I was amazed and held spell bound when I recently watched a documentary on Gotv (CBS Reality) on the kind of liquid and solid waste some sanitation workers in parts of the United Kingdom dealt with on their streets.
They had to contend with refuse deliberately dumped at vantage points, mostly on highways to avoid paying disposal fees.
My amazement stemmed from the fact that some whites also engaged in open defecation, although not on large-scale like what pertained in our part of the world.
I admired the methods they resorted to in arresting the defecators and those who indulged in the indiscriminate disposal of refuse.
Using both hidden cameras and scavenging techniques, the officers executed spot fines to the culprits, including shop owners who disposed of their rubbish into dust bins provided by the
local assemblies for pedestrian use.
The residents of Oxford and others in East London featured in the documentary on one hand and those of us in Ghana are the same.
What makes the UK a cleaner society is the stringent enforcement of the laws by city authorities.
The Greater Accra Regional Minister, Mr Henry Quartey, proved a lot of doubting Thomases wrong when he embarked on unprecedented cleaning and the clearing of hitherto untouchable sections of Accra, under the theme of “Let’s Make Accra Work Again.”
He received attention, commendation and support from most. Some of his notable feats include the removal of scrap dealers behind the Beyeeman Cold Store on the Graphic Road; the halting of the chaotic scenes and nuisance of drivers, traders and citizens at the Madina Traffic Lights that caused traffic jams and the relocation of onion sellers at Agbogbloshie to Adjen Kotoku.
These are great manifestation of the adage that “where there is a will, there is surely a way”.
Propensity to litter
What Mr Quartey is doing (and the documentary narrated above) are indications that Accra, and for that matter Ghana, can become cleaner and safer from filth engulfing our streets, homes and work places, when the right leadership is in place and ready to act.
That is because humans, no matter their complexion, race, educational qualification and the side of equator they find themselves, have the propensity to litter indiscriminately and engage in open defecation when the enforcement of the laws is nonexistent or executed with laxity.
It is the expectation of Ghanaians that immediately the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) are confirmed, they will hit the ground running.
They must strengthen their district health offices, sensitise their constituents to the principle of the polluter paying for his or her mess and dealing ruthlessly with those who violate the bye-laws on cleanliness.
Environmental officers must move into the communities, arrest culprits and arraign them. That would be an example for all others to follow suit.
There are by-laws on the responsibility of landlords for cleaning their houses, their frontages, with the same applying to shop owners and others.
Naturally, if recalcitrant landlords, shop owners or companies are arrested, arraigned and probably fined for not ensuring a clean environment around their frontage, others will learn.
I remember my days of yore in Sekondi, how adults dreaded the information that the “tankassfo”, to wit, the Town Council people, were coming around. Every dust on floors, cobwebs on walls and any stagnant water was cleared!
These tankassfo could go as far as dip their long ladle in the barrels of stored water to see if they were clean. I remember how all residents in three houses were hauled before the court because the drain in front of their houses was considered filthy.
I draw three conclusions; first, the assemblies would be generating money from the court fines for their development and sensitise their constituents to the right disposal of waste and clean environments.
Second, this would reduce the health burden and budget on the state and individuals, respectively because a clean environment would certainly decrease the spread of diseases such as malaria and dysentery, which prevent adults and children from work and school.
It would also protect the country’s economy as money that could have been expended on healthcare would be used in other sectors of the economy.
After all, as the saying goes “a sound mind lies in a healthy body”.
Indeed, this will surely accelerate the pace at achieving the agenda of Accra being the Cleanest City in particular and Ghana in general.