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Sodom and Gomorrah: Time to reclaim the Korle Lagoon

Sodom And Gomorrah Ghana File photo

Wed, 29 Apr 2020 Source: Isaac Ato Mensah

Sodom and Gomorrah, a slum on the eastern banks of the Korle Lagoon, on Wednesday, April 15 suffered yet another demolition.

Mohammed Adjei Sowah, Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) Chief Executive Officer told Paul Adom-Otchere’s Good Evening Ghana the next day: “I think that the dredging will not last long. It’s for a couple of weeks and then they can come back to normal”.

He explained the strategy: “… We wanted to take advantage of the lockdown period to change the way people behave in the city and also the clear the city of the filth that has engulfed…….There is a group that manages the whole township. They have their chairman. There are 21 tribes and their chiefs that represent them on their council….. There is an NDC local chairman and NPP local chairman….. They’re very organised……So honourable minister for sanitation and myself approached the leadership… could you tell your people to move away temporarily so that we’ll be able to dredge the Odaw channel because when it rains….”.

Squatters in Old Fadama (Fadaman) comprising settlers from all over West and East Africa were decades ago settled in a part of Darkuman called New Fadama.

Thus Fadama became Old Fadama, but this did not stop new settlers, mostly non-indigenes from settling in Old Fadama.

The nearby Timber Market also attracts traders from all over Ghana, who partly live within the market to protect their goods, and dump waste into the Korle Lagoon.

Therefore putting a stop to the dumping of waste into Naa Korle should and must involve relocating Timber Market.

During the first Rawlings civilian administration the AMA wanted to build a new market for foodstuffs sellers, away from the nearby Makola Market and to stop encroachment on the Railway lines and Accra Brewery Limited properties, they settled on Old Fadama.

That sprawling market which has now gone beyond the official market boundaries is the popular Agbogbloshie Market.

The eastern banks of the Korle Lagoon, between Agbogbloshie Market and Timber Market, the part of Old Fadama under discussion, now increasingly became a dumping ground for market waste, and was popularly called Sodom and Gomorrah in allusion to the continuous burning of rubbish and waste material there.

The name Sodom and Gomorrah also suggests that the settlers there are burning in fire and brimstone, in reference to the biblical passage in Genesis Chapter 18-19.

Indeed their plight is terrible.

Old Fadama is also part of Kwame Nkrumah’s “Industrial Area”, and has thus always attracted itinerant or migrant workers.

Therefore, it is easy to see why the migrant workers from the railway station, Agbogbloshie, Makola and Timber Market, who cannot return home daily from nearby regions due to a dysfunctional railway service will erect structures at Sodom and Gomorrah, an area of about one square kilometre.

Those who lost housing and working places within the demolished Sodom and Gomorrah (or “temporary withdrawal”, the term preferred by the Accra mayor), will easily number 10 THOUSAND.

It is quite a sorry sight to see young kayayei (female head porters) moving in droves with their pans, from Makola toward Sodom and Gomorrah after 6pm – going to bathe and sleep and return by 6am.

Around 2000, the Ga Mashie landowners offered free land in Adjen Kotoku, off the Accra-Nsawam road, but the settlers reportedly said they would only starve there because they got their livelihood from their gigs within the central business district of Accra, and consequently refused to move.

The December elections are closing in and politriKcians will create addresses for these squatters; their votes will be needed.

Hence the mayor’s excuse of dredging of the lagoon after which the squatters will return to their location but not very close to the banks of the lagoon, is only a waste of taxes and loans.

Millions of dollars have been spent in the past on dredging the lagoon, easily the most polluted water body in Ghana – all to no avail.

The Accra Metropolitan Assembly itself has officially turned southern banks of the Korle, where just a highway separates the Lagoon from Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, into a waste dump for Tuesday Market and residents of Kaneshie, Mamprobi, Dansoman, Korle Gonno and other western parts of the metropolis.

In its days of glory, the Korle Lagoon, which had a pristine mangrove swamp, was a beautiful site for watching birds, crabs and fishing, and there were yacht races in the 1930s.

One would have hoped that given the coronavirus pandemic, with the president assuming emergency powers, Sodom and Gomorrah once destroyed will not be rebuilt, but with the AMA boss already prevaricating, shall we hold our breath?

May my mentor’s charge, “There is never a wrong time to do the right thing” strengthen our leaders to settle the squatters away from the Korle lagoon and its aquifers.

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Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah