The perennial Accra floods came and left, as always, leaving in its wake devastation. Nine Ghanaian lives have been reported lost, many people displayed and property worth thousands of cedis destroyed. Someone one was also beaten up at Awoshie Mangoase, thrown in jail because he had broken down a fence wall for water to pass so he can save his drowning three year old child, wife and other relatives who were caught up in a submerged home.
This is not the time to look at international community for help and assistance or time for the petty partisanship that usually take precedence over the real issues. People are dead, homes are destroyed and for once, let us put aside the politics of point scoring and look at the real issues.
I was distraught when I visited twenty six homes in Ablekuma North constituency, one of the worse hit areas. And one of the key issues that came up in my interaction with victims is the drainage system.
Bottom line – poor construction of roads and gutters may have led to the loss of lives and property. The general view is that contractors are cutting corners. Drainage or roads that are to be built according to certain standards are not built properly.
If it can be established that some of the damage has been as a result of half-hearted construction works, such contractors should be charged for corporate man-slaughter. Contractors ought to know that once you take a contract, you are obliged to ensure that the work you execute does not endanger lives. We need government procurement rules with built-in clauses to ensure that citizens are protected from poor quality construction work.
I would like to call for an immediate inquiry into the extent to which poor construction led to the damage caused by the floods; and if constructors are found culpable, they ought to be arrested immediately and prosecuted for negligence and corporate manslaughter. Building strong institutions means people who are found guilty of wrong doing should face the music.
There is also an overall need for government to develop its positions and introduce recommendations at the local and even international level to contribute towards minimizing the effects of Climate CHANGE. At a local level, this should impact on the design of our cities for which we need our Engineers and Architects to introduce new Construction Standards for our roads, town planning etc.
I would also like to propose that government basic schools in the country have swimming pools where pupils would, as part of their Physical Education, be given lessons on how to swim. One of the basic requirements of health and safety is that, one helps himself before others.
We don't need a situation where victims have to wait on others to come and rescue them. Let's begin to teach our children how to look out for themselves in unforeseen circumstances like the one we just witnessed in Accra.
On health, we need to re-train our local health professionals to deal with diseases in the aftermath of such climate change related phenomenon. These include preparing the local hospitals for post- flood ailments such as diarrhea, cholera and other water-borne diseases
With the UN Climate Change Conference in South Africa around the corner, it is important for the government of Ghana to make public its positions towards the Durban Conference in South Africa and to ensure that our National Policies and Local Government programs takes into consideration the impact of Climate change to minimize such natural disasters in our local communities.
We cannot entirely prevent natural disasters from occurring but we can limit the impact of such disasters and once again, here we are with a very unique opportunity of using new ideas to solve an old problem. It is another wakeup call to the nation; we cannot afford to let the people down.