METROPOLITAN, Municipal and District Assembles (MMDAs) have been tasked to stop the public from encroaching on lands allocated by government for public spaces and recreational purposes.
Alhaji Collins Dauda, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, who gave the directive expressed concern about the rampant take-over of lands earmarked for car parks, markets, pedestrian walkways, sports and recreational grounds children’s play grounds and medians, and called on MMDAs to check such practices.
He said this in a speech read on his behalf at a press briefing in Accra yesterday, to mark the World Habitat Day and launch of Urban October.
This year’s World Habitat Day, with the theme ‘Public spaces for all’ has been set aside by the United Nations (UN) to reflect on the state of towns and cities across the world, while enhancing the basic right of all to adequate shelter.
As part of activities for the celebration, the whole month of October will be observed as Urban October to create awareness, promote citizenry participation, generate ideas and engage the international community through various workshops, fora, durbars and media shows towards enhanced urban development.
According to Alhaji Dauda, Ghana deemed the day as important because 51 per cent of the people lived in urban areas, hence the need to consolidate efforts at sustainable development of cities and towns in the country.
He said maintaining and increasing the number of public spaces was relevant to national development, as it ensured the improvement of public health, while promoting economic activities.
“For example, women found such spaces important as it gave their children the opportunity to play and socialize. Additionally, pedestrians feel safe and secure on clearly designated walkways and these encourage more people to choose walking as a form of exercise,” he explained.
According to him, public spaces such as car parks, walkways and markets were very important because of the purposes they served in society and therefore should be protected from people who would want to encroach on such lands.
Alhaji Dauda said it was rather unfortunate that most people in the country did not attach much importance to them and therefore chose to encroach upon such lands.
He observed that walkways and road right of ways have been taken over by street vendors, leaving pedestrian to struggle with vehicles for space on streets and roads.
“Landowners have also not helped the situation since they continue to re-zone public spaces into other uses thus, depriving the communities green spaces for recreation, relaxation and improvement of public health,” he said.
Alhaji Dauda, therefore, directed MMDAs to check such practices while demarcating clear walkways for pedestrians in order to ensure easy flow of traffic.
He said government was committed to ensuring that it strengthened partnership with stakeholders to enhance the quality of public spaces in the country.
The minister said government was in partnership with the UN Habitat Directorate to ensure the smooth implementation of the Housing Policy which was launched in March.
He said currently, government was developing an action plan as measures to formulate strategies towards implementing the policy.
By Charles Amankwa