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Opinions of Monday, 4 August 2014

Columnist: Kwasi, Paul

Development Problems And Challenges In Urban Areas:

A Case Study Of Elubo

Ghana became an urbanised economy in the year 2010 as per the 2010 population and housing census conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service. Despite the support of development partners to assist government at the local level to prosecute its development agenda, managers of urban areas especially metropolises and municipalities find it extremely cumbersome to help mend the many development problems and challenges confronting their areas of jurisdiction. Despite the urban bias theory that is being practised in Ghana, the problems and challenges confronting urban areas is demoralizing and insidious. The current situation prevailing in the urban scenery is dreadful and is nothing good to write home about. This has prompted me to write this article using the case study of Elubo, an urban settlement in the Jomoro District of Western Region, Ghana. The development problems and challenges in Elubo are not different from other urban areas in Ghana. The situation is worrying as it has brought untold hardship to the indigenes despite the fact that the local and central governments collect a lot of tax revenues from the town.

It is indispensable and expedient to laybare a brief profile of this vibrant economic town. Elubo is a town that serves as the foyer to Ghana from Cote D’Ivoire. Currently, the population of Elubo is about 26,000. It’s about 137 Km and maximum of 3 hours drive away from Sekondi-Takoradi, the Regional capital. It’s the fastest growing town in the Jomoro District, Ellembelle District, Nzema East Municipal and other districts in the Western Region. This is due to its strategic location, prospects and potentials it is endowed with. Elubo has become the centre of attraction to local and foreign potential investors. The major occupations of the people are commerce and agricultural activities. Elubo is a unique town in the district due to the presence of the following: River Tano; Protected Forest; financial institutions such as Ghana Commercial Bank, First National Bank, Ecobank, First Allied and Savings Limited, Jomoro Rural Bank, Ankobra West Rural Bank, Nzema-manle Rural Bank among others. The private sector has become the engine of growth for the town. Due to the intervention of the private sector, government has shirked its constitutional responsibilities towards the citizens. This exposition is to bring to the notice of all well meaning Ghanaians and government about some recent development problems and challenges confronting this business town.

Firstly, sanitation has become a major issue of concern to the residents. The recent outbreak of Cholera that killed about two people can attest to the poor sanitation prevailing in the town. The town is engulfed with filth. The Environmental Health and Sanitation Department as well as the Waste Management Department under the Assembly have simply refused to deliver their mandates despite the allocation of 5% of the DACF by government to tackle sanitation related issues. Zoomlion Ghana limited, waste collection private company in the District only handles municipal wastes leaving residential, commercial and institutional wastes. The town cannot even boast of one public toilet facility as well as a landfill site. Despite government policy of discouraging public toilet facilities due to poor management, the provision of toilet facilities will ease the problem of defecation into River Tano and will help serve visitors from the neighbouring country i.e Cote D’Ivoire. About 40% of inhabitants of Elubo use River Tano to meet basic hygiene such as bathing, defecation and cooking. The private toilet facilities are not physically and economically accessible. How can a population of 25,000 people not have access to any public toilet facility?

Secondly, poor condition of town roads is one of the major development problems impeding the flow of traffic. The town roads are not tarred i.e earth surface. The condition of the town roads have developed into “manholes”. It becomes unmotorable during the rainy season. During the dry season, due to the high volume of traffic on the primary distribution roads, there is high generation of dust. The situation has made life uncomfortable for residents. Continuous production of dust can affect the health of the people. The District Assembly collects daily market toll from market women. These women are living under a shed where it is not environmentally suitable considering the prevailing climatic conditions in the town as there is heavy downpour of rain in recent times. As the vibrant economic hub of the district where a lot of revenues are generated from, the Assembly has not found it necessary to construct modern market such as satellite market for the town. Due to the on-going construction of dual carriage road from Elubo to Agona-Nkwanta, most businesses have closed down due to the lack of space to operate. There is therefore an urgent need for a modern market facility to be put up in order for government to raise more revenues. Additionally, for the short term, government should prepare regeneration plan to strengthen the economic strengths of the town by improving upon the existing housing structures to allow for more people to get access to space.

Another area of concern to most residents is the minute nature of health facility in the town. Elubo has one health centre with one Medical Assistant. Due to the location of the town, people from nearby villages and towns such as Cocotown, Nungua, Ankasa, Sowodazem, Compound, Nyamebekyere, Assemkro, Ngakanyi, Anwianfutu, Kwabre, Aleaboale, Domeabra, Nsuoano among others all move to access health care at Elubo. Elubo has wider sphere of influence. In Jomoro District; Half Assini, the district capital, is the only town with a hospital. People do not see the relevance of the national health insurance scheme if their cases cannot be treated at the health centre and therefore have to travel to about 67 Km to access higher order of health facility. The health centre also serves Noe at the neighbouring country. It is therefore essential that, the facility be upgraded to a polyclinic in the short term and hospital in the long term. Education is one of the keys to transforming the local economy of the town. It is startling that, a town with 25000 people does not have any Senior High School (SHS). The town can only boast of one public basic school. The District Education Directorate is sitting aloof as far as the education of the citizenry is concerned. As a matter of urgency, central government should act on the education sector swiftly in order to avoid further damage. Because of the border, people do not see the need to attend school.

It has been established that, the concentration of government institutions at the district capital has led to the development of problems in the town. A study conducted by the writer in Elubo indicated that 70% of youth ranging between the ages of 10-25 years do not have parental control. The youth become a drop out from school due to lack of parental care. These youth end up being arm robbers and prostitutes. The increase in arm robbery and teenage pregnancy cases in Elubo is as a result of parents refusing to take responsibilities of their children. Developers build haphazardly without following the spatial plan of Elubo (if any). It is recommended that, the following institutions in the district are decentralised by having offices at Elubo: Town and Country Planning Department, District Mutual Health Insurance Authority, Department of Social Welfare, Environmental Health and Sanitation Department, Waste Management Department, Business Advisory Centre, Rent Control Department, etc. Other development problems facing the town include inadequate street lights, faulty street lights, indiscriminate disposal of solid waste, high level of illiteracy among the youth, chieftaincy disputes, among others. Additionally, government should create a new district. This will reduce the size of the current district so that central government allocations could have impact on the local people.

I am therefore want to make passionate appeal to government, international community, development partners, Non-governmental organisations and corporate bodies to attend to the needs of the town especially in the area of education, health, water and sanitation, transport. The town is a good destination for private sector investment and growth.