20.02.2002 Feature Article

OPINION: Accra is Filthy, And Indeed So

By Press
OPINION: Accra is Filthy, And Indeed So
LISTEN FEB 20, 2002

by Faustinus Kofi Koranteng for Chronicle That the city of Accra is filthy and dirty, is an understatement of the situation on the ground.

The magnitude of this description cannot be appreciated even after one finishes reading this piece without a visit to a few of these filthy places.

A visit to the business district of Accra during business hours may be a waste of time, as all that one sees especially from a higher distance is a beautiful sea of human heads.

The best times of sight-seeing the filthiness of Accra is either at dawn or on Sundays. For want of space, I shall limit the spotlight on Tema Station, Agbogbloshie market, and the newly constructed lorry station at Kwame Nkrumah Circle.

At the new Agbogbloshie market, for instance, the situation is precarious as market women display their edible wares virtually on the rubbish-infested ground. In most cases, sellers use a torn old sack or some polythene material, which separates the foodstuffs from the bare floor.

At almost every available space of the market area, filth is competing comfortably with the traders. At a new place allocated specifically for cassava and plantain sellers, almost half of this portion has been turned into a rubbish dump.

The sanitary situation at several other places is certainly worse than this description. It is unfortunate, but the plain thruth is that therer is no difference between us and the mad people who live and dine from the garbage heaps.

The implications of our garbage-infested environment are indeed frightening. I am not a health professional but i can forsee that the present volume of dirt in and around the city can lead to an epidemic of unthinkable proportions. if it so happens, God forbid anyway, everybody's guess will be good.

Former President Rawlings trotted around the globe trying to induice investors to do business in Ghana. Susequently, trade delegations, nusinessmen, investment teams, investment tourists and what have you heeded the clarion invitation to invest in Ghana.

After their feasibility studies, however, we heard of most of them no more.

President Kufuor seems to be repeating the same mistake. Fact is, Ghana can have the laergest market, best legal and banking systems, an unequalled enabling investment environment, enduring political stability and several other attractive business conditions. However, good investment and business thrive well where the people and their environment are healthy.

Consequently, given our open nauseating and unkempt surroundings, no serious investor would be attracted to do business here. On the day of the just-celebrated Eid-al-Adha, Muslims all over were splendidly dressed in the best of clothes one can think of.

Come Christmas and New Year, and Christians followed with flamboyant clothes and decorated church buildings. However, a look beyond this beauty into our surroundings would easily make an outside observer to conclude that Ghanaians are a bunch of dirty people. Can such an observer be wrong?

Not too long ago, market days used to be the days health inspectors do much of their work. On these days, the much-feared "Papa Tangas" as they were then called, for instance, came from Jasikan, my District Council office, to inspect toilets, bathrooms, drinking pots, kitchens and indeed anything that had to do with personal hygiene. Woe betide, for example, anyone whose cooking utensils were not washed. That is enough to make the victim sweat before the magistrate.

There were two "Tangases" in the village. One was the nightsoil man in charge of liquid waste of pan latrine and the other cleaned the streets, market and rubbish dumps. These two ensured that the townsfolk kept the village always neat while the "Tangas" from the District Council supervised the two resident "Tangases". That was the practice, and it was perfect.

The Middle School those days had compound overseers, whose duty it was to allot plots of the school compound to every pupil. These were inspected every morning and were to be kept neat the whole day. You dare not leave pieces of paper or leaves on your plot, as that will attract some form of punishment. This perhaps was to practise what we were taught in Civics; that patriotic citizen is one who keeps his environment clean. These were some of the measures, which were used to ensure that the country was kept clean.

These, however, now belong to history. Today, it is absolutely unimaginable the existence of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Parks and Gardens, School of Hygiene, still training the "Tangases", the Environment Ministry and above all the Accra Metropolitan Assembly whose Chief Executive recently organised a street Musical Carnival on some dirty streets and filthy gutters. Yet unfortunately, all these draw salaries, allowances and others from the government's coffers while the city of Accra particularly is still as dirty as it is today.

We should shamefully bow our heads for creating this mess and are not able to clear it. But more shame unto those whose responsibility it is to manage sanitation for us but refuse and yet take salaries for virtually no work done. Again, shame is their lot.

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