19.08.2013 General News

Wetlands in Kumasi metropolis under siege

19.08.2013 LISTEN
By Daily Graphic

The impunity with which a section of the business community in the Kumasi metropolis and its environs   are reclaiming wetlands for the development of private property is now causing grave public agitations across the metropolis.

With the increasing spate of floods in the metropolis in recent times and their devastating effects on lives and property, public agitations against the rezoning of wetlands by city authorities  for use by  private land developers also seem to be on the ascendency.

According to a section of residents, city authorities in the metropolis are only interested in rezoning wetlands without ensuring that properly -engineered constructional works are carried out.

The result is that structures constructed close to rivers and streams block the course of waterways, causing water to be diverted to lowlands during downpours  thereby causing flooding  and destruction of lives and property.

A  45-year-old  taxi driver, Mr Kwadwo Sarfo Amankwa, whose vehicle  was almost washed away during a downpour told  the Daily Graphic that it was time to draw the attention of the city authorities to act professionally by placing  public interest above theirs when rezoning natural reserves.

' They do not monitor  constructional works at  wetlands or allow professionalism to bear on  projects developed in   these areas for the free flow of water when it rains' Mr Amankwa bemoaned during an interview.

He said the indiscriminate construction of houses   close to rivers and streams,  without creating any buffer was now  creating intense risk for  residents across the metropolis.

Explaining,  he noted that 'The Bekwai roundabout-Santasi road for example, has now become a danger zone anytime it rains due to the activities of car dealers who reclaimed portion of the wetland at the banks of River Suntre.

My vehicle was almost swept away by  the flood when I attempted to drive on that stretch three weeks ago  during a downpour'.

He said when that portion was being reclaimed, they protested through the media and drew  the attention of  the city authorities to the danger such projects would create for motorists and commuters, 'but as usual , nothing was done about it'

Like Mr Amankwah,   other residents are using local radio stations to draw the attention of the city authorities  to act with dispatch  and halt all forms of encroachment on wetlands to avert  any problem in the metropolis,  while others have gone to the various  print media and local television houses with their complaints.

Danyame wetland threatened
The recent reclaiming of wetland adjacent the Danyame Metropolitan Assembly Basic School, off the Miklin Hotel-Santasi roundabout road,  might have been the immediate cause that sparked off the pent up public agitation.

On that  wetland, heaps of red soil  were piling up when the Daily Graphic visited the scene, and unconfirmed reports indicate that a private land developer had been  given the nod  by the city authorities to build a hotel.

To  create  an artificial boundary between the encroached area and the school property, the developer is erecting a fence, a situation which aroused public suspicion and concern .

A local radio station reporter who went on a fact finding mission to ascertain the authenticity or otherwise of the  reclaiming of the wetland at the Danyame  M/A Basic  School had  his  tyres  deflated, a situation which further caused much stir in the metropolis.

Construction works at the Danyame wetland seems to have been temporarily suspended after some local radio stations raised  concern, but indications are that work will resume  as soon as tempers cool down.

Kaase wetland under siege
Also being reclaimed  is the wetland at Kaase, close to the abandoned railway line. Like the wetland at  Danyame M/A, heaps of red soil started piling up two months ago and a source  told  the Daily  Graphic that the area had already  been approved by the metropolitan authorities for a shopping mall to be  constructed.

When  the Daily Graphic drew the attention of  the  Metropolitan Engineer , Mr Alex Boateng,  to the spate of rezoning wetlands to private land developers without leaving any buffer  and their socio-economic effects on lives and property, he declined to comment .

He rather indicated that it was the  Public Relations Officer who had been mandated to comment on such issues.

When contacted, and shown pictures of wetlands that had been rezoned in recent times, the Metropolitan  Public  Relations Officer, Mr Godwin Kumah Nyame,  gave the assurance to contact the metropolitan engineer and give a feedback. However,  constant reminders did not yield any positive response.

Similar areas   where construction works were ongoing  to which the public is at intense risk  included the  Ahensan Estate, Daban, South Suntreso, Patasi Estate,  the Airport Roundabout and Asuoyeboah  wetlands.

Regular monitoring of these wetlands indicate that they  are being  developed into residential or commercial centres without the requisite buffer or engineering works.

Projects on wetlands should have 100 meter buffer zone

When contacted, the Metropolitan Director of Town and Country Planning, Mrs Joyce Afukaar,  acknowledged that such structures should not have been built in such areas.

Explaining, she  said constructional works  at wetlands should be carried out with a buffer zone which should be 100 meters away.

'Any project on wetland  which is less than 100 meters from rivers and streams should not be approved.

This is  because they are likely to block the free flow of rivers and streams to cause flood' she explained.

By George Ernest Asare/Daily Graphic/Ghana