It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon on the beaches of New Takoradi, a settlement that has one of Ghana’s oldest fishing harbours. This settlement, currently one of the poorest in the Western Region capital, had to be moved to its present day location to make way for the new Takoradi Habour which was then under construction in 1923.
It’s the beginning of the major fishing season and many of the fishermen and fishmongers in this town are not sure of what to expect this year.
“The fish-catch has been going down and down. We are selling less fish and so livelihoods aren’t getting any better” says, James Atotoabo, Secretary to the Chief Fisherman. The dwindling fish stock has compounded the many problems that this small town is already dealing with.
New Takoradi lies barely one kilometre from the industrial enclave of the Western Region’s commercial capital. The enclave is home to the Ghana Railways, oil and gas companies, ports and a cement manufacturing company.
The people who live here see some of the biggest industrial zones from where they live and do their fishing and yet, they say they do not feel a part of the growth in economic activities.
“The biggest companies that have made Takoradi what it is are a stone-throw from us. We see the cement company, the port, the railways…and we are the people who suffer their pollution but we get nothing,” says Atotoabo.
The Sekondi Takoradi Metropolitan Assembly (STMA) where New Takoradi is located came 201st position in the last round of the District League Table (DLT) scoring 55.75 per cent from a possible 100 when it was assessed in the areas of sanitation, education, health, water access, security and governance.
STMA is one of Ghana’s oldest assemblies and is where most of the country’s major export products like gold, cocoa, manganese and bauxite pass through to the countries they are being exported to. In 2007, oil and gas exploration also commenced here. But if the DLT is anything to go by, then Takoradi’s boom is yet to trickle down into the lives of some of its ordinary citizens.
“Reliance on central government transfers has been found to be insufficient for the Assemblies to discharge the full scope of their responsibilities. The Assemblies’ dependence on the central government for development resources, has several challenges: insufficiency of the DACF, shallow fiscal decentralization”, said Charles Dzradosi, a Social Policy Specialist at UNICEF Ghana says.
Per its status as a metropolitan assembly and its population currently hovering around 600,000 according to the 2010 population census, STMA receives a relatively higher amount in its common fund allocation. So in the third quarter of 2016 for example, it received 831,022.16 Cedis whiles Ahanta West, a district with which it shared direct borders with at the time got barely half of that money.
Ahanta West scored 62 points placing 153 on the DLT log.
STMA is not the only ‘big boy’ that is not performing. Metros like Cape Coast, Ga Central and West and Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) all located in regional capitals fall within the low-scoring brackets.
“Yes we have these amounts coming in but the responsibilities are also huge. This is a Metropolis with complex problems and so we need more”, said John Lasce, STMA Public Relations Officer.
One of the areas where the STMA has its challenge is open defecation. The Metropolis has constantly scored zero in the area of sanitation which incidentally captures the number of open-defecation-free (ODF) communities in a particular district.
In New Takoradi, the entire beachfront is made of structures that are built close to each other. This has made the Assembly’s campaign for residents to get their own household toilets unsuccessful over the years. The few public toilets at the seaside community are not enough to serve the high population. Open defecation mainly by the beach is rife.
The situation in New Takoradi and its likes in STMA have proven difficult to solve.
“We are finding it difficult even enforcing the by-laws on sanitation and so we are paying the price”, said Cecilia Amoah a fishmonger in the community who is also part of the town’s Unit Committee.
As city authorities grapple with such problems, it is the poor and vulnerable in communities who pay the price for the deteriorating sanitary conditions.
“There is not a single year that we do not hear of cholera incidents in this town. When it happens we the women and children suffer the most” Cecilia said.