La Pleasure Beach clean-up: Mission possible
As kids, there was one threat that kept us constantly in line: “No beach.” That was the card our father pulled when we were veering into mischief, and it never failed to work. Our little hearts beat for our weekly beach days on Sunday afternoons at the La Pleasure Beach (Labadi Beach), the busiest of Ghana’s beaches.
We would pack up the cruiser and together with our cousins and neighbors make our way to the beach in a convoy. Once we breathed in the salty air mingled with the aroma of roasting kebabs at the entrance to the beach, we had our cue to begin racing each other to the seashore.
On weekends at La Pleasure Beach, there was always a plethora of activities on offer, from horseback riding, watching the fire and glass bottle eaters, and soaking up the performances of local celebrities, to the more conventional beach activities like building sandcastles and collecting seashells (the latter of which one day led us to serendipitously meet the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and his wife). What a delightful treasure! Those were the days when the La Pleasure Beach actually lived up to its name; it gave what it was meant to give as a beach and then some.
In that epoch close to two decades ago, it would have been a travesty to speak about Ghana’s beaches without including the great La Pleasure Beach. It was simply unheard of. Considered the premier beach in the bustling city of Accra, La Pleasure beach was the hotspot for tourists and locals. It offered serenity and respite to those who visited during the weekdays and electrifying entertainment for those who did so during the weekends.
Located in La (one of the six independent towns of the Ga people), the beach was home to a community of largely fishermen and traders. Its choice location right in the heart of Accra prompted the development of premium hotels along the shore, notably the Labadi and La Palm Beach hotels in 1991 and 1999 respectively. These developments brought with them a wave of progression, refinement and a hint of potential to come.
Trash or treasure?
With time, the popularity of the Labadi Beach plummeted, especially among tourists, as litter and filth multiplied on the beach. Labadi Beach became synonymous with pollution; a situation that prompted the government to shut it down twice for that very reason.
During the periods of flood, the infamously poor drainage systems around Labadi’s immediate environs spill over, resulting in a state of filth on the beach. Beach lovers are now regularly greeted to the odious and appalling sights and smells of plastic waste, debris and decaying matter. Those who brave sea shell hunting do so with fully clad feet lest they injure themselves on broken glass or step into some unappetizing mess. And they certainly would not be meeting any dignitaries on their expedition.
Swimming with dolph-debris
A quick swim in the sea at La Pleasure Beach could have you swimming alongside dolphins–ahem, debris. Not exactly the unforgettable welcome one envisioned.
A worker in one of the beaches lamented to me that this unfortunate development has greatly impacted the fishing community. With so much litter in the sea, the fish migrate to deeper waters in their bid to avoid the polluted materials. This subsequently makes it more challenging for the fishing community to access them. One community member said that a five-hour fishing expedition during the rainy seasons often yielded more debris than fish; an extremely discouraging and worrisome reality for a community centered around fishing.
La Pleasure Beach: A lost cause?
The situation at Labadi Beach is truly an eyesore and a stain on Ghana’s tourism portfolio; especially after Ghana launched a massive tourism campaign targeted at African Americans in 2019, dubbed “The year of the return.”
Excited tourists come in droves during the Christmas season looking to escape cold winters and frolic under the Ghanaian sun. What a shame that they can’t do so at Labadi Beach. One quick glance at reviews on TripAdvisor would immediately deter them.
With business a tumultuous affair, beach business owners find themselves barely floating and simply trying to survive. Already in over their heads with expensive taxes and rent, they are unable to make any meaningful investment towards an effective solution.
Presently, by way of “managing” the situation, most bars and restaurants at La Pleasure Beach try to clean around their areas daily, and there is a general cleanup activity every Saturday. But, a quick tour around the beach confirmed my suspicions; it remains inadequate. While community cleanups are great for rapport and morale, they are not very effective in dealing with the nature of debris that now seems interwoven with the sand.
Labadi Beach clean-up is mission possible, according to Mayekoo
With livelihoods being severely affected, the quality of the fish being sold and consumed in town put in question, and the many opportunities from tourism lost before they are even birthed, the stakes are high. But can the situation be salvaged?
The team here at Mayekoo thinks so. Committed to creating a sustainable social impact in education, healthcare and the environment, Mayekoo scours Africa for the projects most avoid, raises funds for them and tackles them head on.
Giving the Labadi Beach a facelift by providing a sustainable solution to clean the beach will be our maiden project in Ghana. A formidable task, but one that we are confident will be successful.
After purchasing a sand cleaning machine that will be used exclusively for the beach and hiring managers to oversee its proper and diligent use, Mayekoo appears to be moving Labadi Beach in the right direction. We hope to be the social impact partner that Ghana has been praying for.