I was very excited to read two days ago about the release of land for the construction of the first modern stadium in Tamale to host the 2008 African Cup of Nations competition. The choice of the site had been an issue of debate especially with regard to the eventual balance of the city's development, the environment and health of the people. I agreed with a writer who preferred to have the stadium built outside the city centre so as to attract population and city development toward the periphery. However, it appears the decision to site the stadium around the Education Ridge area has already been finalised and what is important at this stage is to ensure that the impact of this choice is tailored toward a positive future for Tamale. There are many implications of building the new stadium at the chosen site in relation the future direction of Tamale's development as a mini city. Though the development of the stadium in any part of Tamale will have implications, the chosen site brings with it the need for Municipal Assembly to take a critical look at the potential impact on the immediate environment, and future directions of infrastructure development in the city. For me, my concern is directed at the Tamale Forest Reserve, which constitutes the immediate environment of the projected stadium complex. The Tamale Forest Reserve encompasses an area of about 3-4 square kilometres in the heart of the city. The reserve and dam (now depleted) collectively constitute a useful natural resource, which has provided a spice to the life of Tamale. Aside from the unacceptable use of the reserve, many residents of Tamale have used the fringes as resting places, to escape from the day-time heat. As a young man I always envisaged that one day the reserve would serve more positive purposes other than rubbish-dump and hide-out for criminals. I am in the process of writing a project proposal to be sent to the various bodies in Tamale, and elsewhere to consider developing and making more beneficial use of the forest reserve. Reading about the projected siting of the stadium around the reserve, it became apparent that an important organ of central government, namely the Ministry of Sports could now be included as another key body, which might have interest in the reserve development project. The building of the first modern stadium in the vicinity of the reserve provides an opportunity for us to look beyond the stadium to its immediate environment, and to transform the forest reserve into sustainable and useful natural resource. In a savannah climate, this unique resource has the potential to be developed into an economic and recreational park in order to maximise its benefit to the population At this stage the use of the reserve for unauthorised purposes is both a danger to the community's health and another case of under utilisation or destruction of our community resources. . The presence of the stadium will certainly change the use of the land around the reserve and this requires that the area be cleaned up and made accessible to the population and visitors for a variety of purposes. Tamale does not have a centralised café/restaurant /recreational arena. For me, I see the reserve as a place to be developed into a centralised cafe/restaurant and recreational park. The Forestry Department and environmentalists may argue against this proposal for reasons of potential ecological deterioration of the reserve. However, ecological sustainability is attainable by using and enhancing a community's resources in a way that allows the ecological processes on which life depends to be maintained. In this regard, by carefully carving out portions of the reserve for different uses, it is possible to regulate and maintain the ecological balance of life in the reserve. Thus we are able to add a bit of a pleasant touch to the savannah environment of Tamale mini city, and at the same time predictably contribute to a better and balanced ecology in the reserve. The time is now for a new approach and vision for the reserve and Tamale as a modern city taking big strides into the 21st century.
The Government of Ghana represented by the Ministry of Sports, the Northern Regional Administration and the Tamale Municipal Assembly would need to develop an integrated policy for sustainable city infrastructure for Tamale that takes a holistic look at the environmental and human issues that impact on health and wellbeing of residents.
An approach of that nature would ensure that the development of the city's first modern stadium is related and anchored to the development of facilities for other sports, development of parks, and other recreation resources in and around Tamale.
The call here is being made to the Ministry of sports, and the Local Organising Committee of CAN 2008 to consider the development of the forest reserve as part of a comprehensive package of situating the stadium in the area. I presume many residents of Tamale, and Ghanaians in general share my line of thinking and I hope the Ministry of Sports, the Northern Regional Administration and Tamale Municipal assembly will consider these ideas. The African Cup of Nations is 3 years away and it is possible is to plan, seek resources and execute the project as part of the preparations for the games. The number of cafes and restaurants to be created within the immediate area of the stadium and the forest reserve should be assessed and supported to provide the type of atmosphere capable of meeting the leisure expectations of patrons to the African Cup of Nations event in Tamale in 2008. It is the wish of every Ghanaian that our country is able to host one of the best tournaments in recent times as a forerunner to hosting the Commonwealth and World Cup events in the future. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.