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Opinions of Thursday, 10 July 2014

Columnist: Bukarson, Listowell

Will Kumasi Ever Re-Live Its Tag As The Garden City Of West Africa?

Once upon a time, Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Region of Ghana was touted as the Garden City of West Africa. The second largest city in Ghana, the seat of the of King of the enviable Ashanti Kingdom was awashed with everything green. Nature was a friend to this city. Tress, grass, water bodies, rivers, streams, etc made life in Kumasi not just a beautiful city but naturally beautiful. Over time, several factors including human activities have succeeded in eroding the “garden” from this traditional city of Kumasi. Sadly, today the “garden” tag of Kumasi is history thanks to factors including human activities and lack of good leadership.

The City has since been, is and may have to continue to struggle to reclaim its once garden city status. The trees, green grass, water bodies, streams, rivers and everything nature have vanished with time. The “garden city” is painfully exposed to the vagaries of the weather.

Am aware that, successive Chief Executive Officers, right from the days of Nana Okumkom Akwasi Agyemang, Maxwell Kofi Jumah, Madam Patricia Apiagyie have all tried to re-green the city. They at one point or the other made efforts at re-beautifying the city. At least they paid their dues even though there is more room for improvement. Case then is that the sitting Mayor of the City, Hon Kojo Bonsu has an uphill responsibility of initiating pragmatic plans geared at resuscitating the dwindled beautiful image of the city to its garden city status. He has no options but to make a mark in that regard.

And rightly so, Hon. Kojo Bonsu in May this year launched the “The GREENING Kumasi Project” under the Kumasi Urban Forestry Project, with the aim of planting a million trees across the Kumasi Metropolis by 2017.

The project has a component dubbed “Me and My Tree”, under which school children would identify a site, procure seedlings, plant and nurture them to grow in a bid to restore the past glory of Kumasi as the Garden City of West Africa. The “Me and my Tree” entails a competition by school children in which pupils and schools which excel would attract rewards, including computers, laptops, and other learning material.

The project is in tandem with the First Ordinary Meeting of the 3rd Session of the assembly in May as a way of fixing the dwindling beautiful fortunes of the city.

A committee, made up of the KMA and the Forest Research Institute of Ghana (FORIG), was set up spearhead the implementation of the whole project, with The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) (German Society for International Cooperation) and VNF as the sponsors.

The Ghana Education Service (GES) and the Department of Parks and Gardens would also collaborate with the named bodies to ensure effective implementation of the project, which would see trees planted along drive ways, ceremonial roads, streets, open spaces, and school compounds. The KMA has so far injected GH¢40,000 into the project, with 171 trees already planted along the Asokwa Interchange and Anloga Junction road. The Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) has joined the project and nursed a number of tree species for planting.

In June this year the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly launched another project, “The Oringe”. This waste management project is also aimed at supporting the night sweeping exercise in checking and controlling littering in the garden city. Under this initiative groups of personnel in “orange” jackets go round the city from 8am to 5pm daily picking litter, basically plastic waste.

150 people already recruited are grouped in fives. These groups of five are assigned to designated terminals at various lorry park areas in the city to pick the litter, drop them in bags and carried unto a moving van.

Already, two trucks, 200 collection sacks, 150 uniform and 150 picking sticks have been purchased by the assembly to enhance the exercise. The Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly is also building a recreational centre opposite the Golden Tulip Kumasi City.

All these initiatives are expected to complement each other in a bid to ensuring that Kumasi reclaims its enviable image as the Garden City of West Africa. Its however pathetic to note that characteristic of some greedy Assembly members, who think that resources of the KMA be looted and shared amongst them instead of investing in uplifting the image of the city, to frustrate these laudable initiatives.

Over the years, cliques have formed at the Assembly. All they seek is to frustrate meaningful plans by successive Mayors aimed at developing the city. A number of seven (7) out of over one hundred and forty (140) Assembly members on Tuesday ganged up against these plans by the Assembly. They catalogued a 13 pointed petition addressed to the President, H.E John Dramani Mahama, copied to the Asantehene, Otumfour Osei Tutu II, the Ashanti Regional Minister and the Ashanti Regional Police Commander calling for the removal from office of the Mayor, Hon. Kojo Bonsu..

They accused the Mayor of solely re-zoning lands in the city, breach of procurement Act in respect of the construction of the Rattray Park opposite the Golden City, the takeover of the Kejetia Lorry Park Terminal by the Assembly, embarking on foreign trips without permission from the Assembly and even the tree planting exercise. Ridiculous!!!

The media as usual played its role in feeding on the allegations in the petition.

The Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly held a media briefing today to address all the issues raised in the petition. The over hundred media personnel took turns to ask questions to try to comprehend the issues.

With the Press Conference over, I lamented the state of governance in this country. Even at the Assembly level. It’s a shame! How come only seven out of over 140 Assembly members see differently from the others. I guess it time for the Mayor and his Managers ignored such pettiness from a handful of greedy backward minded members of the Assembly to focus on the development of the City. Kumasi deserves better. Kumasi deserves a return to the Garden City status. And if this must be achieved, it will take a thick skinned leadership, lead by Mayor Kojo Bonsu, his Managers and like-minded Assembly members to pick the bull by the horn, keep their focus in achieving the ultimate goal of rebuilding the city. Kumasi deserves better leadership, if the Garden city status is to be reclaimed.

Folks, Thinking Unconventionally.

Listowell Yesu Bukarson.