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11.05.2019 Opinion

Can Ghana Ever Tackle The Perrenial Problem Of Flood Disasters?

By Ferdinard Tiekon
Can Ghana Ever Tackle The Perrenial Problem Of Flood Disasters?

Without the news media reporting on it, Ghanaians by intuition know that some parts of the country will be flooded after a heavy downpour. This precise ‘prophesy of doom’ can be tied to the lack of a contingency plan to forestall flood prone areas from getting flooded after heavy rains. This is an institutional failure on the part of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, the National Disaster Management Organization, the Environmental Protection Agency and other authorities involved. Our inability as a country to appropriately prevent and manage disasters is quite bad and terrifying. This may sound crazy but I’ve got to ask; “WHAT IF AN EARTHQUAKE HITS GHANA?”, do Ghanaians stand a chance?

According to "The Conversation", an independent nonprofit media outlet in Melbourne, Australia, “Ghana has a serious flood problem. Over about 50 years, 4 million people have been affected by floods, resulting in economic damage exceeding USD$780 million. At least one major flood disaster has occurred every year over the past 10 years”.

CAUSES OF FLOODS
Over the past six decades in the history of Ghana, the causes of floods have been known to be tied to human activities such as the creation of slums in waterways, indiscriminate littering of our drainage systems with plastics and refuse which gets them choked. Some experts have also laid the blame on the doorsteps of poor engineering structure of our sewage and drainage systems which renders them unfit for purpose. Also, leaving our culverts and gutters uncovered makes it easy for them to get choked with sand and filth ( both solid and liquid waste) from industries and individuals in the water ways. According to an Inaugural lecture delivered by Casely Ato Coleman,a fellow at IMANI Africa Centre For Policy Education, “It is estimated that only about 30% of waste in Accra is taken out, a whopping 70% not cleared immediately”. This implies that the rest find their way into the drainage system. In an interview with Joy Fm, an expert on Hydrology, Mr Wise Ametepe said “Even when we have 40 millimetres of rainfall [there is flooding]. Some time past, 40 millimetres of rainfall would not have caused flooding; 50 millimetres would not have caused flooding”. Similarly, a Deputy Director General of the National Disaster Management Organisation [NADMO] has said that there cannot be a lasting solution to floods in Ghana until there is attitudinal change. Mr Abu Ramadan attributed 60% to 70% of the Accra floods to human activities. Clearly, we know the problems so what has held us back from solving them. We seem to be experts when it comes to identifying the causes of the flood. The best way to solve a problem entirely is to attack its root cause(s). If this logic is anything to go by why have we failed to work out feasible plans to reduce( if not curb entirely) the impacts of the floods.

PROMISES AND TALKS
Like all bad Public Relations practice, the module and plans used are all geared towards reactive measures. Over the years authorities who have been given the mandate to ensure our safety have not been up to the task. They wait for the disaster to hit and then they run helter-skelter with crisis management measures instead of proactive strategies.

According to NADMO, seven people were confirmed dead after the 15th April,2019 downpour.

A day after this sad incident, the President, Nana Akuffo Addo, in a tweet said: "GH¢197 million has been released to the Ministry of Works and Housing to desilt choked drains, the contracts for the works have been awarded, and are ongoing". In an interview with Bernard Avle, the Accra Mayor also mentioned how they have begun dredging the Odaw drainage ahead of the rainy season. This has always been the problem with our leadership. We are prone to knee jerk solutions to our problems which amount to nothing but waste of resources and time. This has been the cycle for decades yielding fruitless results with no novel initiative.

THE HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
In Genesis 6:14 God said to Noah "So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out." This was when God decided to destroy the earth with a flood.

Similarly, the head of the Meteorological Forecast Office at the GMA, Mr Michael Padi, told the Ghanaian Times in an interview on April 8, 2019 said that the downpour which hit southern Ghana, especially Accra, with the rain quantum of 51.5 mm was on the higher side as compared to previous downpour. He added that more of such heavy rains are to be expected this season thus cautioning the public to adopt safety measures.

“The rains has started in earnest, he said adding, that the downpours will be accompanied by heavy thunderstorms and lightening which may pose a serious danger to lives and property and, therefore, advised residents to stay indoors during such occurrences.

Mr. Padi went on to mention the coastal belt of Greater Accra, Western and Central Regions as places to receive high rains. He cited inland regions like Ashanti, Eastern and Volta regions as part of the list.

So I stand to ask where is our 'Ark' to carry us to safety?

It behoves authorities to map out strategic plans to avoid the accompanying tragedies that come with floods. Already we have lost over 10 citizens (including a military couple) in the early torrents with hundreds being displaced; some apparently homeless now.

These are needless deaths that is costing the national coffers. Funds that could have salvaged some of our economic and infrastructural problems will be diverted to cater for these unforeseen circumstances. We waste so much resources (time, money,human capital) to dredge and desilt the Odaw River, the Korle lagoon and other drainage systems instead of focusing our energies on more sustainable and root cutting approaches.

THE END GAME
The solutions to our flood disasters is a mixture of hardnut decisions in our bag. We need feasible long term solutions ranging from proper town planning, effective laws and most importantly attitudinal change. This means that the AMA, NADMO, Environmental Protection Agency, Town and Country Planning, Bureau of Public Safety and the general public all have specific relevant roles to play.

The Great Wall of China was built in three major stages. it began during the Qin dynasty of 221 - 206 B.C

New sections were added during the Han dynasty 206 B.C - 220 AD. It was finally completed during the Ming dynasty of 1368 -1644.

The Great Wall wouldn't have existed if the Han dynasty didn't continue or if the Ming didn't complete it. What's the argument here? - governance is a continuum and given our 4 years system of election, it's only prudent we drafted a national agenda to be kowtowed to by every party in power, that's the only way to get some good projects completed and stop wastage.

We have so many companies and business in these flood areas and certainly, they feel the brunt of the floods. How about they put on their CSR boots and apparel and deliberately work towards solving some of the causes of the floods to help their business and the community too. If even they don't have the financial muscle, they can rally people behind them and pool resources together to do something; it's not wrong to try.

Finally, like Julius Nyerere said “If real development is to take place, the people have to be involved.”

Accra alone generates about 900, 000 metric tonnes of waste yearly. Our land fills are getting filled up already. This method is equally outdated and fizzling out, it's high time we walked our talks and focused on recycling and environmental friendly(green) waste disposal methods Let's learn to REDUCE , REUSE and RECYCLE. Let's make it our culture.

This is a clarion call to all Ghanaians to help in the fight against our sanitation woes which contribute largely to the floods. We demonstrate against bad roads, poor working conditions and bad governance. It's time to protest against sanitation problems and the yearly floods; it's not about taking to the streets to preach this gospel. We must walk the talk too.

By: FERDINARD TIEKON

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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