Monday, July 13, 2015

Of public places and open spaces

 I had the pleasure of going to watch one of Uncle Ebo’s plays at the National Theatre in Accra. Yep. That one in which he used humans as props. So the sofa was made up of four people. Two of them were the seat and the other two were the stand, the TV was also a pretty girl with a box around her and the flower pots were girls with flowers painted all over them and so on and so forth. The plot of the play was also nice. Started off like a prodigal son-esque theme that slowly metamorphorsised into a mistaken identities issue, ie. the virgin who really isn’t so innocent, blah blah. All in all, a nice, well staged and well executed play.
But that is not why I am writing this piece. We were almost late, as usual Ghanaman time. Got there a few minutes past 4 (play starts at 4pm on the dot) and the queue of people trying to get inside was so long. It seemed as if the entire Accra had shown up. A typical example of ‘sold out’. The theatre was full and yet more people kept coming.

Of course we had a good time, but that is not why I am writing this piece. My  beef is about the conspicuous absence of family friendly public spaces in Accra. Our weekends are empty. There is nowhere to go for any type of relaxation. Oh! Unless you count the numerous funerals and weddings that fill your weekends. But then the children are left out. Have you noticed the lack of play grounds, public parks, community centres and open spaces around? Even those that are available are being turned into ‘functional’ spaces. There is an ongoing battle on a small parcel of land within the North Legon enclave which is supposed to be a community park. Over the past five years, the community has fought over and over again from that parcel of land being sold for private development. 

Where I currently live, a stretch of land originally reserved for a community school has been cut up and sold for residential purposes. I hear that the current government has now promised to build a hospital for the community. The community is supposed to provide at least a hectare of land for the development and the elders cannot find any. All have been sold out. 

See even what is happening to our forest reserves. The Achimota Forest has, over the years, been encroached upon and litigated upon to the extent that the current forest is less than half its original size. 

Even our private schools do not have enough space ad greenery around them to enable our children to develop properly. One of the key criteria for choosing any school for any of my children have been the fact that the school should have trees on its compound. No trees, thank you madam, my children will not attend your school, no matter how great the school is said to be.  The worst case so far is when the toilet of public school was pulled down by developers who wanted to use the space to build a high end entertainment centre. And city officials looked on unconcerned fighting over whether the developer had a permit or not and not whether it was in the interest of the community to pull down their public toilet.

Town and Country Planning Department or whoever Department responsible for this must surely sit up. it is not enough to hide under the excuse of 'lack of funds'. What is the use of rezoning the use of open spaces if it is only to line the pockets of politicians and corrupt public officials? Posterity shall surely judge me and you, Mr. corrupt public official.

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