Some residents at Abelenkpe in Accra are having sleepless nights over stench from Wele, a local delicacy. The stench emanates from the process through which it is produced.
Wele, also known as coat, is processed cowhide used for cooking soups, as well as stews, and is a well-known accompaniment for Waakye.
The cowhide is soaked in water for a period after singeing to remove the fur until it ferments. The fermentation is what causes the extremely pungent smell residents are exposed to.
The residents said what was worrying was that the smell from the factory, which is housed in a building adjacent the EP Academy, a crèche to primary school, has been polluting the air continuously in the whole neighbourhood.
According to them, the stench had persisted for more than 10 years. A number of complaints made to the Ayawaso West Municipal Assembly has yielded no fruits.
The residents alleged that that was because the owner of the business, Auntie Korkor, was wealthy and, therefore, seemed untouchable. They did not also rule out some monies having changed hands between the owner and the assembly officials.
When The Mirror visited the premises on Monday, Auntie Korkor was not available.
This reporter, however, saw residue from the production of the Wele in the drains in front of the house and the stench hang in the air long before reaching the premises.
An insider disclosed that the production was normally done from 4 a.m to 7 a.m. and that Auntie Korkor did not reside there.
The proprietor of the Lionheart Gym and Fitness, Mr Emmanuel Ayisadu, said that even though the gym was about 300 metres away, the stench hang there and he has had to adopt all kinds of measures to cope with the situation.
He appealed to the Ayawaso West Municipal Assembly to deal with the situation firmly to provide some relief to him and other residents, adding that the situation had persisted for 10 years.
The Assistant Headmistress of the EP Academy, Madam Helena Frempong, said the staff and school children were suffering.
“We have to be warding off flies all the time and the smell is so bad. We don’t even know the effect of this on the health of the children. There is a church here, pastor has been there to complain, but nothing has changed,” she added.
“You should see what happens to us, especially when the truck is being loaded with the Wele. We appeal to the assembly to come to our aid,” she said.
Some of the school children The Mirror spoke to said the situation was unbearable but there was not much they could do about it. They pleaded for urgent action for the sake of their health.
Another neighbour who pleaded anonymity said but for the fact that her home was her own house and not rented, she would have relocated from the neighbourhood long ago.
Asked why she did not want to be on record, she said in Ga that “these are rich people, I don’t want any trouble. The matter is serious and a big health hazard, but what can an old lady like me do?”
When contacted on the issue, The Head of the Environmental Health and Sanitation Unit of the Municipal Assembly, Mr Shami Mutala, at the assembly said the unit was aware of the situation and had visited the premises to ask the owner of the business to stop the production of the Wele because of the stench, since that was unacceptable in a residential area.
He said he was not aware that the production was still going on because he had not received any more complaints and assured that his team will move into action on the matter.
“During our visit to stop the owner from polluting the environment the first time, we were met with aggression; we were almost beaten but we prevailed,” he added.
On challenges facing the unit in enforcing bye laws, he said prosecution in court was the only way in some cases but unfortunately, “that can take a long time because sometimes it is difficult to get a bench warrant effected”.