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29 July 2009 | News Blog

Displacement of people and its effects

The displacement of people and communities has been one of the challenges facing the livelihoods of people of late. Some people for to one reason or the other are being deprived of their places of abode. The displacement of people renders them homeless and out of business. Though they are sometimes given notice before the displacement exercise, their financial capacity does not give them the opportunity to afford another home or another business. For some people, since they came from far to seek for greener pastures in the city, find it exceedingly impossible to go for another place of abode or even go back home. Displacement is sometimes caused by high cost of affording an apartment, demolishing activities, natural disasters, conflict/war, government or economic projects, mining activities etc..

What is displacement of people?
According to the Social and Human Science website, the displacement of people refers to the forced movement of people from their locality or environment and occupational activities. Displacement can lead to a geographic shift in households, which may preserve or increase economic and racial segregation throughout an area. In regard to population displacement resulting from development, there are typically two types: Direct Displacement, which leads to the actual displacement of people from their locations and Indirect Displacement, which leads to a loss of livelihood. Forced to leave the home region to which they are attached, and for which they have the knowledge and opportunity to make a living most effectively, displaced populations often become impoverished. The displacement of people, as a result of development projects, policies and processes, therefore constitutes a social cost for development.

Displacement and building permits
Displacement of people in this part of the world is mostly caused by demolishing exercises for further development. It is very sad that people, due to either ignorance or with intent, refuse to go for permits from town planners before starting their building projects. These town planners even sometimes refuse to adhere to their duties, so refuse to go and inspect the land in question, to inform people about it not being appropriate for any building project due to one reason or the other. They take a very long time, procrastinating the day when they have to inspect it. According one Mr. Joshua Quainoo, a mechanic, when he went to the town planning office for a permit to build his house, he was given a date on which they would come and inspect his site, but they never showed up. He later on had to go to their office, charter a taxi, and bring them to the land in question. For Mr. Nkrumah Osei, a clergyman, since they were keeping long in the inspection of the land, he decided to build, however they later on came to mark his building for demolition.

At certain point, people prove stubborn and refuse to adhere to instructions of town planners and go ahead and build. Some immigrants in new communities always find it hard to leave a portion of their land for any governmental purposes, like road construction. For instance, not long ago, car dealer/sellers on the Tetteh Quarshie-Mallam highway were told to vacate the land for road construction, and under the terms of the funding for the project they were paid compensation.

Displacement and natural disasters
The instruction of town planners to vacate a land could be due to the place being a natural disaster prone area, but people always refuse to listen. Natural disasters such as floods can be prevented, if people learn to site their buildings at appropriate places. People sometimes forget that situating their buildings in disaster prone areas are also at risk to disaster. The 21st of July 2009 edition of the Daily Graphic newspaper reported that the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) had commenced an exercise to demolish 80 unauthorised buildings sited on watercourses, in order to stop what authorities described as human-induced flooding in the city. According to the report, Kumasi has had its share of the heavy rains, which resulted in flooding in many parts of the city.

Three members, of a family of four, died at Kronum Kyekyire when their house collapsed on them following flooding after a downpour. In addition to that, property worth thousands of Ghana cedis was destroyed in the area as a result of the flooding. Some of the victims blamed the chiefs of the area for selling that particular place, but agreed that the buildings were sited on a watercourse, and that demolishing them was the proper thing to do, though some of them pleaded with the authorities to grant them a grace period to look for alternative accommodation. The Kumasi Metropolitan Chief Executive (MCE), Mr. Samuel Sarpong, who personally supervised the exercise, said all unauthorised structures would be demolished to help avert future disasters. He said the assembly was taking the exercise step by step to check where there were no permits, and such structures were obstructing the free flow of water. Mr. Sarpong said the assembly wanted to find a lasting solution to the recurrent trend, and prevent situations such as happened in Accra, and that the exercise would serve as a deterrent to other people who would want to flout the assembly's bye-laws.

Displacement and mining activities
In Ghana, mining activities normally occur in remote areas. When a place is detected to possess any mineral resources, the people are told to vacate the area for the mining activity, and would be compensated. In the process they lose their farmlands meant for their livelihoods and homes. Just like Akyem, where by the forest reserve is being taken over by a mining company due to the presence of gold in the land, has resulted in the people being displaced, since the rock waste after mining would dumped on their farmlands. The people affected have to vacate the land to another land, if they find one, however they are being consoled by the compensation the company has given to them.

Consequences of displacement of people
Automatically displaced people have no choice than to start their lives all over again, especially if their livelihoods and businesses depended on where they used to be. When they are unable to get enough capital to start all over again, they tend to wallow in poverty. A good standard of living will be way out of the question; families will not be able to take care of their children, which might lead to school dropouts; child delinquency such as teen pregnancy, prostitution, robbery and illegal economic activities.

In remote places where people are displaced due to mining activities, it might result in rural urban migration. The possibility of they getting a land to restart their farming all over again would be very difficult, despite the compensation, so some might migrate to the urban areas. Even some of them getting compensation will deem it a good idea to go to the city and start life, resulting in all the young and able-bodied men and women leaving the village for the city. When rural urban migration occurs, the urban areas will be over-populated, leaving the rural areas sparsely populated. The urban areas will be full of unemployed persons, while the cultivation of crops in the rural areas for use in urban areas and for export will be reduced. Since one thing leads to the other, this might as well result in food scarcity and low revenue for government.

People ought to realise that being prevented form using land is for the good of them, and the nation as a whole. A disaster is prevented when people adhere to rules and regulations, than to allow it to happen before seeking solutions. Town planners must also try to do their duties well, and do their best to help people from wasting their time and resources building on unapproved lands. It is for the good of the whole nation if money is saved for other project, than just spending it on projects which will later on be pulled down.

quot-img-1It will be impossible to sustain economic stability in Africa without short-term economic reform.

By: FRANCIS TAWIAH , quot-img-1