It’s the Sanitation Minister who has got it wrong!

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

In less than two weeks, this country will be celebrating 61 years of Independence. But are we going to mark it against the backdrop of the filth that we find our country in, one good year after the landmark Diamond Jubilee of self-rule?

Of course I’m not suggesting that the city or the country should be cleaned up only because of the Independence Day commemoration on March 6. It’s just that maybe we need a peg, an event, to ginger people up to see the urgency of the matter.

Besides, by convention a country wants to look its best on a national day, especially Independence Day.

It would be very uncharitable to think that the Accra authorities and the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources are not worried that our nation’s capital city continues to wallow in filth. However, we can only testify to what we see. And what we see is squalor and weeds in our capital city.

Everywhere that one turns, shockingly including important governmental locations, as this column has pointed out numerous times, it’s stagnant, choked gutters, overgrown roadsides and litter. Even the major traffic islands, the central reservations, which in some countries are picture postcard pretty, are mostly sporting weeds and uncollected rubbish heaps.

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The scene in the capital after rain, such as the downpour on Tuesday this week, with debris and plastic waste washed up onto the streets, makes an extremely distressing sight!

Furthermore, if Accra is dirty, the likelihood is that the rest of the country is no better.

What is being done? What are the practical measures being taken which all of can see, to reassure us?

Recently I heard a radio news item quoting the Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, Kofi Adda, as saying that his Ministry is working on a “master plan” to get the country clean. So how long are we to wait for the “master plan” to be completed and approved, before the implementation begins?

For the record, Mr Adda has promised that by mid-year, we will see “a totally transformed sanitation sector” in Ghana. But before then?

What is also very telling is that because the main public places and thoroughfares in Accra are so unkempt, evidently house owners, too, no longer take pride in keeping their premises and surroundings neat. Noticeably, this awful state of affairs is not only in the lower class areas. These days, even in upper class Airport Residential area, Ringway Estate and the like, the story is similar.

What is needed is a zero-tolerance-for-weeds and litter; an indication that President Akufo-Addo’s pledge of making Accra the cleanest city in Africa before his tenure ends, is achievable! How much longer are we to endure the dirt, the weeds; and the smell?

Yes, the smell! And how will Accra not smell when gutters are choked and urinals are few and far between – not to mention the open defecation problem!

Admittedly, there has been news of some pragmatic initiatives. The policy of subsidized construction of household toilets that the Government has introduced is a very, very creative and laudable initiative. Commendably, the Ministry of Sanitation has launched the Greater Accra Metropolitan Assembly (GAMA) project.

Supported by the World Bank, the GAMA project aims to provide household toilets and water to lower income communities. Presumably, other assemblies, too are undertaking similar projects to ensure that eventually all needy households nationwide will have their own toilets.

However, there still remains another major, critical issue to be addressed: toilet facilities for the shops, stores, kiosks, and other commercial ventures. Who is seeing to it that they, too, get their act together?

Are there any regulations or laws that make it mandatory for shops to also have urinals and toilets for their customers? What about food vending places and drinking bars?

Is there any office that is supposed to inspect the state of washrooms at the various transport stations, or ensure that they all have such facilities for their patrons?

Whose duty is it to make sure that fuel stations offer toilets, and decent ones, to their patrons? In some countries, motorists know that when nature calls, one looks for the nearest fuel stations and one would be assured of a neat place of convenience.

If we have such offices, and such officials paid to carry out that assignment, what do they do to earn their salaries?

When people apply to operate a store in a vicinity, are they required to show which toilet facility is available to them – as well as to their customers? If not, why not?

They, too, the store operators, contribute to the stench in the city.

For example, there is an alleyway near my house at Dansoman Estate, which is near the main street and also close to a group of stores and an ‘eatery’ which has been turned into a makeshift urinal. Staff from the eatery regularly come to urinate into the gutter there

Where will these people wash their hands before they go back to cook or serve food to their customers?
Mr Adda recently said that people should not expect that Ghana’s monumental sanitation problems will be solved immediately: “The overnight solution people are looking for in the Sanitation Ministry, you’ll not get that … You want the Minister to go out there tomorrow with a broom and wheelbarrow and collect the waste, that’s not the Minister’s job. I think they have to … understand what … the role of the Minister (is) ….”

Although I can understand Mr Adda’s evident exasperation, he needs to understand the impatience of the public. I believe that people are just demoralized seeing the filth and the weeds, day in, day out.

And I think it’s the Minister who has got it wrong. Of course Ghanaians know that it’s not Mr Adda’s work to go out with a wheelbarrow and collect the rubbish. They know that his is to coordinate the various departments involved.

People just want to see MORE PRACTICAL ACTION NOW! Moreover, even seeing brooms and shovels at work for starters, before the “master plan”, will be an indication that the person in charge is getting things done.
That’s all!

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