Edward Doe Adjaho

Edward Doe Adjaho

There was virtually fire in parliament yesterday when the speaker of parliament and his first deputy spewed out ?fire? on Members of Parliament to restrain them from being partisan when very important matters bordering on the general good of the people of the country are being discussed in parliament. This was after two MPs on the majority side had made statements on the disturbing rampant fire outbreaks in the country as well as the major environmental problems facing the country.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for Amenfi Central in the Western Region, George Kofi Arthur, had drawn parliament?s attention to the spate of fire outbreaks in the country?s major markets and the huge cost they saddle the nation with when he was given the floor to make a statement on the recent fire outbreaks in the country.

He said available statistics showed that there were 1,500 fire outbreaks between January and May, this year and the associated cost to the country was 1.74 million Ghana cedis in the first quarter alone.

He said the recent fire outbreaks in the country?s major markets such as the Kantamanto, Makola, Agbogbloshie, Kokomba, Madina, Dome and the latest one at Makola (2) are very traumatic experiences because these fires had not only destroyed properties but also rendered most traders unemployed and that something urgent needed to be done to avoid similar fire outbreaks in major markets across the country.

?Mr speaker all the wonderful infrastructure in the country in respect of developments in education, health, industry, hospitality, agriculture will come to a naught if they are razed down by fire,? he said, adding that investors in the industrial, hospitality and agricultural sectors would be attracted to Ghana, if they could be assured that their factories, hotels, restaurants and farms would be protected from the ravages of fire.

In view of the seriousness of the situation, the Amenfi Central MP called for a collaborative effort of all stakeholders in the country to pragmatically tackle the disturbing situation devoid of any blame game.

The MP also called on the law enforcement agencies to strictly enforce the existing laws on fire safety by ensuring that a taskforce is put in place to inspect markets to ensure that all electrical gadgets were switched off before traders left the markets.

?Mr speaker, while we try as a nation to find solution to this menace, it is equally important to find out an effective role insurance could play in ensuring that people who lose their goods and monies to fire out breaks were assisted when they got their goods properly insured,?  he said.

The NPP Member of Parliament for Nsawam/Adoagyiri, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, who contributed to the statement, did not agree with the Amenfi Central MP that the solution to the recent fire outbreaks in the market places was to put in place a taskforce to ensure fire safety in the market places because according to him, it would weaken the functions of the institutions mandated to ensure that public places were safe from fire.

?The solution lies with properly resourcing the Ghana National Fire Service and also imploring the public relations office of the (GNFS) to constantly educate members of the society on fire safety because prevention they say is better than cure,? he said

He also advocated that the law which required that public places and companies  be equipped with fire extinguishers should be strictly enforced so that in case of any fire outbreaks in these areas, there could be immediate attempts to fight them.

The NDC Member of Parliament for Nadowli/Kaleo, Alban Bagbin, said the issue of fire outbreaks had been living with the country for a long time and since he entered parliament in 1993, he had heard several statements being made on the floor of parliament on fire disasters but nothing concrete had been done to resolve them.

According to him, the focus of the Ghana National Fire Service has been to fight fire and not on how to prevent it stressing that much education has to be done on the causes of fire in such public places.

The Nadowli/Kaleo MP said it was time well laid-out modern markets were built to replace the old ones with fire hydrants dotted all around them.

The NDC MP for Hohoe,  Dr Bernice Adiku Heloo, also made a another statement on the floor of the house to mark the World Environment Day, which falls on June 5, every year and drew parliament?s attention to the enormous environmental challenges in the area of degradation and pollution of the environment.

This year?s World Environment Day was on the theme, ?Think. Eat. Save?

?Mr Speaker, the environmental problems confronting Ghana are enormous. The menace of illegal mining using hazardous chemicals like mercury, the rampant bushfires, indiscriminate dumping of refuse and use of harmful chemicals for fishing put our environment at great risk of contamination and degradation. A situation which also has adverse effects on our health through the food we eat?, Dr Heloo said.

Dr Heloo who is also a deputy minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovations said the country is currently experiencing the adverse effects of climate change such as drought and poor rainfall patterns and that we were confronted with climate-driven risks as a nation that depended largely on its natural resources.

She, therefore, called on the authorities to act now and take drastic actions to reverse the situation.

The NPP Member of Parliament for  Bekwai,  Joseph Osei-Owusu, said illegal mining activities  had assumed alarming proportions across the country, especially in his constituency and neigbouring  constituencies such as Odotobiri and Amansie West where because of galamsey operations, all river bodies which serve as sources of drinking water for the people in the area, had been polluted and turned muddy.

?Mr Speaker, I have personally gone to the offices of the Environmental Protection Agency to ask them to arrest those involved but they told me everybody was doing it including the chiefs, ministers, MPs and so they really find it difficult to arrest them,? he said stressing that the law must be made to work and anybody who falls foul of the law must be arrested and prosecuted no matter the person?s position in the society.

The NDC MP Yilo Krobo, Kofi Amoatey, also called on the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies to strictly apply their by-laws governing good sanitation at the district levels and those found to go contrary to them prosecuted.

The NPP MP for Mampong, Francis Addai-Nimoh, for his part said food waste and loss contribute significantly to global warming and  that it was time steps were taken to avoid food waste so that those environmental dangers of  biodiversity loss and land-use change could be avoided.

The speaker of parliament, Rt Hon Edward Doe Adjaho, cautioned that when it came to consequential matters that had serious impact on the citizenry, he would strictly be in the middle and warned parliament to rise up to the occasion to protect the interests of the people.

He, therefore, directed the select committee on environment to submit the statement made on the floor with contributions from members to the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovations and also engage with all stakeholders on the environment to find a way forward to protect the environment.

According to him, the committee must report back to parliament in a month?s time.

The first deputy speaker, Hon Ebo Barton-Odro, who also took over proceedings  later,  also directed the house to serve the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development with copies of the statements and concerns raised by members of parliament so that action on  curbing the menace of fire outbreaks in the markets could be taken.

By Thomas Fosu Jnr

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