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Haphazard development in Tema: TMA wages war on illegal structures

BY: Benjamin Xornam Glover
Haphazard development in Tema: TMA wages war on illegal structures

The Port city of Tema prides itself as the first planned urban settlement in West Africa.

With the construction of the Tema Harbour in 1962, the city grew into the industrial hub of Ghana, with a carefully constructed road layout featuring landscaping and street lights.

Long before the government introduced the comprehensive street naming and property addressing system, the city of Tema had unique names that were commonly known, coupled with assigned house numbers in the various communities.

The city also boasted a central sewerage system built to manage the industrial and domestic waste without compromising the status of watercourses in the metropolis.

Unfortunately, the metropolis is now living in its past glory. Over the past few years, the city of Tema has gradually lost its pride as a planned city, due to the haphazard development and encroachment within the metropolis.

The problems of the metropolis continue to increase from poor waste collection to poor sanitation and bad roads in some neighbourhoods, as well as the erection of illegal structures in open spaces.

Squatters and private developers without authorisation have encroached on open spaces and erected illegal structures, including wooden and container shops which sometimes double as residencies, thereby bringing about chaos and unplanned settlements within the metropolis.

Even the immediate frontage of the Tema Metropolitan Assembly (TMA) has not been spared these unsightly scenes, as structures have been planted in open spaces, places reserved as recreational areas and street pavements by traders.

Illegal developments

Some developers have also illegally sealed some liquid waste manholes and built on several underground pipes, sewer lines and installations, thereby making it difficult for service providers to access them in case of any emergencies or faults.

There have been instances where the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) has bemoaned the improper siting of buildings and other structures in the Tema Metropolis, which they say is adversely affecting electricity cables that are laid underground.

This situation has led to numerous electrical faults, some of which take a long time to detect and correct.

Making Tema shine again

When the current Metropolitan Chief Executive (MCE), Yohane Amarh Ashitey, assumed office in November 2021, he pledged to make Tema shine again, in line with the ‘Make Greater Accra Work’ vision initiated by the Greater Accra Regional Minister, Henry Quartey.

Presenting his maiden situational address at the Tema Metropolitan Assembly’s ordinary assembly meeting in November 2021, the MCE pledged that the ‘Make Tema shine again’ campaign would “be war” on indiscipline and flouting of the assembly’s bye-laws on sanitation.

He vowed to wage war on unauthorised traders along the streets and pavements and unauthorised structures among others.

To walk his talk, the MCE embarked on a tour of the city in March 2022, during which he not only expressed regret about the level of encroachment within the municipality, but also served notice that the TMA would enforce every available regulation to remove the over 500 illegal structures dotted at unapproved places in the various communities.

As part of its determination to restore sanity, the Tema Metropolitan Security Council, in May this year, resolved to evict dwellers from unauthorised spaces in the Tema Metropolis.

The combined task force from the TMA with support from the Ghana Police Service, on July 13, 2022, commenced action to removed illegal structures in the city.

The exercise, supervised by offi cials of the assembly, led by Mr Ashitey, stormed Tema Community One, specifically, the frontage of the TMA Head Office, the “White House” enclave near the Tema Metropolitan Health Directorate, the Meridian Hotel Area, Tema Community Seven Chemu Park stretch where traders had encroached on the trees planted on the fringes of the park.

The team also moved to Community Eight, near the Starbites Restaurant and Vienna City, where traders had mounted a cluster of illegal containers, precariously sandwiching an ECG transformer to demolish and remove illegal structures.

Concerns

Some victims of a demolition exercise undertaken by the TMA said in view of the present economic challenges, the assembly’s decision should have been carried out with a human face.

Most of them, however, packed their belongings without resistance before the demolition, having received sensitisation prior to the exercise.

A salad vendor, whose structure was demolished at Community One, said she secured a permit from the assembly to put up her structure and wondered why the same assembly would turn round to have her structures demolished.

“Times are hard and it is through this business that I am able to take care of my family. I think the assembly should have taken the present economic challenges into consideration,” said one of the victims.

Explanation

The Public Relations Officer of the TMA, Frank Asante, told the Daily Graphic that the strategy adopted by the assembly for the demolition exercise was to target specific areas where illegal structures posed danger to road users and also had become a nuisance to the safety and security of vital installations, such as underground drainage system, electric installations.

“We just don’t want to demolish for demolishing sake, but once we move in and remove the illegal structures, the place must be put to use immediately to deter people from re-encroaching the space,” he said.

He stated that the assembly would intensify its efforts by sensitising residents to avoid putting up illegal structures in open spaces.

Mr Asante described the current exercise as successful because prior to the enforcement exercise, the assembly had engaged the owners on the need to relocate hence there was little resistance, adding, “that is the approach we want to adopt going forward”.

Reacting to concerns from victims that they had permits from officials of the assembly, Mr Asante said the TMA was ready to investigate such claims. He asked those with such issues to approach the assembly for investigations to take place.

“One thing they normally forget, maybe out of ignorance, is the fact that in the case of temporary structures, they are given temporary permits renewable annually, so if one is given a temporary permit, every year, you come back to renew it. So if they come for renewal and the assembly has use for the space, the request is declined.”

“If anybody feels aggrieved about any such thing, they are free to approach us, because we also want such evidence to punish anybody within the assembly’s fold who may be doing a bad business for us,” the PRO said.

Sustainability

According to the PRO, the MCE for Tema, who led the exercise, gave specific instructions to the Works Department to ensure that the aesthetics of the places where structures were removed was improved to prevent the victims from returning to rebuild the illegal structures.

He said the assembly would assess the impact of the recent exercise which constituted the phase one of the demolition, after which it would move to other communities in Tema where similar illegal structures had sprung up.

However, effectively deploying the assembly’s city guards and DevelopmentControl Taskforce to regularly patrol the city to arrest and prosecute any recalcitrant hawkers who would flout the assembly’s directives not to sell at unauthorised areas, holds the trump key to sustaining the exercise.

The TMA currently operates two sub-metropolitan district councils - Tema East and Tema Central, and adequately resourcing these two establishments to work effectively will help check and streamline challenges.

It is only then that Tema would regain its past glory and the vision of shining again will become a reality.