‘Surely the Agblogbloshie site is the answer!’, I said to myself when earlier this week it emerged that the absence of a big assembly area in Accra, had been identified as a problem needing quick solution towards Ghana’s earthquake preparedness.
Indeed, following the cessation there of the main trading activity at Agblogbloshie, I have been thinking of it as a possible recreational place to fill the serious vacuum in the capital’s design: the absence of a City Park.
As reported in the media, at the start of an earthquake preparedness simulation exercise on Monday, June 20, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) highlighted the importance of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies identifying open spaces for people to assemble in an emergency.
NADMO Director-General Eric Nana Agyemang-Prempeh reportedly expressed concern that Accra has no open spaces. Areas which could serve as places where people could congregate have been turned into playgrounds and other uses, such as Astro turfs and, in some cases, structures have been built there.
Mr Agyemang-Prempeh explained that "tents and temporary structures may be mounted there as shelter, unfortunately, Accra is (short of) such spaces which are most needed in an earthquake situation." Therefore, he urged local authorities to not only protect open spaces in their locality, but to create new ones as well.
The four-day simulation exercise, dubbed ‘Lignite Coast Preparedness 2022, Exercise Shikpon Wosomo’, was to test Ghana's response readiness, capabilities and capacities in the event of an earthquake – touch wood! It was organised by NADMO in collaboration with the North Dakota National Guard of America and took place in the Greater-Accra and Volta regions.
Ghana’s vulnerability: According to knowledgeable sources: “Ghana is said to have a major earthquake fault line stretching from the McCarthy Hill area in Accra westwards towards the Central Region and eastwards towards the Akuapem Ridge all the way to the Volta Region.
“On 22nd June 1939, an earthquake struck the then Gold Coast and caused a lot of damage and loss of life and property. Seventeen people were killed and 133 injured. Its magnitude was 6.5 on the Richter scale.”
Over the years, minor tremors have been experienced and there have been warnings about the possibility of another earthquake happening in Ghana. In the evening of June 24, 2020, what was described as “a moderate earth tremor” was felt in most parts of Accra and happened three times within 10 minutes.
According to the United States Geological Survey the 2020 seismic movement reached magnitude 4.0 making it “one of the strongest earthquakes in Ghana in years”.
There have been warnings from the Ghana Geological Survey Authority that “the series of tremor occurrences in parts of the Greater Accra Region over the years is signal of a looming earthquake of greater magnitude in the future.”
Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, are an ever present danger that vulnerable countries need to prepare for. The latest to experience one is Afghanistan, which on Wednesday this week, suffered a powerful earthquake with reportedly a death toll of more than 1,000.
Against the above backdrop, it is obvious that the Ghana Government will have to take steps immediately to pinpoint a suitable area in the capital, and other places, to serve the purpose of earthquake assembly points.
And for Accra, my suggestion as indicated is: why not make use of the Agblogbloshie site for that critical purpose?
Since last year July when the Onion Market at Agblogbloshie was relocated to Adjen Kotoku (in the Ga West Municipality), by Greater-Accra Regional Minister Henry Quartey, that vast stretch of land has remained bare, awaiting new development.
Of course the Greater-Accra administration may have plans for that site, fine plans, but what could be more important than converting it into an earthquake assembly area in line with the NADMO recommendation?
Indeed, I can see two important, imaginative uses for the site. It could become an Emergency Assembly Point, but first it could be turned into a venue which, in my opinion, the nation’s capital has long needed: An Accra City Park.
Some of us have bemoaned for ages the absence of green areas in Accra. Our capital city conspicuously lacks gardens and parks. Apart from the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park, there is no other really open space that could serve the purpose outlined above. The Legon Botanical Gardens is highly rated, but from its name, it can’t serve the proposed purpose.
Ironically, many cities with weather not half as good as Ghana’s, such as London, UK, can boast of numerous parks and gardens while Accra falls abysmally short. Even in bustling central London, one can be sure of coming across gardens and parks where people can sit, rest, eat and enjoy the view. Amazingly, very close to the busy shopping areas and daunting traffic, there is plenty of greenery!
Explaining the difference between a park and a garden, a source put it this way: “Gardens contain flowers and plants mostly. Parks on the other hand, in addition to the flowers and plants contain children play facilities, walking trails, rivers, recreation facilities, soccer pitches, kids playing centers and so much more.”
Furthermore, “Parks provide intrinsic environmental, aesthetic, and recreation benefits to our cities. They are also a source of positive economic benefits. They enhance property values, increase municipal revenue, bring in homebuyers and workers, and attract retirees.”
For those unfamiliar with Accra suburbs, Agblogbloshie, is located off the Korle-Bu Road and adjacent to the Abossey Okai Central Mosque area.
Again, it seems to me that the critical need identified through the simulation exercise, plus the opportunity offered by the onion market site, present a great opportunity to give the capital a park and also ensure availability of a location where people can gather during an emergency.
So, Regional Minister Mr Quartey, why not convert the Agblogbloshie space into a dual-purpose, or even a multi-purpose, City Park for Accra?