Tales from a Sprouting City




It doesn’t fall short of a spectacle when you look behind and around those half torn blue plastic curtains gently adorning the juxtaposed wooden planks. You hear shouts, chants and whistles harmoniously gracing the air with the clanging and the dinging of the hammers and chisels. A few minutes alongside any of the construction sites give you quite the unforgettable sight, one unimaginable elsewhere. So you slightly tilt your head to the side of the half risen structure to see what the actual building will look like on the board and remain awestruck in imagination. Until any of the heavy machinery loudly awakens you to the reality of these sites. That’s when you see the weary eye lids of the daily laborers behind the cloth masked faces that lift and shovel, dig and mix cement. Shortly after, you notice that you have to skip, trot and almost brisk walk across or away from this fascinatingly hazardous space.

Have you ever looked around to notice bits and pieces of nails, half split wood trunks and metal rods hanging around the sites – forgotten? How about cement blocks, mounds of sand and piles of rocks often times scattered as far as the pavement and the streets beyond the building’s enclosure? Can you recall your first thoughts upon first noticing this?

In all honesty, it is possible that everything enumerated above goes unnoticed even walking past such scenes. The pace of our lives has flagrantly accelerated, we often find ourselves multitasking more and more and our daily tasks have multiplied. In that mindset and with that in mind we can understand that these sites are nothing more than a sign of development and advancement in a country that is beautifully growing on its own and for itself. Which is not far from the truth but our tight schedules and busy minds have somehow disabled us from looking in depth at the sites. I remember an Ethiopian civil engineer passionately talking about how to improve things in this regard at the TEDx Addis Ababa University event held in October of 2015. He was identifying and proposing solutions for the betterment of construction sites pertaining to the management and organization of the resources available on site. One of the examples he had given that I still recall is the one about the scattered sand and cement blocks that end up blown away with the wind and shoes and shovels that add up to amount to entire blocks or bags that need to be purchased anew. He then went on to point out that if from the very beginning these resources had their own storage spaces and a thorough cleaning of the site is done after each working day we will manage to limit waste as well manage a clean and tidy site.

Though said like this, it could sound like a fairy tale and could seem close to impossible to attain. In reality it is not as it is being done by some, though rare, construction companies here in Ethiopia. The question here somewhat boils down to the difference between effective and efficient site management. Given the fact that things have always been done this way and seeing that it is easy to want to carry on in the same manner would change bring better results? Can we imagine walking past a construction site without worrying about getting hurt, hit or something spilling on us? I believe we can do more than imagine, we can ensure that the construction sites are safeguarded first and foremost for their daily laborers and then for the surrounding and passersby. Have you noticed that sometimes the pavement has become storage space or that an entire neighborhood street is blocked off by piles of scaffolding wooden planks, metals, sand and blocks of cement? Do we need to destroy the surroundings in order to build one high rise? One multiplied by many, should we ask ourselves if we are constructing or building our cities? Should this be each and everyone’s responsibility or one that lies solely on the shoulders of the owners or the site manager? Share your thoughts as I would like to know what you think given the fact that there will only be more and more constructions moving forward.



By Christine Yohannes
Christine Yohannes writes about social change, performs at public events and conducts poetry workshops in schools. She has established a monthly event entitled

Published on Jan 31,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 874]


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