A GNA Feature by Benjamin Mensah
Accra, Jan 25, GNA - Come this Saturday, January 28, 2006, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) would lead a massive cleanup exercise to rid the Metropolis of filth.
At least, on that day, God would not be appalled, sickened and vomit at the awful sight of the filth that has engulfed the city. Rather, the heavens will chant appreciative choruses to give momentum to the cleanup exercise, in which the security agencies including the Military, the Police, the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) and the Customs, Excise and Preventive Services would join in, in an addition to traders and residents.
No one can dispute the fact that Accra is reeling under filth. Sanitation has become a topical issue that can hardly be ignored. Mounting heaps of rubbish have become a common sight on the roads, in residential areas, communities and the lorry parks. Unsightly black polythene bags and empty sachets of iced water, nicknamed "pure water", have strewn the city like dry and rustling leaves under cocoa trees. Water hyacinth, which posed environmental threats to aquatic organisms, have dangerously been replaced by blister looking polythene materials.
The filth in Accra and other cities of the state of Ghana is a dent on the image of the nation.
President John Agyekum Kufuor, in December 2005, took Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives to task on the poor state of sanitation in the cities and trumpeted its ill health threats as well as stating that it was an indictment on the District Assemblies.
"To say the least, this is an indictment on the Assemblies which you as Chief Executives are managing," he said, in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing at the opening of the 12th Annual Conference of Chief Executives of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies, at the Institute of Local Government Studies, near Accra.
Monitored responses to the President's call on the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) indicated indignation of a number of Ghanaians over the poor performance of the Ministry of Environment; Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and Ministry of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City as well as the Environmental Protection Agency in bringing the filth under check.
Some even called for the scrapping of the Ministry of the Modernisation of the Capital City, citing poor handling of the filth situation in Accra as the reason.
The problem of sanitation should be considered as a dual responsibility of both the local authorities and the citizens. It is necessary for them behave responsibly in waste disposal and removal, maintenance of efficient sanitation, and sanitary practices.
So far, more attention had been placed on the inability of the district assemblies to contain the waste, without often considering the problems of the enormity of cost and the difficulty of finding appropriate methods and locations for disposal.
The citizens' contribution to the solution of the problem has also been emphasized, but majority of the people are yet to change their stolid hearts and attitudes towards the environment.
President Kufuor requested the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to consider upgrading the Environmental Sanitation Unit to the status of Directorate of Environmental Health and Sanitation, to spearhead the review of Environmental Health Policy to articulate more clearly the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy II targets of the Millennium Development Goals.
Invariably, a choked gutter is like a clogged mind, and so 'free the gutters to free the minds'.
The task of keeping Accra clean is Herculean. It is estimated about 500,000 people enter the city every day and leave behind a certain amount of filth in addition to that of permanent residents. Fact is, much of the filth in the city's streets is produced by street traders and yet, it was learnt that they have vowed to resist Saturday's exercise because they have rather seen the exercise as a veiled attempt to eject them for where they earned their daily bread. Fresh air blew in the city centre last year, when the AMA ejected the street traders, opened slabs and de-silted the choked gutters in the Central Business District of Accra.
City residents expected AMA to stick to its guns in keeping the traders out of the streets, but AMA is yet to build the alternative markets it promised to house the traders.
The traders are back and continue to throw filth indiscriminately in the city.
But the AMA, which City Mayor Stanley Nii Adjiri-Blankson, described as "sleeping giant" for "a long time" has now come to terms with the society, and is ready to enforce its environmental bye-laws and prosecute offenders.
Mr Adjiri-Blankson has visited a number of churches in the capital to inform their congregations about the exercise and to solicit for their support.
The AMA has invited churches and leaders of the 38 satellite markets in the Capital to ensure active participation of their members. On January 28, all commercial activities would come to a halt for five hours between 0500 hours and 1200 hours to ensure maximum participation in the cleanup exercise.
Mr Adjiri-Blankson said the exercise would take place simultaneously in all the Sub-Metropolitan Areas of the Assembly and urged residents to take part in the cleanup to rid the Capital of filth to reduce the incidence of malaria.
One would want to know if the policy to enhance the sanitation situation in Accra, by employing energetic people to clean the city on daily basis beginning this month (January 2006) announced by the Greater Accra Regional Minister, Sheikh Ibrahim Codjoe Quaye on National Farmers Day held on December 2, 2005, when he led a cleanup exercise in the Central Ayawaso Constituency, has really become effective. The Minister said the cleaners would also act as watchdogs to check the throwing of refuse into the drains.
Poor sanitary practice in many homes and the major cities of Ghana is the prime cause of the high incidence of diarrhoeal diseases, cholera, typhoid, infectious hepatitis, food poisoning and other infections.
Sanitation is a way of life. It is the quality of living that is expressed in the clean home, the clean farm, the clean business and industry, the clean neighbourhood and community.
Being a way of life, sanitation must come within the people; it is nourished by knowledge and grows as an obligation, an ideal in human relations.
Local Government and Rural Development Minister, Mr Charles Bintim last December deplored the filth situation in the nation and asked District Chief Executives to declare the first half of 2006 as filth-free. This requires total and maximum support and active participation of individual Ghanaians, corporate institutions and the Government as well.
Clean cities, clean gutters, clean people make the nation beautiful!
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever" wrote John Keats, the English Romantic Poet, in "Endyman".