Community Developments


 

Red Bull and other energy drinks

I was recently sitting with a friend at one of Accra’s landmark spots enjoying a cold beer and catching up on recent events in our lives. One of the illuminated signs over the bar stuck in my mind and set me to thinking the following day. The sign was promoting the well-known Red Bull energy drink, enjoyed by many, I am told, who wish to “enhance” the effects of the alcoholic beverage that they are consuming. My interest was not so much in the drink but rather of the aluminum can in which the drink is contained.

The popularity of the drink, and the very can itself, are a mockery of this country – a country, rich in bauxite but one that relies on outside sources for its aluminum requirements. Even now, Ghanaian bauxite that could be so easily turned into cans to contain the “energy drink” consumed by countless Ghanaians is shipped from Takoradi to be refined somewhere else in the world, in one of those bitter ironies of this modern capitalist age. At one time, Ghana provided cheap electricity to refine someone else’s bauxite, and now when the country could benefit significantly from refining its own resources, the economic “masters” of the world have found a cheaper source of electricity than ours to do that job. Once again, the economic interests of Ghana and Ghanaians have been sacrificed for the economic benefit of foreign corporations.

How many know the story? A tale of the economic colonizer convincing a newly “independent” country to construct a dam, a dam that flooded a vast area of agricultural land and destroyed forests which contained valuable timber resources and once provided the ingredients for traditional medicines to keep the nearby inhabitants healthy. The story of promises that the rich bauxite resources of the country would be refined here, and thus create an industrial base for the further economic development of the country.

Instead, what happened? Well, the dam was constructed, with loans from willing “donor” nations thus putting the county into debt and subjecting it’s government to outside financial controls. Contracts were signed to guarantee that cheap electricity would be used to refine bauxite but instead of extracting the ore from Ghana, it was brought in from the mines of some other hungry country, leaving Ghanaian bauxite in the ground for many more years.

The initial contracts guaranteed cheap electricity rates for just long enough for the economic colonizer to maximize its profits, and then, with turbines worn out and silted up and in need of expensive refurbishment, they abandoned the ship and moved on to other greener pastures.

Meanwhile other economic colonizers have stepped up to the plate, more than willing to continue the plunder of the country. The bauxite resources were still an attraction, and so they were brought out of the ground and sent outside to be refined. The country continued to aid in its own exploitation. The rail system which was built by the political colonizer was for a time used to transport the ore to the harbour but it soon fell into disrepair. So the ore is now transported by a large fleet of multi-axle truck trailers using the road system, further contributing to environmental global warming and also adding substantial wear and tear on an already overstressed highway system – a system which in turn the “independent” government borrows money to rebuild, once again, placing itself in debt and under the control of outside financial sources.

And the cycle repeats itself…. How addictive an “energy” drink becomes. The energy of a people and their resources – addicted to continued and continual control by outside economic colonizers.

This is a typical roadside in Zanzibar – check it out. NO PLASTIC BAGS!! NO BLACK POLY BAGS!! NO WATER SACHET BAGS!!! Amazing to see, especially for someone like myself who lives in Ghana, where plastic bags have become part of the local scenery, and where government officials and business people and consumers have collectively chosen to look the other way and completely ignore the damage that continues to be done to our environment.

Have another look, a little closer this time….

So, you may ask – how did the folks in Zanzibar manage to do this? Well, it really wasn’t all that difficult. The government passed legislation making it illegal for shopkeepers to give out plastic bags and they also made it illegal to sell water in sachet bags. The citizens responded by using woven baskets and cloth bags and jute sacks and re-useable wooden crates when they are doing their shopping. The government made potable water available for the people. Voila!! Clean roadsides, unclogged gutters, no plastic bags floating in the rivers, streams and ocean – absolutely a pleasure to walk the streets in village and city, and drive along the roads and highways! Congratulations, Zanzibar!! And Ghana?? well, you can see that the example has been set – let us see if we have the collective will to follow it. Happy Earth Day!

PBRb4

Or PRA BRIDGE REVISITED

Well, perhaps it is not fair to bring Barrack Obama into the issue, but what about the saying that all is fair in love and politics? Does anyone remember my posts from June regarding the disgraceful way in which the Ghana Highways Authority treated the people who rely on the highway conduit between Cape Coast and Kumasi?

Well, I have this past week travelled back to New Edubiase over the same Pra Bridge which the contractor had so shamelessly (and needlessly) closed while he made his “repairs”. And guess what I found? Yes, this be Ghana. The repairs have not been completed, and the work that has been done is of a dreadfully inferior nature.

Honourable Minister of Highways, do you have anything to say? Head of Ghana Highways Authority, please tell us what you are doing about this unacceptable situation. Media players, Opposition Members, here is your chance – come and see it for yourself. Is this acceptable? How long do you think it will be before this bridge is no longer capable of carrying the load?

