Tamale becoming a big slum
Compiled by Edmond Gyebi
Waste and sanitation management everywhere in the world, including Ghana, is capital intensive. Not even in the developed countries, where its management is driven by hi-tech equipment, aside having proper disposal sites and being able to maintain them.
This notwithstanding, when there is the will and sincere show of commitment by all citizens, including faith groups and civil society organisations (CSOs), waste management in densely populated areas could culminate into wealth creation, through the generation of natural gas for domestic use, and organic manure for the fertilisation of farmlands that would benefit a whole lot of people, and perhaps generations to come.
Indeed, this could best be described as one of the best or surest means of fighting climate change and desertification, which result from overdependence on fuel wood, indiscriminate felling of trees, bad farming practices, and charcoal production, among others.
Unfortunately, in Ghana, one of the most promising nations in Sub-Saharan Africa, weak waste and sanitation management laws are not helping the situation.
This, coupled with the laid-back attitude of faith-based groups and CSOs in providing support, is further bloating annual government expenditure under the nose of political leadership, who also seem not to be taking the right decisions to deal with the gargantuan sanitation and waste problems.
This has made it difficult, if not impossible, for the nation’s leadership to meet certain critical development needs the ordinary citizens are yearning for.
It cost the government of Ghana US$290 million or GH¢420 million, representing 1.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product, each year to manage waste in Ghana, according to a study by the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP).
The desk study dubbed, “Economic Impacts of Poor Sanitation in Africa – Ghana”, found that the majority (74 percent) of these costs come from the annual premature deaths of 19,000 Ghanaians from diarrhoeal diseases, including 5,100 children under the age of 5, nearly 90 percent of which is directly attributable to poor water, sanitation, and hygiene.
Health-related costs account for nearly 19 percent of the total economic costs, while access time and productivity losses account for about 7 percent. The study also found 4.8 million Ghanaians have no latrine at all and defecate in the open, and that the poorest quintile is 22 times more likely to practice open defecation than the richest.
Tamale, the fastest growing city in West Africa in recent years, is gradually becoming a slum, despite being adjudged the cleanest city in Ghana on three occasions. This is because, waste and sanitation management have taken a partisan dimension, and further made worse by supporters of the two major political parties, which have decided to align themselves with either divide of the Dagbon chieftaincy dispute, thereby making many people feign interest in taking part in communal cleanup exercises over the years, out of mere resentment.
For instance, during the administration Mohammed Amin Adam Anta as Mayor of Tamale, most opposition party members deliberately refused to take part in general cleanup exercises. The reverse is happening now under the current administration of AlhajiAbudulaiHaruna Friday, who finds it difficult to rally support from most residents of the city.
Thus, the Assembly continues to spend not less than GH¢900,000.00 annually on sanitation and waste management alone, according to an official in the Waste Management Department,who wants to remain anonymous.
Also, there are inadequate drainage systems or gutters in over 50 percent of the entire Metropolis, which has been the cause of life threatening floods in recent years. These have also led to serious erosion, thereby making most of the areas dirty, and are now being considered as emerging slums.
Cleanliness, the two Holy Books (Bible and Qur’an) say, is next to godliness. But, surprisingly, in a largely religious community like Tamale, where Christians and Muslims are taught to observe cleanliness in their daily lives, and also consider it a spiritual obligation, it is so appalling to see choked reeking gutters and incinerators in almost every corner in nearly all vicinities in the city.
A few examples of vicinities considered by this writer as the dirtiest places in the Metropolis, include Tishegu/Ward K, Kalpohini/Sangani, Kukuo, Duanayili, Changli, Aboabo, Gumani, Jisonaayili, Kanvilli, Vitting, Dabokpa, Koblimahagu, Sakasaka, Nyohini, Lamashegu, Gumbihini, Gurugu, Tamale Polytechnic, Choggu, Bulpiela, Zogbeli, and Nyanshegu, among others.
In fact, most of these settlements are turning into slums by the day, due to poor the planning of buildings and erosion, as well as poor waste and sanitation management. When walking through houses in these vicinities, one needs to be very careful or risk stepping into human excreta disposed of carelessly by the residents.
The majority of residents in Tamale wantonly and inanely dispose-off garbage and defecate anyhow and anywhere, be it in the gutters/drainage systems, trenches, nearby bushes or shrubs, during the day or night times.
Communal bathrooms in almost all the homes in Tamale waste water is discharged carelessly into walkways running by the various homes. Besides, almost all rooms in every home have a bathroom where tenants who prefer to bath inside their rooms instead of the communal bathroom, also discharge the sewerage anyhow, without recourse to cleanliness.
To these residents, not even the frequent treatment of malaria and other insectsor water borne diseases can tell them that it is a result of their bad attitude towards sanitation that is why they fall sick so often, and for that matter, must adopt good sanitary practices.
Indeed, the filthy situation in the Tamale Metropolis can be attributed to the lack of the spirit of volunteerism or communalism among the majority of residents. As a result, this is gradually eroding the successes chalked in recent years by authorities of the Assembly.
In 2005, the Tamale Metropolis was adjudged the cleanest city in Ghana. Three years after that honour (2008) was bestowed on it by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the Ghana Tourist Board (GTB) also rated the city again, as the cleanest in Ghana.
The Metropolis capped this accolade for the third time in 2010, with another award from Zoomlion Ghana Limited, as the cleanest city.
Assembly members and their Unit Committees, which are supposed to promote development initiatives in their localities on behalf of the Assembly, simply cannot mobiliseto de-silt choked gutters and cleanup filth due to petty resentments among the people.
Anytime they make the move, the youth would accuse them of collecting money from the Assembly as contracts awarded on the cleaning of the gutters, and therefore, would not toil for nothing.
This is where one would think that religious organisations (churches/mosques) must step in immediately to regularly and consistently organise their members to embark on cleanup exercises to tidy up the dirty environs of Tamale as a demonstration of what they preach on their pulpits on Fridays and Sundays or any other day.
This is because, when state institutions such as the Tamale Metropolitan Assembly begin to show symptoms of failure, by not enforcing the laws or find it difficult to do so, it is highly anticipated that the clergy, who serve as a bridge between society and God, would ask for ‘spiritual cleansing’ on behalf of their people (leading their members in a crusade against the volumes of waste engulfing the city through cleanup exercises).
Moreover, if members of the about one thousand churches and mosques in the Tamale Metropolis, including thousands of traders, dressmakers, beauticians, sachet water producers, among others, engage in a monthly cleanup exercises, the Assembly might just end up spending half of what it spends annually on waste and sanitation, and the rest channeled into other development projects, if only authorities do not lineup their pockets with it.
So, if you are a true believer of the Holy Bible or Qur’an, both of which preach cleanliness, then stop defecating in gutters, littering the environment, and get involved in communal labour in your vicinity.
Also, if you belong to any group of traders or business association, and have the Tamale Metropolis at heart, this is the time for you to join hands together as true patriots, and get rid of all disease causing agents in every nook and cranny.
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