Sanitation In Accra – A National Malaise or Challenge?
The topic of sanitation in Accra has been flogged several times in the media so much so that it might appear to be a cliché or an overburdened topic. We must agree that a lot of improvement has been made over the past decade or so to give our capital city a new look and to beautify it. However, there is still a lot to do in the critical area of sanitation. In international news we were constantly reminded of cities such as Bombay (Mumbai), Delhi and Beijing being some of the most polluted and congested on earth. The latter, I am told, is exceptionally beautiful and clean, except for its vehicular traffic which is appalling. Suffice to say, Accra should not be allowed to graduate into the ranks of the most congested or dirtiest cities on earth. I must here commend the current and previous governments for realizing the enormity and urgency of the problem and some steps taken in the right direction to ameliorate the situation. The Accra Metropolitan Authority (AMA) should also be commended for its laudable efforts to breathe sanity into the running of affairs of the city. Lack of proper sanitation can lead to the outbreak of diseases such as malaria, cholera, typhoid fever, bubonic plague, among many others. The onset of such diseases reduces the image of the city and it may also affect GDP as it reduces man hours caused by illness. Poor sanitation in Accra may also negatively affect tourism. Currently, I am impressed by the tremendous improvements made in providing quick access routes to the Airport area, Malam Junction, Spintex Road, Tetteh Quarshie and Nima via the Ako Adjei interchange. Also to be commended is the provision of many sidewalks in the city, especially in the 37 Military Hospital Area, Cantonments, Kaneshie, Osu-Labadi and the Central Business District. However, the Circle area still needs to be worked on as it is an eyesore to see the pathetic state of traffic flow in the area and also the slum-like appearance of the area. AMA, however, needs to put up certain measures to improve service delivery. In the area of drainage, Odaw and Korle Lagoon projects need to be completed on time as they have stalled and the over-silted waters reek with abominable miasma, with their ganglion -coloured waters laden with plastics of all hues. I think the city council (AMA) should seek advice on how to incinerate waste products and recycle the teemful collection of plastic waste. The recycling of plastic and other waste could generate a lot of employment. Also another alternative is to outsource garbage collection to private contractors as it may be cheaper and efficient. However, contracts should be awarded to contractors on merit in terms of their expertise and capacity. For example, Zoom Lion is one such contractor doing a commendable job yet they lack capacity. The question is,`does it have the equipment, trucks and technical know-how to deal with the mammoth task of garbage collection and waste disposal in the city? More competitors should be brought on the scene, both local and foreign competitors. Also AMA should go and study the systems in advanced countries such as UK, Japan and Germany. AMA could work collaboratively with JICA, USAID and other NGOS. Accra is a huge unplanned urban conurbation and there is need to improve its drainage and sewage systems. Open gutters and drains need to be covered and regularly unblocked. Storm water drainages need to be improved to reduce flooding in the rainy season. Incinerator plants can be outsourced through concepts such as Build Operate Transfer (BOT) and Public Private Partnerships (PPP). AMA should work closely with the Water and Sewerage Companies to ensure regular flow of water, as a shortage of water can worsen sanitary conditions. Our public toilets have been improved but then there are not enough places of convenience or rest rooms in Accra and that can be a negative for boosting tourism. I hope we will not have a situation of Kufuour’s HIPC white elephant public toilets! Or the ill-constructed KVIPs under the NDC’s watch. AMA should work with the central government to end the water supply blues in Accra as water is life. Without adequate water supply, sanitation deteriorates. The city by-laws on littering and street vending should be stridently enforced because street vending is the cause of the plastic pollution in Accra. The general public should also be educated to be cleanliness conscious so that together we would make Accra the city of pride and a regional hub and gateway. Let us hope the Columbia University-led project to make Accra an international city of repute will not end up being mere rhetoric or a pipe dream. We should not rest on our oars or be complacent because complacency has been the bane of many superstars who have fallen into oblivion and obscurity.
Source: Kwesi Atta Sakyi
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