Over the last three decades, Ghana’s urban population has more than tripled, rising from about four million to close to 14 million people, an indication that the growth in urban population is outpacing that of rural areas.
Many advantages accrue to countries with high urban populations. Societies with high urban population have witnessed quite significant economic growth. Indeed, globally, there exists a strong correlation between per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth and urbanisation. Urbanisation also makes it possible for more quality education to reach a wider section of society.
Improvement in the quality of life of the population in urban areas serves as a bait to many more people to migrate from the rural areas to the towns and cities in search of better living conditions, even when the migrants are very much aware that they will have to engage in far worse menial jobs than they would do in the rural areas.
These and many others have contributed to putting pressure on facilities in the urban centres. Many shanty communities have developed in our cities because many of the people cannot afford the expensive rent charged by landlords.
The city also presents an opportunity for those who can invest in especially landed properties to reap high returns on their investments. The situation has led to the grabbing of land by all manner of persons, most of the time without recourse to the laid down procedure for ensuring optimisation of land use.
But optimising the use of urban space calls for sound planning policies and efficient, inclusive planning systems which are essential to the delivery of better towns and cities.
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The Minister of Transport, Mr Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, has warned encroachers on lands meant for airports to relocate, sounding a strong notification that all properties sited on such lands will be demolished.
In one breath, the Daily Graphic is happy that the minister is poised to ensure that the proper thing is done to stop, once and for all, people taking the law into their own hands and embarking on constructions, contrary to the laws of the land.
Many a time, those who engage in such lawlessness bank their hopes on the fact that they are either highly placed in society or connected to people who are highly placed. They, therefore, demarcate for themselves what is there for the benefit of the whole society.
But in another breath, we are not very much enthused by the minister’s warnings. We are aware of how past leaders, including ministers and metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives, had indicated their willingness to ensure that the rules of engagement were obeyed, only for some “orders from above” to interfere and thwart all the good works of such public officials.
We only return to ground zero and restart on the assumption of office of a new person.
The Daily Graphic will not be surprised that the Transport Minister is being viewed with scorn in some quarters, while he has also become the laughing stock in other quarters because, to some, he is only barking, as the powers that be will never allow him to bite.
We want to assure the minister and all like-minded officials that the Daily Graphic is following with keen interest his assurances of demolishing structures sited on lands meant for airports and will provide him and his team with all the needed help we can.
But we charge him to extend the fight to all airport lands in the country, as we hope he will avoid selective demolition that will only satisfy a personal or group ambition.
We dare say also that people who have played various roles in allowing such unauthorised structures should not be let off the hook. Without prejudice to any criminal or legal action that will be taken against such individuals or group, whether in official capacity or otherwise, we strongly suggest that the cost of the demolition must be borne by the developers.
This will serve as a deterrent to others who have the intention to indulge themselves in similar lawlessness.
Urbanisation will always be with us and we must ensure the optimum use of land, with strong intolerance for those who think they are larger than society and can allocate to themselves public lands at will.
The minister must start the action now, and it must be sustained.