We are experiencing bright hot sunshine at this period of time, the dust has descended on every home, every corner and dwellings of citizens are dusty and the majority of us are stuffing our bronchi with dust because we inhale unclean air as we embark on our day to day activities to eke out existence. The sunny nature of our environment is by nature and therefore there is virtually nothing we can do about it. However, we can do something to mitigate its deadly effects on us. Some writers and development economists have developed the ‘geography hypothesis’ as an influencing factor in a nation’s prosperity or poverty. That hypothesis has been partially debunked though.
We build houses and all forms of infrastructure by first destroying the original state of nature, cut down trees, divert streams or water bodies and turn the soil upside down in some cases. After we have built the structures, we do not make any efforts to restore a small percentage of what it used to be. Namely, planting trees and creating a passage of flow for the stream or the water body. The consequences of our actions towards nature among others, is the overheated atmosphere many of us in the tropics experience.
We have a nonchalant attitude towards the environment, the only time we complain is when our own irresponsible actions on the environment create problems for us. Just as we are passing through the hot sunny period, when many of us cannot sleep well in the night because we do not have Air Conditioners, and even where they exist, we may not afford the electricity bills, and when our places of business activities are so dusty and filthy, we pray that the rains will come.
We continue to litter anyhow, because that very bad attitude has become part of us. The drains have been filled with refuse, sand to the brim and we do not care. We still live in water courses, we are still building along water courses with impunity and flagrant violation of the building laws, rules and regulations. Yes, because we are in the dry season. We are filling drains with fecal matter which are dried up because of the hot sun. We care little about it.
Our Metropolitan Assemblies are doing whatever they can to deal with the illegal constructions of all manner of structures in our cities creating unsightly environments. Many of such structures are built on drains making it very difficult for city authorities to even clean the drains. They stay there unattended to, even if the area is regularly cleaned. The refuse and the hardened fecal matter, stay ‘comfortably’ in their zones until the rains come. That is where we all wake up again and shout our voices hoarse.
Almost every year in this country, we allow filth to engulf us, we live with it, eat around it, do everything around it without any bother. It is only when the rains set in that we recognize our problem. Over the past few years, lives had been lost almost each year during the rainy season because of our attitudes and inactions by authorities who have the responsibilities to deal with the issue of sanitation not only by managing and cleaning the towns and cities, which are expensive though, but also punishing people for littering around have not been forthcoming.
Cholera outbreaks have taken hundreds of lives in the past because of the fecal-matter-filled drains. The drains, where they exist, are seriously silted such that the rains create paths for itself in its quest to exercise ‘its freedom of movement’ under the natural Constitution. In the process, it knows no bounds and would confront any impediment that comes its way.
This is the only time in our lives that we identify Gas Filling Stations that have been built in water courses and we make some lame efforts to pull them down when the harm had been done already; lives lost and property destroyed. The owners and occupants of the very houses built on water ways with utmost disregard for the laws of this country and which have been invaded by the furious rains then turn to the Government to come to their aid. Obviously, the best governments have been able to do for these recalcitrant occupants of the water courses have been to bring in the NADMO to dish out a few blankets, plastic buckets and plates and some insects infested rice to solve their immediate problems.
The rains are just close by, the drains are choked, those buildings we said we were going to pull down last year and the year before are still where they were. The silted drains remain silted today. What new stories are we going to tell this time around should we be confronted by another major downpour in the coming weeks and the past scenarios repeat themselves?
My humble suggestion to my former colleague and good friend, the Director General of NADMO is that even though some Metropolitan Assemblies have embarked upon some exercise to keep the cities clean, NADMO should draw up a comprehensive programme of de-silting all major and minor drains throughout the country with active collaboration of the MMDAs, the Ministry for Water and Sanitation and allied agencies. The monthly clean up campaigns, on their own, cannot solve the problems of filth while we await the rains. Let us bring in the Military to support these efforts and also instill discipline into the citizenry to at least reduce the annual havoc the rains wreck on us because of our irresponsibility.
Let us hold all shop owners responsible for any filth in front of their shops as well as drains that are choked because they have a responsibility to clean those areas as occupants doing businesses there. Let us also entrust the cleaning of the various Lorry Stations throughout the country into the hands of the Transport Operators in those areas, the GPRTU, Progressive Transport Owners etc. We should cede the responsibility of cleaning and managing those places to them instead of hiring people to clean places they make their livelihood from. We have pampered so many people in this country to our collective detriment.
Let us also identify those who operate Night Markets in our various communities throughout the community. In fact, these people pay nothing to the MMDAs because the Internal Revenue Mobilization staff close at 5pm and therefore do not go to them to collect any fees or rates from them. They ply their trade in the evening and by the time we wake up in the morning, they have left piles of refuse for us to go and clean. They should be identified and held responsible for refuse created in the night and left unattended to. After all, when we rent houses, we pay rents to the landlords, yet it is our responsibilities as tenants to clean our homes and not that of the landlord.
Those who sell cooked food in the night are the worst polluters of our drains because they pour not just the waste water into the drains but the solid waste and refuse as well which block the flow of the waste water which then generates pungent smell in their wake.
The rains will be here very soon, let us for once stop behaving like the vulture. Let us show that the recurrent problem of flooding and its attendant loss of lives each year is either totally stopped or significantly reduced in the year 2018. Let us show to the world that we are capable of managing our own affairs, at least this time around.
The last but the most important issue. Can we have the courage to ban plastic carrier bags in this country? Yes we can and we must. Gambia has done it and so are many more other African nations. We cannot continue to live with the plastic menace in this time and age. Times were when we did not use them, we lived our lives, our communities were cleaner and we were healthier. Our water bodies were cleaner and there was life in them. What is happening now? We need to do something about it.
Daavi, my three tots please.
By Kwesi Biney