The 80-acre land that was reclaimed from onion sellers at Agbogbloshie in Accra has now turned into an unsanitary site for open defecation and an unauthorized dumpsite. The once lively settlement that hosted onion traders for decades is now covered with piles of solid waste. This is a stark contrast to the original intentions of the Greater Accra Regional Coordinating Council (GARCC) when it took the revolutionary action to relocate the traders in 2021.
During a three-day monitoring of the area, the Daily Graphic observed that the land was gradually reverting to its old toxic state, as smoke had engulfed the entire area. Although the area has since been fenced, the wall appears only to protect the space from encroachment.
Spaces seemingly meant for gates provide easy access to trespassers to aid their activities on the land. The land, which also hosts the Old Fadama Clinic, has actually been exposed to a wide range of pollutants, and some members of the public have complained about the attendant health risk to health workers and patients.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic, the Greater Accra Regional Minister said it was the responsibility of the Ablekuma Central Municipal Assembly, the local authority with territorial jurisdiction, to protect the land. He said the GARCC had done its bit by securing the place and relocating the onion sellers and scrap dealers.
“It’s not the Regional Minister’s responsibility to prevent people from dumping refuse or defecating on the land. “I took the risk of relocating the traders, something which couldn’t be done in over 30 years, so I’ve done my part and the rest is for the assembly to protect the place,” Mr Quartey stated. The Daily Graphic contacted the Chief Executive of the Ablekuma Central Municipal Assembly, Mariama Karley Amui, for comments but she directed the reporter to speak to another officer, who also failed to answer calls to his number.
Agbogbloshie was described by some environmentalists as the second most hazardous place on earth because of the heavy and acidic billows of smoke which emanated from the area as a result of the open burning of heaps of all kinds of waste materials.
In 2021, the GARCC, as part of its “Let’s Make Accra Work” initiative, relocated the traders to prepare the land for future development. Later, the Regional Minister, Henry Quartey, disclosed that the proposed re-development scheme had been prepared for the land. Intended to give the area a facelift, he said, the scheme was to be submitted to the Cabinet for approval.
During the same year, a portion of the land was allocated for the construction of a modern health facility, under the government’s Agenda 111 initiative. However, after two-and-a-half years since its reclamation, none of these projects has materialised, leaving the land bare.
Some residents who spoke to the Daily Graphic expressed disappointment at the development, stating that they had high hopes for the place when the onion sellers were relocated. However, they said, the turn of events was a clear indication that the government had a different motive for relocating the traders.
A trader, who gave his name as Emmanuel Asare, said: “I was very happy when the scrap dealers who were polluting the area were relocated. I had hopes that within some few months I was going to see new development on the land, but nothing has happened after three years since it was reclaimed,” he stated.
A security man at Old Fadama Clinic, Alex Osafo, also said the situation on the land had given him extra work since he had also made it his business to stop open defecation in the area. According to him, some of the men who had been tasked to man the place were taking money from trespassers and granting them entry to either defecate or dump refuse on the land. “I’m trying my best to fight this situation, but I’m alone and I can’t do it all by myself,” Mr Osafo said
Onion traders disappointed
Some of the onion sellers who were relocated to Adjen Kotoku have also expressed disappointment in the GARCC for moving them from the area when there was no plan to develop the place. The Chairman of the Progressive Onion Sellers Association, Smaila Iddi, told the Daily Graphic that he had been to the place on three occasions and that there was no sign the government was ready to develop the area.
He said although the place had been walled, it was shocking to see the kind of activities that were taking place there. “Most of the activities that are happening there wouldn’t have happened if we were still plying our trade on that land. “We also had our bad side, but people feared to dump refuse or defecate in the area when we occupied the land,” Mr Iddi said.
He said even after relocating, the government had refused to provide all the social amenities promised them at their new trading centre. “They promised to fix the bad roads in Adjen Kotoku and also construct new washrooms for us, but all these haven’t happened.
“Sometimes, we feel that they only brought us here to suffer because we’ve tried to get the attention of the authorities, but it seems they are not ready to help us,” Mr Iddi said.
By: Joshua Bediako Koomson