Monday, 16 September 2013

Cleanliness? Godliness? I’m sure there’s a saying.

You live in a FILTHY COUNTRY!

Filthy, a common sight throughout Accra
Picture courtesy of:

I live in a residential estate in Teshie/Nungua, a nice, relatively clean and quiet suburb of Accra. A few weeks ago, at the height of the rainy season, I woke up feeling particularly 'green thumbed'. The earth was calling to me and my garden tools and I was going to oblige. Prune back some trees, de-weed the lawn, transplant some seedlings and generally give the foliage a good once-over. Besides, gardening was the one activity that kept dearest wife and overly energetic kids away from me for fear of being roped into performing some horticultural activity. Ceres herself was on my side today and nothing was going to get in my way. All suited and booted up, I stepping outside the house and was immediately and brutally assaulted by the putrid smell of decaying flesh. Something had died…very close by!

I went outside and saw my neighbour, Kofi, standing outside with a shovel, bucket and a very perplexed look on his face. Without speaking, he pointed to a spot not 15m from our houses. There was a black, bulging polythene bag stuffed into the gutter, blocking it and causing the sewer water to dam on one side. We both slowly made our way in that direction expecting the worst. The smell was almost unbearable. We carefully liberated the stuffed bag from the gutter and gingerly made a hole in the side of it to check the contents. I was convinced that we may have to call the police.

Fortunately we didn’t. Some IDIOT had stuffed a bag full of innards, heads, feathers and all other inedible parts of several chickens/roosters. I guess the moron didn’t have two brain cells to rub together to come up with a decent way to dispose of this so waited till everyone in the neighbourhood was asleep and then, without a shred of common sense or decency, simply dumped it into the nearest gutter he could find. Retarded you say? I beg to differ, I’ve come to find that this is very common behaviour in this country.
I could go on about several other cases involving dead pets carelessly tossed onto rubbish heaps or simply left by the roadside but I’ll spare you the ordeal.

Ghana is a dirty country. It may sound harsh but I dare you to challenge that statement! And don't come back with some asinine comparison of Ghana to an even dirtier country like Chad, as if relative dirt is supposed to be okay. Let me be clear. Less dirty is not a valid argument. What's maddening about the dirtiness in Ghana is that most of it is completely unnecessary. I'm talking about an entire nation that thinks it's okay to leave our sewers (gutters) uncovered, build latrines over said open sewers and allow people to urinate in them for a small fee. Shockingly, the same people then wonder why an entire area stinks to high heaven.  Someone please tell me why this is necessary. On separate occasions, an African American, Zambian, Kenyan and South African have all asked me, and I quote;

'...Osei, why do you have open sewers in the capital...?'

Not knowing how to respond to this unwelcome but sincere question I simply shrugged on each occasion and said;

 'We've given you Azonto now you're asking for covered sewers too? Ungrateful foreigners...'

In Ghana we seem to have a chronic unawareness of the environment. The very few that actually know that something called the environment exists are so bloody apathetic in their regard of it that they may as well not matter. I mean the number of times I've driven through town and seen people confidently walk out of their houses only to empty the contents of a chamber pot into the...wait for gutter! If you really want to see how careless and completely moronic Ghanaians are about our environment, I beseech you to take a swim down the in the Odaw River towards the Korle Lagoon and see if you don't emerge from the other side as some sort disfigured mutant with super powers. We have completely killed off this river with the sheer amount of garbage and muck tossed into it over the years. It's ironic that the area around the Lighthouse and Korle Lagoon is locally referred to as Lavender Hill.

Swim anyone? State of the River Odaw
Picture courtesy of:
Oh, and our local markets, well they're completely environmentally deplorable too.

-   Agbobloshie
-   Makola
-   Salaga
-   Kaneshie
-   Madina 

They're built with absolutely no regard for order, cleanliness and convenience.  Agblobloshie on a rainy day anyone? Didn't think so. Almost all of the organic, not-so-organic and God-knows-what-else waste is conveniently dumped into the River Odaw that flows close by. The least of all the evils mentioned above in my opinion would be Madina or Kaneshi market but even those are a far cry from anything resembling clean. These major markets are built in an extraordinarily cumbersome way so that they are unable to cater for the convenience needs of both vendors and shoppers alike. To compound the problem, they have been allowed to grow and sprawl uncontrolled, like a cancer. There are very few, and in some cases, no access to public toilets and so the vendors resort to ‘clever’ ways of relieving themselves and disposing of said relief, usually in the River. It’s actually quite remarkable that more of us don’t end up with dysentery, typhoid or some other such food/water borne disease.

But with all that said, at least Ghanaians appear to dress nicely and claim to live in clean homes. Thank God for small mercies.