Noxious Earth

A suburb of the Ghanaian capital of Accra is home to a vast dumping ground of electronic waste from developed countries, and locals scavenge through highly toxic material to extract anything of value

01 September 2012
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ITS 45,000-ODD RESIDENTS call it “Sodom and Gomorrah”. Officially named Agbogbloshie, this suburb of Accra is one of the worst urban toxic dumpyards in Africa, a 361-acre open-air gas chamber located over a computer graveyard landfill. The area is a perennial miasma of some hundreds of tonnes of lead, cadmium, antimony, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and chlorinated dioxins. The black smoke of copper wiring being burnt to expose the pure stuff under the sheath barely hides the spectres of dumpyard diggers—some as young as seven, thousands of teenagers, and a scattering of sexagenarians who’ve survived, somehow, years of irreversible lung damage.

Agbogbloshie, which comprises 0.7 percent of the 200 sq km Accra, and has 1.15 percent of the city’s 3.9 million population, nonetheless has a giant impact on the capital’s wellbeing—rather, the lack of it. The lead in the ground leaches into the Odaw River about 120 yards from the largest residential community in Agbogbloshie, and the toxin-carrying fish—77 percent of Accra’s economy is piscine—end up in the Agbogbloshie Food Market.

The traducers on Accra’s dumpyards—not just on Agbogbloshie but also smaller gas chambers like Galloway, Kpone-Kokompe and Ashiaman in the Greater Accra Region, and in Nigeria and the Côte d’Ivoire—are Germany, Korea, Switzerland and the Netherlands, all of them prohibited by EU rules from tipping their rubbish anywhere but at home.

Andrew Mcconnell  is an award-winning photographer whose work documents issues that remain under-reported in the international media, such as the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the ongoing occupation of Western Sahara.

Keywords: Accra Agbogbloshie e-waste computers Korle Lagoon hazard toxic