In September of 2015, a massive scandal hit the automotive industry that sent shockwaves around the world, but somehow, a great(er) portion of Africa felt nothing. The diesel versions of Volkswagen (VW) cars cheated emission tests by spewing out clean(er) test results… thus, fooling authorities into allowing these cars roam the streets as though they were indeed environmentally-friendly. It’s no secret that diesel vehicles have always produced more pollutants than their petrol counterparts.
The increase in the car population, and the need for more fuel-efficient cars, which diesel cars have down to a science, has pushed manufacturers to explore creative ways to beat the system, amid growing reports of a steady increase in global pollution. Making money and fulfilling a perceived need is, by and large, the reason companies exist… so who are we to judge when VW breaks some rules, right? Especially when other companies practically made the rule book.
It turns out what VW did was a big No-No, so aside lawsuits and sanctions, VW had to recall all affected cars. This cost them billions of dollars and invariably, hurt their brand image as well.
So, whiles the rest of the world was reeling from this shock, and rightly so, countries in Africa (save for South Africa) could do nothing about it.
Days turned to weeks, and weeks into months, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (A.M.A) and VW dealerships in my country – Ghana – stayed mute about this serious environmental issue, which didn’t just affect Europe and America, but Africa too. Every single day I would see “defective” VW vehicles roaming the streets of Ghana and wonder if the drivers cared even a little about the environment they were killing.
But alas, why blame them?
They are just unwitting consumers driving around in cars that should have complied with every regulation… but don’t. I cannot in good conscience blame “innocent” consumers, but I will throw a lot of blame on the A.M.A, EPA and VW.
When a scandal that big hits, a press release is rolled out to all media platforms; the first phase of damage control. The local and international authorities then follow suit in order to assure the concerned public the matter has been flagged under “very important”.
Well, let’s assume the organizations in Ghana at the time of the VW Emissions scandal had more pressing issues to deal with, because when the scandal hit, we got nothing from them.
I guess the health and welfare of Africans does not matter as much as those in Europe and America.
VW, the mastermind behind the disaster, funny enough, can rest a little easy knowing that a lot of their “defective” cars in Ghana were not sold through their licensed dealerships, but shipped from different countries by individuals or unauthorized road-side dealerships.
Press VW hard enough and trust that lawyers would crawl out of the woodwork to pull out an incomprehensible clause that would compel VW to only deal with customers who bought cars through the authorized dealerships.
That’s how international conglomerates operate.
For A.M.A and EPA though, we cannot give them such a long leash… but to even think they would crack down on the VW scandal when it happened was incredibly naive on my part.
If A.M.A and EPA, after all these years can’t put a handle on the chimney-smoke-spewing cars polluting the air, what the heck can they do about a bunch of VW’s killing us slowly with invisible air?
From green to black smoke, one can’t go a day in Ghana without seeing all manner of vehicles sputtering out toxic smoke. As if making us wheeze ain’t enough, vehicular fumes contain a boatload of hazardous pollutants that have been identified and listed by… wait for it… the EPA. No! That isn’t the EPA in Ghana, but does that matter? Shouldn’t they all be as active and vigilant irrespective of location?
They have slowly adopted the Ghanaian mentality; it ain’t my problem if someone else can solve it.
So, how do these smokey cars pass through the Roadworthy test and come out with a seal of approval? Beats my mind.
But, according to Regulation 33 in the Road Traffic Offences Regulations (1974 LI 952),
“No person shall drive a motor vehicle which emits exhaust fumes in such quantities
as to be a hazard or annoyance to road users or pedestrians.”
There you have it; it’s actually very illegal to drive around town in a smokey vehicle, yet the police pay no mind, ever ready on the other hand to take off their authority for a measly Gh¢5 or less.
There are so many cars in Accra, and so much traffic as a result… forcing us to sit still and inhale the unholy concoction of chemicals these cars happily cough out for our enjoyment.
We risk lung cancer, headaches, runny eyes and other serious diseases if this issue is not tackled and/or resolved.
The A.M.A and EPA are effectively powerless against this and yet claim to defend our environment. How could they, when they can’t even shutdown a single factory endangering the lives of people living in the La Dadekotopon Municipality of the Greater Accra Region. Edisaw Company Ltd, the factory in question, has been oppressing the unlucky people living in close proximity with thick clouds of smoke. The EPA shut them down in February of 2018 only to have Edisaw spring up again two weeks later. This remarkable display of ineptitude has unsurprisingly, forced the residents affected by the manufacturing processes of Edisaw to sue the EPA and Municipal Assembly for failing – rather disastrously – at their jobs.
I hope they win the lawsuit; too long have Ghanaians been content with mediocrity.
We’d rather talk about troops invading our country than fix the broken infrastructure every government in power promises to rectify.
The inter-connectivity of government agencies ensures that, when one arm fails, the rest will all fall short.
But Wait! Ghanaians burn rubbish all the time, so what’s new right?
AH! God Bless Ghana.
If there isn’t a fundamental change in how we deal with these half-competent entities, they will always chop our monies, hide in expensive houses and fail us every single time.