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April 9, 2009 | News

Congestion and its effects on our society

Congestion of all sorts has become the order of the day in many parts of Ghana, especially in the capital city Accra, with its attendant decongestion exercises. It has become part and parcel of many Ghanaians, both literate and illiterate, to indiscriminately build or put up any structure for commercial/residential purposes. Sometimes the reason given is that it is due to the migration of people from the rural areas, especially the northern parts, to the south in search of greener pastures. However, if society and the government institutions responsible – district assemblies - enforce the rules and regulations on the environment, congestion, in a way, could be reduced. There is the need for the people to take into consideration their health, since congestion in this part of the world brings about extreme heat on the environment, as well as diseases, as a result of bad drainage systems. One must bear in mind that congestion, in whatever form, is the creation of the human being.

Congestion by advertising billboards
One might not notice, but an increase of the number billboards on the environment creates excessive congestion. Erection of billboards and signposts has become a normal phenomenon in the country. Wherever one sees as a vantage point for direction or advertising, a billboard is erected. Apart from the ones done by the advertising companies, who sometimes seek permission before erecting a billboard, the majority of the people care less, whether the place in question would pose a danger or inconvenience to people. The commonest among the billboards, used to be political billboards, which even though the election has been over three months, are still seen on the streets. Owing to the immense congestion which has been created by these billboards, according to a Ghana News Agency (GNA) report, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) has directed all political parties and candidates, to remove all billboards bearing their symbols, images and slogans used in the last presidential and parliamentary elections, with immediate effect.

Candidates in the last district assembly elections, who used billboard to campaign, are also advised to comply with the directive. Political parties and other social groups choke the metropolis with the indiscriminate erection of billboards, without regard to the regulations on the siting of publicity materials for campaigns and other purposes. The decision, according to the AMA, is in line with the enforcement of general rules and bye-laws of the city. The practice currently is that large billboards are being erected at unapproved locations in the city, such as along highways and junctions, which block the view of motorists thus heightening the chances of accidents, with political parties and candidates being the worst offenders.

Other offenders are the churches. Of late, the springing up of many churches in the country has paved the way for a lot of their billboards to be erected by roadsides. As a way of advertising their churches to the public, they erect their billboards on various roadsides, normally with their pictures on them. Under normal circumstances, approval should be sought from the AMA, which would conduct an inspection of the proposed location, and take other factors into consideration, before giving the applicant permission to put up a billboard. Be it ignorance or intentional, many of these offenders always refuse to go for approval.

Congestion by indiscriminate building
Congestion through indiscriminate building is also another plague. People build wherever they think convenient for themselves, especially when they claim to have bought the land. The pathetic thing is that people do not give regard to ventilation, drainage or even roads. They make sure they use up every bit of the land. Normally, in the Ghanaian communities, buildings built for rent contain just single rooms and sometimes without inbuilt washroom facilities. People who rent these kinds of houses, have go out of the house for their ablutions, and with the lack of proper public toilet facilities, take their bath and even defecate outside, making the environment extremely stinky. Others also, due to the purpose of generating income, tend put their shops or kiosks anywhere they find commercial friendly. The pathetic aspect is that the nature of the congestion makes it rather difficult for emergency vehicles to penetrate, when there is an emergency situation.

Not long ago, there was a fire outbreak in Ashaiman, a suburb of Tema in the Greater Accra Region, and the Fire Service was called upon for assistance. Though they reached the destined place on time, there was no road or space enough for the vehicle to go through to the source of the fire. They, therefore, had to go back to their station for extra fire hose. This was in order to connect it to the other hoses to be able to reach the house on fire. The fire in the long run was successfully quenched, but had destroyed a lot of property due to the delay. Apart from that, due to lack of proper planning, it is very difficult to give directions to any place, because there are no signs to show the names of the various roads/streets, and even the names of the suburbs.

Unlike in the western world where by direction is easily given to a new person in a community, in this part of the world direction to a destination is very hard to get. There is even the tendency being attacked by thieves, since he or she couldn't get to find the exact location of the address or direction he or she was given, so has no choice than to stay out late or spend the night on the street, if one is not able to afford temporary accommodation

Congestion and ventilation
Ventilation in various communities is out of the question as people care less about the condition of their environment and situation of their building but care more about business rather than good health. When a place is extremely congested with building, shops and other thing, it makes ventilation very poor in the environment making rooms to be very hot. Ventilation is a routine air movement within a closed room or the intermittent introduction of outdoor air. According to Vent-Axia ventilation can be simply described as air circulation. This is the extraction of stale, overheated and contaminated air, and the supply and distribution of fresh air in amounts necessary to provide healthy and comfortable conditions for the occupants of the space being ventilated. It's important to realise that ventilation is one of the most crucial processes in determining the indoor air quality.

Congestion and drainage systems
The majority of construction engineers to not give consideration to drainage systems such as gutters, thereby compelling resident in some parts of the city to collect the waste water in their homes and pouring it out on the roads or any open space they find.

When there are no gutters in an environment the possibility intense flooding during the rainy season is very real, as pertains in certain flood-prone areas like Ashaiman and some parts of Mallam, also a suburb of Accra.

In some situations, during flooding, because there are no drains, rain water collects in small pools becoming stagnant water and breeds mosquitoes, leading to malaria epidemics. Considering the rainy season ahead, people in these congested places are scared of what might happen to them and their properties, as during the rainy season last year many houses were overcome by heavy floods.

Conclusion
It is important to note that congestion is not good for the human habitat, since its outcome, like inadequate drainage system and ventilation, brings about health issues. Good drainage and good ventilation system prevent disease, and adds to quality of life, since diseases like malaria and heat rash are prevented.

A bad drainage system leaves the few existing gutters choked, hence always bringing about diseases such as cholera and typhoid. Though it might not cross one's mind, a congestion-free environment would attract foreigners to either tour the country or invest. It is the collective responsibility of society, therefore to learn to make the environment free, and also go to the AMA to seek for the appropriate position to build and transact business, so as to prevent congestion.

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