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Opinions of Friday, 23 January 2004

Columnist: Asibey, Akwasi

The Grand Plan to Clean Up the Filth in Accra ...

and its Environs: We are Watching!

The Greater Accra Regional Minister, Honourable Sheikh Isaac Quaye, announced on Monday January 19th yet another grand plan to clean up the filth in the Accra metropolis. His announcement comes at the heels of another programme to clean up the city which was also launched in a press briefing by the soon to be former mayor of Accra, Mr Ofei Darko, a few weeks ago.

As much as we applaud the Regional Minister for the determination to clean up the filth in Accra and its environs, we cannot help but be sceptical about such publicity-laden announcements. The simple question is why can’t they just do it? Far too often politicians, especially those entrusted with the management of Accra, make grand statements of keeping the city clean only to be forgotten as quickly as the participants of the press conference disperse.

These end games must stop for it is really embarrassing to see our national capital engulfed in mountains of filth, including plastic waste.

The core strategy is the creation of 13 additional sub metros that would be given increased resources to spearhead the campaign in their respect communities. There are plans to recruit between 100 and 200 environmental health officers for each sub metro who would be empowered to enforce existing byelaws. The new plan will be launched on Saturday, January 24th 2004.

Also the Minister of Private Sector Development mentioned that his Ministry is negotiating with four private companies to begin the recycling of plastic waste in the metropolis.

All these are laudable initiatives but the questions that keep nagging me are: how sustainable is the new plan to keep Accra and its environs clean? Is it going to be a nine-day wonder? Is it another electoral gimmick, which will fade soon after the general and presidential elections in December 2004?

For someone who makes a living by evaluating the effectiveness of development programmes, I cannot help but to remain sceptical. This is because effective implementation and outcome of the new plan is predicated on a number of assumptions, which could facilitate or undermine the new commitment to clean up the mountains of filth in the Accra metropolis. For instance would the 13 sub metros be adequately resourced to enable them carry out their tasks in a most effective and efficient manner?

It is curious that the judiciary was conspicuously absent at the stakeholders on sanitation meeting on Monday. It is important that the judiciary is roped in.

Consideration should be given to setting up fast track courts to provide speedy trials of those who flout the city’s byelaws on sanitation. Let us be honest, when residents of Accra and its environs realise that they cannot get away by openly refusing to obey the law, they would modify their behaviour. AMA should make it very expensive for people to break the law and they would conform.

For example, the additional environmental health officers that AMA proposes to recruit could be given bonuses based on the number of residents they bring to book when the latter break the law. If the officers know that in addition to their basic salaries they would be earning additional money by vigorously enforcing the byelaws, they would be motivated to arrest more people who disobey the byelaws. People tend to be careless about environmental sanitation because there is no penalty for disrespecting the law.

AMA should, say within a period of a month, aggressively pursue those who do not want to respect the byelaws on sanitation. At the end of the one-month period, they could do an evaluation to determine if there has been a change of attitude of residents. I bet there would be a significant change of attitude in a positive direction.

Enforcement of the byelaws on sanitation should be done in tandem with vigorous public education campaigns to impress upon the people on the need to observe simple personal hygiene and environmental cleanliness.

On the issue of the recycling of plastic waste, the government may want to enter into partnership with private sector companies by providing seed money or holding small shares in such firms. Government participation in the companies could serve as an incentive to encourage them to move with speed in setting up their factories.

There have been too many failed attempts at recycling plastic waste and it is about time concrete steps are taken to salvage the situation.

Incredibly the Minister responsible for Tourism and Modernisation of the National Capital was conspicuously absent at the stakeholders meeting. What is going on?

The minister’s absence makes one wonders if the proposed plan to modernise the Accra metropolis is stillborn!


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