Institutional (in)congruence: (re)envisioning a prognosis of waste tragedies in Ghanaian cityscapes – (1950 – 2016)

Authors: Martin Oteng-Ababio*, University of Ghana
Topics: Urban Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Institutional congruence, political machinations, sustainable waste management; developing countries cityscapes
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Evergreen, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The quest for sustainable solid waste management system has recently topped government policy agenda with the adoption of the UN inspired 15-year Sustainable Development Goals. This is in spite of fruitless past attempts since independence to (re)formulate and experiment varied policy options. The dilemma becomes all the more salient when the ensuring debates, which are often dominated by ‘experts’, smack of ‘vengeance’ and ‘politicization’, thus given reasons to suspect that the local governance system (political, legal and administrative framework) is not responsible for shaping how waste management services are run. Building on two dialectically intertwined but analytically distinct process of institutional creative destruction, this paper seeks to contribute to waste related literature stressing on broader ingredients for sustainability beyond political machinations. Hinging on its multi-faceted nature, this paper conceptually argues that waste management systems that are shaped by institutional incongruence including political interests, local boosterism and clientelism is doomed to suffer a sterile-birth. The paper substantiates the argument by empirically examining the economic, environmental and societal outcomes of competing past waste policies to demonstrate the need for a richer imagination of all possibilities, including the use of local expertise and knowledge in managing waste. More broadly, the findings may act as a reminder that while we need to avoid rigid conservatism, our quest for modernity and technology must necessarily be linked with and rooted in our noble traditions.

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