Unpaved roads wreaking havoc on health of people living nearby

Unpaved roads are still a common sight in many communities in Ghana and the dust they generate can have serious implications for human health

The last few years have been hard on Florence Adu-Poku and her three children, as her first daughter suffers from a preexisting respiratory issue; asthma.

She recounts how the dust from Bono Region’s roads worsens her daughter’s condition. 

Poku depends entirely  on the dusty, unpaved roads in the Bono Region on a daily basis.

According to her, “There are a lot of dusty roads around the Bono region, especially when it comes to the very ones that are under construction. Some of them just do the construction and then mid-way half-way, they just leave it like that.

“It is very unhealthy for the residents and something must be done about it, especially in the harmattan season, when dust is already rampant. The dust over there is very hectic; it doesn’t help with the health of the people living around.”

The impact of dust from unpaved roads on human health in Ghana is a pressing issue that requires immediate attention. 

Anas Berimah, a cashew trader from Bono, expressed concern about his fears of constantly inhaling dust.

“For me, it’s really a bother. Imagine having to come to work every day to deal with the dust.”

He added, “Medically,  it’s not even advisable that you have to deal with such dust; we are dirty constantly; I mean, it’s really a bother.”

Dr Florence Boa-Amponsem, a public health consultant, sheds light on the health risks associated with exposure to dust from unpaved roads. She explains that inhaling dust particles can lead to respiratory issues such as coughing, wheezing, and the exacerbation of asthma symptoms.

“When it comes to the effect that it has on people, we have respiratory issues which are caused by the inhalation of the dust, so the constant inhalation of the dust causes respiratory issues.”

“Some of these respiratory issues can include wheezing and coughing, which can trickle down asthma. It’s easy for the dust to cause an asthma attack.” 

Unpaved roads are still a common sight in many communities in Ghana, and the dust they generate can have serious implications for human health.

Berimah added, “We, the businessmen, the cashew farmers, the buyers, are running at a loss from the bad and dusty the roads are. So is the government telling us to stop buying cashews? That’s the question I want to ask the government. If they can do something about it, they should, because from Drobo to Sampa, it’s not good.

Speaking to Mariama Abubakar from the Northern Region, she expressed that, “even though they try to water the roads once in a while, it makes the whole place misty.”

“Right after the rainy season, when the road becomes dusty again, I get issues like constant catarrh, and I also deal with sight issues, so I wear spectacles. So when it rains, I don’t have to deal with buying cough mixtures or other drugs to deal with catarrh,” Abubakar added.

While air pollution is a well-known environmental problem, its relationship with dust from unpaved roads is more nuanced.

Road dust is a mixture of particles that are kicked up into the air by passing vehicles. 

Although emissions from unpaved roads during the rainy season are not as severe as emissions from vehicles, the problem persists.

Executive Director at the Center for Environment, Natural Resources and Sustainability, Clement Abaidoo, highlights the environmental implications of dust from unpaved roads. 

“So in the dry season, we see that the contribution of untiled roads to pollution is quite high compared to the rainy season. When it is the rainy season and the dust is suppressed, it doesn’t really become a significant issue to talk about.”

He did, however, add that, while untiled roads contribute relatively less to air pollution, the effects of dust from untiled roads can still be devastating.

“So for example, you use a car, your car picks up some dust, and the moment you hit the tiled road, those dust will be left on the tiled roads, and of course, they will eventually result into emissions,” he added

“And sometimes when the normal air blows, the wind takes away the dust from the untiled road to the tiled road.”

He added, “But it becomes very significant, especially in recent times in Ghana, where the rain is not falling.”

Abaidoo advised that the untitled roads be graveled to reduce the emission levels. 

“The main issue will be that they either ought to be tied or graveled, they should be graveled or something so that the emission levels on them will go down.”

He noted that by taking steps to control dust emissions, we can help protect the health of our communities and reduce the negative effects of road dust on respiratory and cardiovascular health.

Written by Winifred Lartey

This story was written in collaboration with New Narratives. Funding was provided by the Clean Air Fund. The funder had no say in the story’s content.


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