A slum neighbourhood in Accra. Via Cities Alliances
There is an Akan proverb which says that nobody points to his father’s house with the left hand, since the use of the left hand is considered a taboo in some instances in Akan cosmology. Simply put, we should be patriotic and proud of where we come from. Not so with the deteriorating sanitary and sewerage challenges that Accra is going through, and indeed all the big towns and cities of Ghana.
The gateway to any country is its capital, and first impressions are extremely important. I spent a month in Ghana from mid-December 2013 to mid-January 2014 and I was much ashamed of myself because the sanitation and hygienic conditions in Accra leave much to be desired as the situation has woefully deteriorated rapidly after the glorious eras of Kufuor and Rawlings.
A year and a half ago when I visited Ghana, it was a lot better then. What has gone amiss over that short period of time for Accra to be, perhaps, the most stinking capital in Africa? On Tuesday, 7th January 2014, I travelled to Accra to transact some business and decided to visit the CBD and savour a bit of Accra. The filth and pungent smell from decaying debris along Graphic Road, Tudu, Kaneshie Market area, and many areas of Accra make it a city of shame. I was shocked to see piles of uncollected garbage in several locations of Accra, including Kojo Thompson road, a popular thoroughfare.
Food from food vendors is dispensed in small black polythene bags, and treated water is sold in white plastic sachets. These black and white non-degradable material is strewn all over Accra and it is very much unsightly and a human menace as these can choke sewerage channels and drainage systems, and cause flooding and breeding of mosquitoes.
Some time ago, we Ghanaians used to beat our chests proudly, boasting of our neat city as compared to the former capital of Nigeria, Lagos. But that is no more the case as Abuja is a city par excellence. This is why some years ago, I wrote that we should consider building a new capital in the hinterland, perhaps near Atebubu or Kintampo.
The poor waste disposal system informs one that our local government system is non-functional. One wonders whether Ghana as a whole has no government in place or is Ghana rapidly descending into the abyss of a failed state, or like the J-curve, it should get worse before it gets better?
Or is it the case that the demand for services exceeds the supply? The appalling insanitary condition in Accra is a time bomb as it can lead to the outbreak of epidemics such as typhoid fever and cholera. Perhaps, it explains the high mortality rate we are experiencing currently in the country, negating the achievement of some of the 8 MDGs in 2015.
I should think that corruption should be part of this deplorable state of affairs in the city, because the Zoom Lion contractors who have been awarded the contract of keeping the city clean are grossly ill-equipped as they use primitive and basic broom and shovel method to scavenge humongous garbage. I felt really flabbergasted when I saw some of their staff near the Fire Service Headquarters scooping sordid dirty garbage with their bare hands. This in the 21st century? Oh, no!
Sometimes, after the Zoom Lion workers have emptied the drainages of their contents onto the pavements, the debris remains uncollected for eternity and it eventually gets back into the same drainage, with no work done. Oh why have conditions of sanitation deteriorated in Accra so badly in a few years? I took a stroll to High Street, the Main Post Office along Asafoatse Nettey Road, Kinbu Street, 18th February Road, among others.
Accra is a mish-mash and criss-cross of elegant and magnificent edifices juxtaposed alongside decrepit and dilapidated and unsightly shanty and squalid settlements. One such notorious squalid settlement is a misnomer called Abuja, near Graphic Road. The poor insanitary conditions in Accra cast a big slur on President Mahama’s government. I wonder what has become of the Accra beautification project initiated under ex-President Kufuor’s time with Jake Obetsebi Lamptey at its helm. What plans are afoot by the current NDC government to restore sanity in the insanitary conditions in Accra?
Some years back, Accra used to be the preferred destination for UN and multi-governmental organisations for holding their conferences. That is no more the case due to the worsening sanitary conditions and incompetent service delivery as regards power and water supplies.
It was not all gloom and doom as I took a tour of Accra. I enjoyed the reassuring presence of the ubiquitous personnel of the Ghana Police Service, who could be sighted everywhere in the nook and cranny of Accra. I was disappointed when I found out that many internet cafes near the Main Post Office area had all closed down except a state-of-the-art Vodafone Media Centre opposite the old Parliament House, near the Catholic Cathedral on the other side of Standard Chartered Bank Headquarters.
Everywhere I visited, including Odorkor, Kaneshie, La Paz, and Official Town, the unmistakable putrid scent stank in my nostrils. The whole of Accra stinks. Perhaps, Accra Metropolitan Assembly has to provide refuse or garbage cans or bins and a lot more personnel should be deployed to keep the city spick and span.
Much still needs to be done by AMA and Dr Okoh Vanderpuije, the City Mayor, to decongest the pavements and walkways in Accra so as to reduce the filth and silting of our drainage channels. The whole of Accra needs fumigation and disinfecting to reduce the putrid and pungent smell of decaying debris.
I will recommend to the city planners to send emissaries to cities in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zimbabwe to see how excellent those places look like.
We need to educate the public to adopt clean habits. We need to enforce the law strictly because we Ghanaians are stubborn. We need to contract well-equipped companies for garbage collection because Zoom Lion is a big joke as they are grossly incompetent and they lack the capacity and capability to deliver satisfactory services.
I will advise tourists to Ghana to prefer going to the cleaner rural areas and towns instead of staying in Accra. Accra is becoming a veritable hell on earth despite majestic buildings going up all over. How can our city planners plan properly in such abominable stench and squalid squalor? Is Accra turning into a huge and uncontrollable, sprawling Zongo? When did we start zongonising our capital?