The people who regularly traverse this road are already suffering from the continued lack of maintenance. In fact, New Edubiase is better known for the potholes in that stretch of highway between the Pra River and itself than it is for its new winning football challengers, New Edubiase United!!

Mr President, you were in nearby Obuasi this past weekend. Did you dare to venture further south? Perhaps your advisors had warned you – avoid that area because the highway is a death trap. Well, Sir, you and your people have promised the people of Ghana that you will not abandon your supporters in New Edubiase and area. This is your opportunity to exhibit some good will – speak to your Highways Minister; ask him to do the right thing; hold the contractor accountable; patch the gaping potholes and craters that make traffic on this highway so dangerousr; repair the bridge in a proper fashion. Mr. President, show us with actions and not just billboards that you are a partner with the people of Ghana for positive change.

The unfinished job

PBRb1

Is this correct work, Mr Minister of Highways?

Industrial Park 1INDUSTRIAL AREAS

The Town of Maidstone tackled the challenge of economic development 30 years ago. They looked at the way that prairie small towns were going and decided that they had to be pro-active if they were going to keep their town economically viable. They zoned an area as an Industrial Park, provided services to the area, and actively promoted their community as an excellent location in which to do business. The Industrial Park was removed from the residential and business areas in the town, ensuring that those areas were not disrupted by the noise and machinery of that area.

Industrial Park 2WHAT CAN WE DO?

Town Planning departments are already zoning for commercial and residential areas in towns although they often do not enforce their own by-laws when industrial businesses are established in areas which are not zoned for that purpose.

District Assemblies could be much more proactive in generating economic activities in their areas if they were to take an approach similar to that which Maidstone took. By focusing some of their attention on industrial parks they could create more employment and give young people more reason to stay home instead of moving to the cities in search of work.

Park 2GREEN SPACES

Before there were villages, mankind lived in nature and we have not forgotten our past. We all enjoy being in “natural” places, where we can be in touch with our ancestral past. That is why western societies have placed such a value on “green space.” A man-made lake was created on the edge of Maidstone, with trout introduced. The area is very popular for those who walk for exercise and families who gather for picnics. In the downtown area, a lot became vacant when an old building was demolished. Rather than rebuilding on the lot, a small “green area” was created with benches to sit on and flowers and shrubs to enjoy.

Park 3WHAT CAN WE DO?

Town planners can insist that areas be set aside within communities which provide shade and healthy places for children to play, and for adults to gather and visit. This is increasingly important in larger centres where urban living takes people further away from their rural roots.

Arena 2COMMUNITY CENTRES

Communities need a place where they can gather for various events. In Saskatchewan ice hockey and figure skating remain popular sports and Maidstone constructed and continues to operate and maintain their Arena for this and many other purposes. A Trade Fair  is held each year to attract and maintain economic growth in the community. The High School hosts two invitational volleyball tournaments annually and the Arena is used for this purpose. The building and its equipment are maintained through a combination of operational revenue, tax grants plus a substantial amount of volunteer labour by active citizens.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Most towns and villages have playing fields which serve a dual purpose, for football, and for funerals and durbars. Occasionally those areas are sacrificed and sold – let us insist that our leaders remember the importance of community gatherings. Not all communities may be able to afford to build structures, but all can keep an area open for that purpose.

Recycle 2RECYCLING GARBAGE

One result from the onslaught of consumerism in modern society has been an increase in the amount of GARBAGE that is produced. The cost of operating and maintaining landfill sites has become prohibitive. Many Canadian communities have attacked this problem by reducing the amount of materials which are sent to the municipal landfills by sorting those materials which are can be recycled. The list of these materials has grown to include glass, aluminum, certain plastics, newspaper and cardboard. Community residents are also encouraged to separate biodegradable items and these are then composted. The recycled materials provide an economic opportunity, the reduced “garbage” at the landfill sites has created savings to municipal authorities, and the compost is a profitable commodity.

WHAT CAN WE DO

The garbage problem has become more and more evident in Ghana as consumer patterns change. Towns and villages which were at one time very clean are now filled with litter. The most obvious examples are the use of plastic bags in the sale of water (sachet bags) and other products (black poly bags). In addition, more and more plastic bottles and jugs and more recently aluminum cans are found in the marketplace and once their uses are exhausted, they are discarded.

Recycle 1

We can adapt recycling programs which are suitable to the Ghanaian situation. Plastic sachet bags can be gathered in point-of-sale containers and returned on the trucks that transport the water. Other plastic containers can also be sorted and gathered. Black plastic poly bags can be made with biodegradable components so that they breakdown in a reasonable length of time.

Compost-able matter can be collected separately from that which is not compostable, and once it has broken down, the results can be used for fertilizer for food crops. In larger centres where there is a large amount of biodegradable matter, methane gas can be collected off of these landfills and be used to generate electricity. (The city of Kumasi has already embarked upon such a program, although there has been no effort to separate biodegradable material from solid waste).

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