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04.10.2005 General News

World Habitat Day celebrated in Takoradi

By GNA
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Kojokrom (W/R), Oct 04, GNA - Mr Charles Bintim, the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development, has said the government has put in place some programmes and projects to address the harmful and regressive effects of slums on urban development.

He said this in an address at this year's celebration of World Habitat Day at Kojokrom near Takoradi. The celebration is under the theme "The Millennium Development Goals and the City".

Mr Bintim said prominent among these measures are the Urban Environmental Sanitation Project (UESP), Promotion of District Capitals Project, Social Investment Fund (SIF) and the United Nations-Habitat Upgrading Facility (SUF).

He said the government, through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the Ministry of Works and Housing, was collaborating with the UN-Habitat and Peoples' Dialogue, a local NGO, to initiate City-Wide Slum Upgrading Projects (CWSUP). Mr Bintim said the project has started in Ashaiman with a community-based project and it would be extended to other parts of the country.

Mr Bintim said the issue of poor sanitation in cities is being solved through the release of HIPC Funds to the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA), Shama-Ahanta East Metropolitan Assembly (SAEMA), Tema Municipal Assembly and Tamale Metropolitan Assembly.

He said his ministry is monitoring the application of the funds to ensure that the funds are applied to manage waste. Mr Bintim urged the private sector to team up with the government in a public/private partnership to provide adequate housing for city dwellers.

He said, "It is our collective responsibility to ensure that slum development is tackled at all stages thereby neutralizing its potential to frustrate government's quest to address the issues of poverty and wealth creation to improve living conditions of our people". Mr Bintim said, "In Accra, mention can be made of areas including Old Fadama (Agbogbloshie), Nima, Avenor and some parts of Ashaiman as emerging slums that call for serious attention and appropriate interventions".

Mr Issah Ketekewu, Deputy Minister of Works and Housing, said the theme for the celebration is significant considering the fact that by 2015 the number of Ghanaians living in slums would have hit six million if nothing is done about the current situation.

Mr Ketekewu said the government is tackling this issue through a vigorous national affordable housing programme to deliver 100,000 units beginning this year, a review of the Rent Act to protect workers from exploitation.

He said the government would also undertake a review of the National Housing Policy to place greater emphasis on shelter needs of low-income people including programmes targeted at homeless people and those living in slums.

Mr Ketekewu said the government is also pursuing its goal of achieving affordable mass housing delivery in partnership with the private sector.

He said his ministry has come out with a draft Water Policy to ensure the proper management and utilization of water resources in the country in a sustainable manner.

Mr Ketekewu said the ministry, through its departments and agencies, is implementing some programmes and projects to make safe water available to about 85 percent of the population by 2015. He said, "As at now the coverage is about 60 percent and 46 percent for urban and rural population respectively".

In a statement read for her, Miss Christine Churcher, Minister of Environment and Science, said the rapid urbanization in Accra-Tema and in about three other settlements is generating urban congestion, excessive stress on very limited urban resources and facilities and increasing urban degradation in cities.

She said this phenomenon of rapid urbanization and metropolitan growth and its attendant consequences of poor housing, inadequate infrastructure services and environmental degradation are certainly most pressing and urgent in the country today. "Poverty reduction, the achievement of universal basic education, improved maternal health which are key goals of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will be realised within the physical context of human settlements".

Miss Churcher said, "It is, therefore, the view of the ministry that the strategy for the achievement of the MDGs and improving the living conditions of slum dwellers is through an integrated approach to settlement development".

In a statement read for her, Hajia Alima Mahama, Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, said her ministry, in collaboration with partners like UN-Habitat, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and non-governmental organisations and city authorities are working to improve the living conditions of slum dwellers.

Hajia Mahama said these include the provision of access to safe water points in slum areas, promotion of the use of both male and female condom and HIV/AIDS support programmes for men and women who reside in slums at Aglobloshie, Tema Station, Mallam Atta Market area, Nima and Maamobi.

She said in addition, the ministry is mobilising slum dwellers in Agbobloshie, Tema Station, Mallam Atta area, Nima and Maamobi to access micro credit.

In a press release, Mr Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General, said the build-up of slums and informal settlements occurs in large part because of policies and exclusionary practices that deny public services and basic facilities to informal settlements that are deemed illegal. He said community-based efforts to redress such problems often face political and bureaucratic obstacles. Mr Annan said evicts and demolitions are not the answer to the challenge of rapid urbanization.

"We must have pro-poor, participatory urban development in which women and men are empowered to manage their communities and where development is carried out with respect for human rights and in accordance with international law". 04 Oct 05

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