The lack of adequate and affordable housing facilities in urban areas has created slums in many countries, including even the developed ones. All manner of people live in the slums and they engage in various activities under squalid conditions.
Wherever slums are found, the residents there are prone to various anti-social activities that pose a serious threat and challenge to other city dwellers and authorities.
Sodom and Gomorrah is one such slum within Accra, the nation’s capital city. The slum has always been in the news for one reason or another. On one or two occasions, the dwellers have been to the courts to contest plans by the city authorities to eject them from the area.
While the tango over ejection hangs in the balance, President John Evans Atta Mills has said a forcible ejection of residents of the area is not an option and that the government is in talks with the leadership of the place to have them transferred to a preferred place.
The Daily Graphic agrees with the President that any action must be carried out with a human face. This is because the residents, as Ghanaians, have every right to live anywhere in the country, without let or hindrance, provided they obey the laws of the land.
The state of Sodom and Gomorrah is very disturbing and a drain on national resources. The Korle Lagoon on whose banks these people have settled is lifeless and efforts to have it dredged have not been successful. Nobody knows about the state of the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project (KREP) which is intended to bring the Odaw River and the Korle Lagoon to their former status, all because of the activities of residents of Sodom and Gomorrah.
All over the world, cities located along river banks are attractive and serve as useful tourist sites, without any debris or waste finding their way into them.
But the same cannot be said of what pertains in this country. A countless number of water bodies, notable among them the Odaw and the Kpeshie Lagoon, have been allowed to die unnatural deaths through our own bad ways of life.
Although the people of Sodom and Gomorrah have a right to live, their squatter status does not help matters much. However, the attitude of the city authorities has left a sour taste in our mouths, since the squatters have been allowed to put up structures, some very expensive, on the land.
Therefore, their plight will now have to be taken into consideration when taking any action that will affect them. Obviously, a human face, as the President said, has to be adopted to relocate them, whether we like it or not, and also compensate those with permanent structures because squatters, if allowed to live at a place for a long time, gain certain rights.
We are of the opinion that the city authorities are to blame for the current state of affairs by acquiescing to the demands of the squatters
The problem of Sodom and Gomorrah should be a reminder to our city planners and authorities to be proactive in their actions, otherwise the taxpayer’s money will be used to pay for something which is the fault of other persons.
Across the length and breadth of the city, indiscriminate structures have developed on water courses or bodies, wetland sites and other national property and all one finds are ‘Stop work, produce permit’ signs when those structures have, in fact, long been completed and their owners live in them.
Yes, the people have a right but they must know that rights go with a responsibility.The people of Sodom and Gomorrah must co-operate with the authorities to find a permanent place for them to give way to the development of the place to serve the people of Ghana and also attract tourists.