown. She stated that “it is estimated that 80% of children with in Agbogbloshie have dangerous levels of Lead within their bloodstream.”