“The greatest injustice I will do to Accra is not to bring my experience gained outside to bear on the development of Ghana’s national capital, for which I will regret later.”
That was how he opened an interview with this writer and in these words, Mr Alfred Oko Vanderpuije, the Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), outlined his vision for Accra, the nation’s capital.
In what he described as the Seven Pillars, Mr Vanderpuije said his vision for Accra was captured in seven major areas. These are: solid and liquid waste management, revenue mobilisation, decongestion of Accra by removing all street hawkers from the streets and ensuring availability of pavements for the use of pedestrians, demolition of all unauthorised structures in waterways, improvement on existing road infrastructure and construction of new ones, implementation of an effective solar-powered street lighting system throughout the metropolis and provision of social amenities, including access to education and health facilities for residents of the city.
Everyone who returns to Accra after visiting other cities in Europe, America and Asia will come to one realisation — that Accra is not planned, it has narrow and poorly constructed roads, the city centre is densely populated with street hawkers and illegal structures and, generally speaking, Accra symbolises constructional indiscipline and a lack of political will and direction to make it what it should be.
Mr Vanderpuije is not oblivious to these facts and he takes consolation from the words of President Barack Obama that this country can only develop the way we want it, only if we allow state institutions to operate the way they should.
This is in reference to the reaction of the public and sometimes the political leadership anytime the city authorities attempt to enforce the various bye-laws on street hawking, illegal structures at unauthorised places and sanitation laws which have cumulatively made Accra a huge jungle that defies all laws of order and modernity.
Mr Vanderpuije hit a brick wall a few weeks ago when he set in motion his pledge to decongest the city, clear it of street hawkers and enforce sanitation regulations.
The criticisms which came from people in government even drowned those from victims of the exercise. He is, however, determined to carry out his agenda for making Accra a Millennium City by 2015 to meet part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“The cynics thought the decongestion exercise in Accra would be a nine days’ wonder, but we are winning by monitoring the situation continuously. Every little bit of success must be monitored and vigorously enforced,” he said with enthusiasm.
To attain this ambitious goal which is envisaged under the MDGs, Mr Vanderpuije said certain urban centres would be developed to showcase examples of good urban planning that provided good sanitation, good health, clean and adequate water supply, education facilities and a good road network for residents.
With the support of the Earth Institute, communities such as James Town, Mamprobi, Chorkor, Mamobi, Nima and Accra New Town would be upgraded with modern amenities and facilities to make Accra a modern city for the 21st century.
These are challenges that could only be met with adequate financial support and the political will. To that end, Mr Vanderpuije has outlined a plan to overhaul and modernise the revenue collection system of the AMA, which currently relies on property rates (commercial and industrial), lorry park and market tolls.
He thinks with a modernised and expanded tax system, the AMA can raise more revenue to support its core activities.
He said part of the expansion of the revenue generation system means the AMA would enter into commercial ventures either solely or in partnership with other investors.
One of the projects dear to the heart of Mr Vanderpuije and which is expected to take off before the end of the year is the installation of a waste processing plant to generate energy.
Waste collection and management are taking a heavy toll on the resources of the AMA which, according to the AMA chief executive, takes over 90 per cent of the city’s resources. As you read this, the AMA is heavily indebted to refuse collectors to the tune of GH˘12 million.
The waste processing plant will, therefore, play multiple roles by solving the problem of waste collection, relocating dumping sites, save cost, provide revenue and generate energy for industrial use.
As part of the exercise, the city mayor said the foodstuffs market would be relocated to the Odawna area to enhance the food market, while that at Agbogbloshie would be relocated at Amasaman. This will make Accra a real city and not a huge market.
Mr Vanderpuije has plans to phase out the shift system in basic schools in the metropolis. He has projected that from September 2010 when the new academic year begins, no school child will seek refuge under the shift system to avoid the classroom.
In short, the shift system will be a thing of the past as the AMA will endeavour to provide the needed facilities to ensure that all schools run a full stream of eight hours.
After this, the AMA will enforce the bye-laws which ban children of school age from hawking. Eventually, Mr Vanderpuije hopes that that venture will curb the socio-economic devastation of children. But this is at an envisaged cost of GH˘6 million, which comes from the AMA’s coffers and donor support.
On noise-making, Mr Vanderpuije has admitted it is a big challenge facing the AMA. He said since most of the noise is made by churches, some of which have operated for a very long time, the AMA will begin the approach by way of dialogue, after which the law will be applied.
For those churches and commercial entities that operate without permit, the response is simple — they should cease the illegality.
On illegal structures, the AMA boss said his immediate focus was on structures on water courses and pavements, after which he would come to encroachment.
Meanwhile, the AMA is putting in place preventive measures to ensure that the incidence of illegal and unauthorised structures is halted. As part of the measure, the AMA will work and approve permits for buildings expeditiously.
Mr Vanderpuije certainly may not have been the first person who sat in the AMA chief executive chair to have nursed such ambitious dreams. It is the hope of many Ghanaians that what others before him lacked — the vision, the will power, the political support and the resources — to execute their mandate will not elude him, so that with the support of the rest of us, Accra will be transformed into a city that is beautiful, user-friendly and ready to embrace the rest of the world as it welcomes the many investors expected in the country to participate in our oil and gas bonanza.
Source: Daily Graphic
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