Environmental Awareness-Key to sustainable city planning

I found this article which dates back a couple of years ago, but visiting Accra this year I find it very actual. In Accra I saw very little education on the meaning of development and especially sustainable development. It is interesting to read this from the voice of a local person….

“Many people perceive sustainable growth or development to be living in gated estates or houses and driving expensive cars.This is far from it, but very much the ability of humans to use natural resources meaningfully with future generations in mind.Often, we tend to forget that everything is connected on the planet and go on to disconnect ourselves from nature.For instance, natural resources such as parks, gardens and green areas are noted to help muffle noise from vehicular traffic and other activities with plants acting as filters for air pollution, but we do not put premium on these facilities.”

Read the full article here: Environmental Awareness-Key to sustainable city planning.


Unplanned communities and natural disaster

Glefe, a slum in the west side of Accra. The area gets heavily flooded about once a year. This picture is from June 10th 2014, when the community was flooded as a result of the combination of the spillage of the Weija Dam and the rain. The houses are literally built on the beach. The constructions are illegal, meaning that there is no planning and it is forbidden to build in this area. Residents here claimed the space for a short stay and not for residence, but eventually they settled there, about 7 years ago. There are no hospitals and public schools in the community, only private ones and those established by NGOs and volunteers (for a total of about 40 schools). There are no paved streets and no drainage system, and that is what caused the food and also made it difficult for the water to drain which in fact stayed there for many days. The area which is already difficult to reach regardless of the whether condition, became even more isolated . Glefe gets somehow flooded every time there is heavy rain but on June 10th as in other occasions in the past, the combination of the rain and the spillage made the situation even worse. Three people have died during the flood and some school remained closed for days because either they are flooded or children have fled.disaster

Urban sprawl and transportation

Together with informal settlements in the periphery, in Accra a big system of informal transportation has been created. It is mainly the system of trotros, little vans which can contain up to about 20 people. This is the only way for slum dwellers to reach their homes as the public transportation system only serves the city center and is also not very developed. It very uncommon to see a full city bus, while it is very uncommon to see an almost empty trotro! Most of the trotro users are those living in poor areas who cannot afford a car. It is interesting to notice that while most people cannot afford a car, it’s the norm in Accra to have streets without sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to share the same space with cars and sellers’ stands. The city looks in fact planned more for car than for people, therefore only for an elite (car owners). However even the road and transport infrastructure is very congested and is not sufficient to contain the traffic flow. The transportation network design itself is insufficient with stops only in the main points in some areas, especially as we move more and more to the periphery. So the passenger still will probably need to walk extensively and likely on the road as sidewalks are missing, in order to catch a vehicle. Since the system is unplanned, there are not proper stops and the vans mainly stops just on the carriageway with very low safety for other vehicles and for the passengers.

One of the worst issues in Accra: sanitation

Environmental challenge in the periphery of Accra, Ghana. This is Pambros, another slum in the western periphery of Accra. Here houses have been built spontaneously, completely unplanned. Dwellers are among the poorest in Accra and are mainly fisherman or sellers. Houses are built up to few meters away from the shore. There is no public waste collection system and solid waste accumulates in open gutters, where present, on the beaches and even in the sea. Gutters are chocked with filth. In the specific area pictured below, there are not even gutters because the area is not supposed to be residential, but the beach is almost entirely covered with waste,especially plastic. This is destroying the natural resources, namely the sea water and the shore. It brings also several diseases, considering also that the city water system does not reach this area, therefore dwellers have no running water but need to buy it and store it in tanks. The lack of running water also means few or no toilets and therefore the phenomenon of open defecation is very common in this area. The recent severe cholera outbreak in Accra was due especially to this sanitation issue.


Gated Communities in Accra

One aspect of privatization that we have seen in the last decades is the creation of gated communities which limit public spaces. Trasacco valley in East Legon in the north periphery of Accra is a clear example. The houses in this gated community are accessible only to a minority of the people in the city, and in fact most of the residents of Trasacco Valley are expatriates from outside Ghana. Access is limited by a main gate surveilled by several security people and by other gates for clusters of houses. The whole area is the suburb outside the city center and it is not very well connected with public transportation, making it accessible almost exclusively with private transportation (which can be afforded only by some). Interestingly as a white woman when entering the community two or three times I have never been asked by the security where I was going and who I was visiting, while I was seeing other people (especially black male) being questioned and signing a visitors’ book.trasacco

The Sound of Plastic


There is more than e-waste processing happening in the open-air recycling factory: plastic processing represents a significant portion of Agbogbloshie’s ecosystem and economy.

Woman in the plastics business Woman in the plastics business

The plastic processing chain involves various actors (male and female — contrary to e-waste processing which does not employ female workers) and machines:

  • Collectors get plastic waste from all around the city and temporarily store them onsite. Dismantlers scrap plastic out of e-waste or other items.
  • Men and women sort out plastics based on empirical and heuristic approaches: they separate plastics according to their thickness, malleability (thermoplastics are malleable and can be recycled, while thermoset plastics are not), and by the sound plastics make when workers bang on them with a screwdriver!
  • In our interaction, workers in Agbogbloshie did not know about the resin identification code system. However, as observed many locally-made plastics lacked labels, as well as scrap pieces of plastic detached from primary parts…

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Africa Cup of Nations (aka the “lights bearer”)

Great celebration last tonight, even in my ghetto because Ghana defeated Equatorial Guinea 3-0 in the semi-final of the Africa Cup of Nations and will play against Ivory Coast in the final match on Sunday. By the way Guinea’s supporters didn’t take it well and at 82″ the game was interrupted for a while because they were throwing bottles at Ghana’s fans trying to mar the game. Even the police was escorting players off the field… Continue reading