Dr Andrew Ananie Arkutu’s face beamed with smiles as he showed me a picture with his wife during a visit to the South Pole.
In one of his rooms, is a maze of pictures nicely framed and pinned to the white painted walls.
They are a collection of pictures that capture his journey to self-actualization.
As former Director of the United Nations Population Fund and Chairman of the National Population Council he has climbed life’s ladder and experience every stage of it before getting to the top.
In the 1970s, it was the luxuriant vegetation that attracted him to East Legon but that is no more.
The East Legon greenbelt is now a concrete jungle. In his usual soft-spoken voice, he recalled, “That area was virgin Bush. Indeed the street on which I live is called BlackBerry Street because it had a huge blackberry tree and that was the marker for me.
If you go to East Legon now, many of the streets in my area are all named after plants and fruits and so on and so forth. That was a big attraction; getting away from the concrete to somewhere where there was a lot of vegetation and so on”.
Indeed the greenery Dr Arkutu spoke about earlier has now given way to concrete. The greenbelt which was supposed to absorb the carbon monoxide emissions from vehicles on the Tema- Motorway has been cleared by property developers with some of them dangerously constructing high-rise buildings close to flight approach paths.
The former Chairman of the National Population Council is just one out of the many Ghanaians and residents of East Legon terrified about the situation. He wants persons who have put their personal interest above the state’s interest punished.
“Some of those trees were perhaps a hundred years old or more. It takes that long to grow a tree. Even if you demolished all those buildings now and planted a tree, it will take a long time for them to grow. But the important thing is that examples must be made of the people who flout the law.”
He added, “it must be made clear it is not only armed robbers. But all those who flout the law do so at their peril and the law should be no respecter of persons”.
ROADS AND HIGHWAYS MINISTER AT THE GREENBELT
The Greenbelt which is located at East Legon, bounded on the West by the Motorway and on the East by the Boundary Road was also to make it possible for the extension of the Accra-Tema motorway.
But it has been cleared by private and real estate developers as they continue to build on the land.
To make way for an alternative route to ease the traffic congestion on the Boundary Road in East Legon, the Roads and Highways Minister, Kwasi Amoako Atta ordered the demolition of the structures vowing to pull down more.
“The right thing will be done no matter who is involved, this structure I do not care who is the owner. I have ordered the demolition of that structure and no matter who the owners are, it will not be tolerated we will not stop such an important overpass that will serve the people of this country because of individuals selfish interest”.
He continued, “they should stop work if they do not, within two weeks we are coming here with the full force of The National Security and we will pull all of these houses down because the Motorway extension is coming to this side and the contractor has been appointed, we are turning the Motorway into a six lane highway and individuals just encroached on the road reservation and do whatever they like under the guise of permit. I will stop this kind of lawlessness and indiscipline in our country”.
Threats to the aviation industry
I met aviation analyst Dr Issaka Yakubu Akparibo, in his CareFlight offices at the Airport City. He has many years of experience in the aviation industry. He is alarmed by the danger and equally concerned about high rise buildings in-flight approach paths at East Legon.
In aviation, most accidents happen when aircraft are landing or taking off if you are on the approach path and something happens the number of lives that will be lost will be high because you will lose people in the flight and those on the ground.
That’s why countries that have coastlines, most of their airports are along the coastline so that aircraft will go through that route so, in case of any eventuality, it will be only people in the aircraft.
There are so many developments along the approach paths closer to our airport. That definitely poses some safety issues to aviation operations. Any structure above five hundred feet closer to the airport can cause danger to flight.
Some meters away from the East Legon Greenbelt is the Very high frequency omni directional range (VOR) equipment.
The VOR is a ground based navigational aid which enables an aircraft with a receiving unit to determine its position and stay on course by receiving radio signals.
Aviation experts discourage close settlements around VORs. But that has become inevitable at East Legon where there is a VOR equipment. A huge event center has also been constructed very close to the VOR at East Legon .
Spokesperson of the Coalition of Ghana Civil Aviation Authority workers, William Amoako is also concerned about the situation.
“There are requirements for this installation so when you have interferences or work going around this equipment, you have interruptions which mean you cannot communicate effectively with pilots and the high-rise buildings block signals.
“We have received a lot of complaint from some airlines about their difficulty in communicating with us. Some of our frequencies at a point went off,” he said.
It is not just the aviation lands at East Legon affected by the encroachment. The coalition of Ghana Civil Aviation Authority workers recently withdrew essential services which affected operations of domestic airlines.
The workers protested the illegal sale and encroachment of aviation lands at La Wireless close to the AU village and La Nkwantang at Ashaley Botwe. A visit to the two lands revealed how some persons were constructing structures very close to GCAA equipment.
Some years ago members of the East Legon Extension Residents Association dragged the Lands Commission, Accra Metropolitan Assembly, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Nungua Stool and all developers on the Greenbelt to court.
The plaintiffs, the East Legon Extension Residents Association argued that from time immemorial since East Legon came into existence the area served as a haven for residents particularly those facing the motorway or immediately after the Boundary Road.
They argued that it served as an important medium or ecologically sensitive area that serves many and varied purposes including acting as a protective cover to absorb the carbon emitted from vehicular traffic along the motorway and acting as a protective shield from dangers posed by vehicular traffic on the Accra-Tema Motorway.
The court presided over by Her Lordship Mrs. H. Inkumsah Abban declared that the purpose for which the Greenbelt had been let out to developers is inconsistent with the approved planning scheme or approved lay out of the area.
It ordered the defendants, the Lands Commission, and other parties to put an immediate stop to all current and proposed developments on the land except where concessions have been granted by the court.
It also directed the defendants to ensure that structures erected in the open space are removed forthwith and also ensure that the open space is not rezoned in contravention of the law and any such rezoning must be subject to environmental impact assessment.
Many years after the court ruling, it appears some persons continue to put their interest above the state’s interest as they continue to build in the Green zone.