Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Floods And Its Lessons!

By William Yaw Owusu

Thursday July 2, 2009
The annual downpour, normally experienced every June and July, is here with us again. Flood-prone and waterlogged areas of the capital city have been overwhelmed, the inhabitants of those areas have been affected and some even losing their lives.

The question then is when will the nation curb the menace of this annual ritual of deaths following floods, especially in Accra?

According to experts, Accra's low sea level position, the non-porous clayish nature of its soil, inadequate and undersized drains, the dumping of refuse especially plastic materials, into drains and water bodies, as well as the development of environmentally sensitive areas are the major causes of flooding in the city.

At the centre of this problem over the years have been the indecisiveness and reluctance of governments to enforce the planning and building regulations of the country. Here, the blame must be put squarely at the doorstep of both the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development and the various districts, municipal and metropolitan assemblies.

Very related to this is the recalcitrance of the people to stay away from waterlogged and flood- prone areas of the cities and towns. Some may argue that, they were pushed into those areas because of the high cost of lands in the much safer areas of the city, but that is not a good excuse.

Again, choked gutters across the country and the absence of proper drainage systems, particularly in the cities are major causes of the disturbing phenomenon of floods over the years.

Annual floods, unlike disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes or typhoons or tornadoes, can easily be managed or even prevented if adequate measures are put in place at the right time.

These measures can in most cases succeed if the nation decides to consciously work together to prevent the floods from wrecking havoc to the country’s major cities and towns.

For many years, attention has been drawn to the problems of the floods only when they have already occurred and exacted maximum damage to lives and properties.

City authorities wait for disaster to happen before the government forms inter-ministerial committees to look into the problem and end up taking per diem for little work done.

The reactions from government every year after the floods have always been a promise of forestalling their reoccurrences in subsequent years, by taking the appropriate remedial measures. But just after the rain has ended, the noises about tackling the floods end. That has been the status quo.

Nepotism and parochialism are the bane of the country’s inability to deal with flood related problems once and for all. Besides, whenever the government makes the effort to tackle some of the flood related problems it is the same people particularly politicians who would play the ostrich in order to score cheap political points.

The National Star set out on a tour of some flood-prone suburbs of Accra to assess the extent of damage following last Friday night’s heavy down pour and their subsequent ones as The paper wanted to find out how residents are coping with the situation.

Residents of Abofu, Abelempke, Alajo, Avenor and Kotobabi who have been experiencing perennial flooding seem to be heaving a sigh of relief as the floods, for once, diverted to Kaneshie, Bubiashie, Odorkor, Mallam Gbawe and many other such low lying areas.

The reason is simple. Residents in those suburbs where flooding seems to have receded have over the years learnt their lessons. Apart from big drains being constructed in those areas to ensure free flow of water, many residents have taken precautionary measures by constructing flood resistant buildings.

Kwadwo Amakye Mireku, of Alajo said “Residents here have suffered for far too long. The floods will continue to be with us but it is up to us to put things right so that we are not overtaken by events.”

Nii Armah Addy, 44, another resident of Alajo said for the past two year s the suburb has experienced less flooding due to the expansion of the drainage systems in the area and commended Sheikh I.C. Quaye, Member of Parliament for the area for what he called “leading by example” in the effort to prevent flooding of the area.

Madam Esther Amekudzi, 57, a shop owner at Abofu said “Persistent flooding of the area has taught us lessons. People are now seeing the need
to desist from building on water ways. Even if they do, they raise the foundation of the building to prevent flooding”

Residents of Avenor and Abelemkpe expressed similar sentiments. George Ankrah of Abelemkpe said “Everybody in this area knows that knows about the consequences of flooding. People are now not taking things for granted. We follow instructions from NADMO and other agencies that is why the floods are not everwhelming us.”

But residents of Kaneshie, Bubiashie, Odorkor, Darkuma Junction, Santa Maria, Mallam, Gbawe, disagree and still cannot come to terms with the June 19 disaster.

Yaw Oppong Bio 60, a shop owner of Kaneshie said although the months of June and July always experience heavy rains, the extent of damage caused by the floods was beyond comprehension.

“The authorities did not do enough to alert the people about potential flooding of the city.”

Sarah Enimil, 39, a hardware dealer at Kaneshie was not impressed with the relief effort on the part of city authorities. She claimed the relief items distributed by NADMO did not get to the victims.

Kudjo Agbenu, of Sakaman Asafoatse road where the floods caused extensive damage to property said NADMO gave affected residents blankets which he said were not enough to relieve them of their predicaments.

Sakaman residents called for desilting of drains in the area to reduce flooding.

The NADMO boss, Kofi Kportuphy denied allegations that relief items meant for victims were diverted. He said since the floods occurred the management has been able to make swift relief effort to get victims out of their predicament.

On the 45 houses and structures earmarked for demolition by the city authorities, Mr. Kportuphy says “there will not be any political interference. We are determined to put things right this time around”.

Majority of Ghanaians are in support of the decision to demolish houses, structures and developments on water ways. The city authorities should therefore 'take the bull by the horn’ and go ahead with the demolition exercise.

Something has to be done immediately to prevent perennial flooding which leads to loss of lives and destruction of property.