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Opinions of Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Columnist: Nana Owusu-Nkwantabisa

Trees and clean sidewalks

Ghana is trending - to borrow the phrase used by the younger “social media” inclined generation.

Post the Year-of-Return, Youtube channels about Ghana are exploding and the following is heavy among the African diaspora. Wode Maya and his peers deserve credit.

Viewers however are often struck by one major contrast - the landscaping inside private compounds versus along the streets.

Private compounds look great while the main streets in areas where there are no trees look barren. In addition, sanitation in the markets could use tremendous improvement.

As a society, we don’t like calling people out or holding individuals responsible. This cultural trait has its pluses and minuses with a lot of minuses but I will leave that for another occasion.

So, let me call out departments - Local Government, Sanitation, and Roads and Highways. When I was growing up, there were ‘Public Works Department’ (PWD) and Parks and Gardens. I am not sure of the modern iterations of those departments.

So, what is preventing us from planting palm and coconut trees along our streets or in the traffic islands? Do the local authorities still have parks and gardens departments? I don’t assume that tree planting would require the nation to take loans.

So, can someone explain why it is so difficult to promote tree planting? If we want them in our middle-class compounds, then we should want them along the streets.

There is a lack of leadership here. If the public areas leading to our beautiful private homes look ugly, then the issue is public leadership as well as an acquiescent public.

In Ghana, we call it “I don’t care” - we don’t make enough noise about public shortfalls. It is about time to care.

The Ghanaian economy relies heavily on small businesses. Most of these businesses set up along the streets. The travelling masses provide an accessible market. Can we find a way to promote these businesses without our streets turning into eyesores? Vendors spread their wares anyhow - as we say in Ghana - basaa!

I am sure they pay tolls to local authorities. Can they be asked to organize their wares better? Can the vendors also plant one or two trees or flowers to beautify their locations?

Last but not the least, the signboards or signposts. I will save the open drains for later but let me just mention that those drains can be cleaned by vendors or anyone who owns the property next to the drains (gutters).

There are many people who can also be employed to clean the drains and certainly, sanctions can be applied to those who litter. But let’s talk about the signposts.

Goodness grief - all the beautiful buildings are hidden by signboards. Who approves the erection of signposts? Once again the local authorities shirk their responsibilities. All the dated ‘gone to glory’ signs have to be removed promptly or the families must be fined. Can the local authorities put limits on the number of signs or demarcate places for signs?

Signboards must be regulated and gutters or drains can be covered/cleaned by people looking for employment. And finally, why travel to Aburi or Coconut Grove to see palm and coconut trees when all our streets can be lined with palm and coconut trees and many other ornamental trees or fruit trees? The last time I checked, we have a Sanitation Ministry in addition to Local Government, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Roads and Highways, and even a Forestry Department. I looked forward to travelling along the tree-lined roads in Accra and beyond soon. Thanks.

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