Though the problem of choked cemeteries in Accra is not new, the situation has assumed alarming proportions requiring the urgent attention and intervention of the city authorities and other stakeholders in their efficient management.
The city which boasts about thirty cemeteries, every one of which is filled beyond capacity, raises serious environmental and health concerns for the inhabitants especially.The Korpevi cemetery in Achimota, situated behind the market and a few metres away from the main Accra-Nsawam road, captures the seriousness of the situation.
Residents The Mirror spoke to maintain that though the cemetery got full several years ago, burials still take place there. They say an average of about five corpses are buried every day. “New arrivals” are buried on top of the old ones, necessitating the digging of shallow graves which fall short of the standard six feet required for graves.
A close look at the cemetery also reveals that some of the graves have weak tombstones that have collapsed posing danger to children in the area who use the cemetery as playgrounds since it is not fenced. The residents say they want to see the cemetery fenced off or closed down completely and the land used for another purpose.
When contacted, the Director of the Metro Public Health Department of the AMA, Dr Nii Ayite Coleman, said his outfit was aware of the situation at Achimota and that they were collaborating with the traditional council to find a lasting solution to the problem. He contended, however, that it would not be possible to relocate the cemetery or close it down completely.
“As of now there is no land in Accra to move the cemetery to. The best under the circumstances is to join forces with other stakeholders, in fashioning out an efficient management of the cemetery, not only for Achimota but all others in the city since they face the same problems.” Dr Coleman said the AMA controls only four of the cemeteries in Accra. They are the La, Osu, Awudome and Akpasa (Mile 11) cemeteries.
He said it has come to the notice of the AMA that many of the people who clamour for the closure of cemeteries in the city are people who have vested interests to sell the land to developers.
He mentioned the Achimota cemetery where a portion of the land has been given out to a woman entrepreneur to put up a public toilet. “We asked her to put a stop to the building but we have information that she has continued and the building is at an advanced stage." Dr Coleman said the assembly would ensure that all those who have acquired portions of cemetery lands for various projects are stopped.
He said currently the Metro Public Health Department had embarked on a number of reforms to inject sanity into the use of cemetery facilities.The reforms include fencing off all cemeteries in the city, the employment of sextons, diggers, watchmen and labourers and the rotation of burials at demarcated portions of the cemetery and multiple burials per tomb.
He said further that this year the issue of cemeteries would be placed firmly on the agenda for the assembly's deliberations.