Cleanest city a mirage until we get our planning right

Cleanest city a mirage until we get our planning right

About ten years ago while on a company bus travelling towards Accra from Awutu Senya, I made an observation and commented on it to a colleague sitting beside me on the bus.  I observed that structures had sprung up and covered a wide area such that the Kasoa I knew, had grown into a big suburb.  The discussion that ensued between me and my colleague led to the long held view that there is a serious lack of planning of our suburbs, towns and cities.  In fact, there is no serious effort in ensuring that the layouts displaying demarcations set out in plans submitted to the Town and Country Planning Department for various areas by land owners are strictly enforced. The result is a haphazard development which impedes the execution of the planned layout for the area and therefore ultimately results in slums and makes supply of essential services to such places a nightmare.

There is a stretch of road that gets flooded anytime there is heavy rain for a considerable length of time. It lies between the traffic light on the main Kasoa-Accra highway going from West Hills Mall towards Accra and the traffic light at Atta Mills Link. This prevents motorists from using that stretch when there is flooding, creating a heavy traffic jam for motorists travelling from Kasoa towards Accra.  After the floods have subsided, the road gets littered with all kinds of rubbish and mud and it is just ‘disgusting’ for want of a better word.  The cause of this flooding is simply the filling up of the wetlands along that stretch for construction of buildings. When the run off which ordinarily should have been trapped by the wetlands cannot find any resting place, it is left with no option than to flow into the narrow drains created. These narrow drains cannot contain the volume of the run-off and so it overflows into the street causing the floods.

There is a perennial lack of resources in this country which require that budgetary support is sought each year from our foreign development partners.  The President has come out with the idea of a ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ and to this end, every effort must be made to ensure that wastage in the system is eliminated. It is the responsibility of government to provide utility services to residential areas through agencies like Electricity Company of Ghana and Ghana Water Company Limited. When the projected revenue falls short of the projected expenditure, the government is left with no choice than to seek additional funds, usually through borrowing. When the spread of development in terms of estate residential areas is very broad, the cost in extending these services is astronomical which increases government expenditure and will impact negatively on our economy.

Agricultural development forms an integral part of this drive to generate resources and hence availability of land becomes a key issue. However, the way land is being given out to estate developers and individuals for residential purposes is a worrying situation and must be addressed. When ‘Operation Feed Yourself’ was launched in 1972, individuals bought into the idea and started miniature farms in their backyards. Schools also initiated farming projects and the enthusiasm for farming was at its peak all across the country. There was a bumper harvest across the country. Bumper harvest translates into extra revenue for the country and if there is value addition through processing, the revenue gets much bigger.

It is estimated that the country needs over 1 million housing units to satisfy the housing requirement of the nation and therefore there is some justification for the release of land for building purposes. However, there must be efficient use of available land since land is not inexhaustible. There is a population growth on the average of about three percent which means that if an efficient planning of land use is not initiated, a time would come when there will not be land available for other uses. 

Land economy should be given the needed attention and one of the ways to achieve this is by putting in place a policy of maximising usage of land.  When individuals acquire land and develop them, ten plots of land would have only ten flats.  A high rise building on a plot of land can easily contain these ten flats leaving the remainder for other purposes. Again, the cost of supplying utility services to the individual apartments would be minimal compared to extending same to ten different apartments on different plots of land.

Modern markets like the Kaneshie Market should be the kind of market that should be established. Such markets would provide the requisite infrastructure that would enable rubbish to be appropriately handled such that the immediate surroundings of the market would be clean.  Foodstuffs would also be handled well so that contamination would be reduced to the barest minimum. All these would contribute to a clean city which has a direct link to productivity.

The role of town planning officers is critical and no effort should be spared in ensuring that they are provided with the necessary resources to effectively execute their job.  Effective systems should be established such that building permit acquisition becomes easier.  This would provide motivation for people to get town planning involved in the putting up of structures so that buildings are not erected in waterways to create environmental problems like flooding etc. The current system for land registration is better but there is more room for improvement. The inspection role of town planning officers must be improved so that wrong siting of structures would be eliminated completely.  Again, when structures are properly sited, disaster management cost would be reduced, resulting in savings that can be utilised in other sectors of the economy and the government would not have to borrow.

There must be a conscious effort to ensure that our drains are covered and the necessary studies are conducted to determine the size of drains that would be able to contain the volume of water that would flow through it without overflowing. Provision must be made for tunnels under the roads through which cables can be passed from one side of the road to the other to preserve the designed life of our roads.  The Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) must ensure that vehicles do not spill oil on our roads so that the life of our roads would be preserved and also prevent our streets from being dirtied.

Laud Kissi-Mensah

(The Average Citizen)

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