Everyone is in a hurry to some place under the scorching African sun. Suddenly, vehicles begin rolling to a halt. Exhaust fumes from anile trotro engines filling lungs. Eardrums of weary commuters not being spared from the bash of claxons by impatient drivers. A looming gridlock it is, yet it is not even Christmas. Yes! This is just another frustrating day on the deplorable streets of the capital.
In a bid by motorists to swerve traffic on the high streets, even roads in communities are not spared the congestion.
Everywhere gets choked!
The importance of transportation to an economy cannot be underrated. Meanwhile, as you travel around Ghana, you realise traffic congestion is not just a problem in Accra, but it is becoming a nationwide canker. This inhibits economic growth and development.
These can largely be ascribed to our deplorable roads, rising number of vehicles and gross indiscipline on our roads.
As these vehicles get stuck in traffic, their fuel-guzzling engines do not spare the atmosphere from emissions that contribute to climate change. It is worth noting that Africa is the most vulnerable region to climate change even though it negligibly contributes to greenhouse emissions.
As the world aims for net-zero emissions, could decongestion on our roads be a step closer to being carbon-efficient? With our overwhelmed health sector, are we well equipped to nurse diseases that might result from prolonged exposure to exhaust fumes and an increase in traffic-induced stress levels?
As commuters get to work fatigued and goods are subjected to late deliveries, how much does productivity lost due to traffic jams cost the Ghanaian economy annually since it primarily depends on land-based transport?
Ghana is endowed with a lot of waterbodies but these waterbodies are heavily neglected and underutilised. Water transport, one of the oldest forms of transportation with a relatively little carbon footprint is a viable alternative to road and rail transport. It has the greatest load capacity and is therefore suitable for barging huge quantities of goods for onward distribution from landing sites instead of using overloaded trucks that end up destroying our roads.
So, how beneficial would a substantial inclusion of inland water transport be to the economy vis-à-vis the concomitant risks of traffic jams to individuals, the nation, and the globe at large in the long run?
With a good network of inland water transport and land-based transport, goods-carrying vehicles that travel from Tema to Makola, and other markets in the capital and beyond could use sea ferries and end up quays linked to high streets for further transportation to the various business centres. Consequently, reducing stress on the roads and increasing their longevity while sparing other road users some time.
This also means a significant reduction in the cost of transportation for businesses as there will be a large distribution of freightage across all ferry-patronising trucks and in emissions per truck.
This has become necessary, especially in these times when fuel prices keep soaring up and affecting the cost of goods.
Equally, transporting goods from the farming communities – which usually have the worst roads in the nation although they contribute largely to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the nation and rake in higher export earnings – could be done via inland water transport.
This would require building some landing sites or beaches, and dredging silt from some of the waterways that would facilitate a functional circuit. Except for new complementary waterways that inland water transport might necessitate, the infrastructure needed for inland water transport compared to land-based transport is relatively cheap as it predominately capitalises on existing natural courses that need little or no maintenance in the long run.
Water transport serves as a means of tourism and in effect, recreation. Who would not wish for a calm and refreshing commute about their activities? Trading long hours of traffic for a smooth sail with beautiful coastal scenery while commuting from Prampram or Tema on the Gulf of Guinea to Accra, Accra to Takoradi, etc.
A calm and breezy sail atop the magnificent Volta Lake up north instead of a long bumpy ride.
In the quest to encourage domestic tourism, a significant investment in water transport would boost the tourism sector as Ghana could become a hub of water transport and sports in the sub-region. Just like the Korle lagoon was a spot for a regatta in the early parts of the twentieth century, there are equally suitable yet neglected waterbodies nationwide that could serve the purpose of transportation and tourism.
Investing in these waterbodies would increase Ghana’s chances in the global tourism industry and yield major economic benefits, just like countries like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) keep raking in billions of dollars from tourism.
These waterbodies, aside from serving as a means of tourism and transportation which is key in moving agricultural products, could equally boost farm yields as the nation is heavily dependent on archaic methods of farming. With developed canals in key farming areas that largely depend on rainfall, ceteris paribus, yields would improve as irrigation is assured for a greater part of the year and hence, their transportation.
All these call for the collective investment of funds by the tourism, transport and all key ministries in harnessing waterways and developing water transport systems as their respective sectors would mutually benefit. That is not to say an invitation of the private sector to this course would not be a good call.
Also, existing companies like the Volta Lake Transport Company should be well-resourced to make their operations safer and more attractive.
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