I am an optimist but that does not make me overlook reality. I was quizzed whether I agree with the statement; “Development can never be sustained” and after thinking for minutes, I have this to say; Development is defined by the business dictionary as the process of social and economic transformation that is based on complex and environmental factors and their interactions. Sustainability on the other hand is the act of using resources in a way that grantee their continuous availability. Sustainable development therefore refers to the principle of meeting human development goals for the current generation whilst at the same time not compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. This principle produces a society whereby living conditions and resources use continue to meet human needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the natural systems.
In Ghana, development can never be sustainable until we develop a lasting solution to our socioeconomic and environmental challenges, this is because sustainable development is directly linked and inter-connected with environmental protection, social development and economic development and since it is not possible to sustain these indicators it means development can never be sustainable.
Economic development is not sustainable because resources used are not always completely replaced with time, therefore any positive rate of exploitation eventually leads to the exhaustion of the earth’s finite stock. More so social and environmental sustainability is not realistic because the total land size gradually reduces as humans continue to expand cities and practice agriculture. In Ghana, one could think of the issues of small scale mining, poor agricultural practices, plastic pollution and poor governance as significant obstacles that continues to paint the future unpleasant.
Land degradation is a major challenge in Ghana that has drawn the attention of both local and national stakeholders and yet there has not been a workable solution to it. In Ghana, the major causes of land degradation is small scale mining popularly called galamsey. There has been several destruction to virgin forests, farm lands, fresh water bodies and many other vegetation.
For development to be sustained, these lost lands need to be refilled and re-vegetated, the water bodies need to be cleansed and the soil remediated or at worse the activities need to be stopped so that the environment can recover with time, but this is not a possibility as galamsey has become the single most available and cheapest economic activity for the young people in Ghana. Even though the current minister for lands and natural resources has intensified government efforts to fighting forest degradation and reclaiming lost farm lands to improve cocoa productivity, it is regrettable to hear allegations that politicians and highly influential individuals are deeply involved directly and indirectly in the galamsey activities which hinders the progress of this fight.
Another issue has to do with poor waste management especially in the cities. In Ghana, waste in any form or kind is not properly handled or disposed and this has serious implication on sustainable development. Solid wastes of various grades are disposed indiscriminately on lands which otherwise could have being useful. Liquid wastes such as sewage is disposed wrongly causing illnesses such as cholera and malaria which makes government expenditure in health care high. One major contributor to this is uncontrolled population growth which puts pressure on the natural environment. As a result there are limited government subsidies to accelerate the adoption of less polluting technologies by industries.
What is possible is that, more technologies are being explored and researched into and this will provide alternative livelihoods that will substitute and extend the life span of natural resources or help discover greener ways of extracting resources and all this could add to making sustainable development a reality. To conclude, development can never be sustained until populations are controlled, lifestyles changed and environmental protection becomes a concern for every one.
Desmond Alugnoa, GAYO.