The annual rainfall pattern in Ghana has not changed; and so, between March and June, the country receives its major rainfall, and then between September and November the minor season sets in. In all of these times, the phenomenon of flooding in our major cities of the country with its accompanying devastating effects on lives and property has become a major problem and a nightmare to many people.
Every year various news media in Ghana, both print and electronic, report on flooding in several parts of the cities after just an hour or two of a downpour. Several hundreds of thousands of Ghana cedis worth of property are lost in the process. In some cases, lives are even lost. Footages on these unfortunate developments on our television screens become quite worrying.
It is common to see city authorities and government officials making statements whenever flooding occurs. Various reasons have always been attributed to the flooding, and these are usually physical human activities such as reckless dumping of refuse in open drains that tend to choke the drains and thereby making it difficult for the water to freely flow.
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In fact, it is the practice of many people who see the open drains as a conduit for disposal of their refuse; and so, whenever it rains, refuse collected from households are quickly poured into open drains. These refuse are then carried by the rainwater to as far as it can go and thus choke the drains at some point.
Experts have also attributed the flooding to the reckless erection of physical structures on waterways. Indeed, it is common for one to see buildings clearly constructed at areas naturally earmarked for free passage of surface rainwater. So, the rains come and the water is blocked by this structure, thereby forcing the rainwater to find its own course towards a lower end of the gradient. In the process, the force of the water causes havoc by breaking down fence walls, main buildings and inundating compounds and rooms destroying properties.
The situation is becoming severe with each passing year, with its negative impact on the socio-economic lives of the people. Sometimes, the water level rises to such a height that makes it impossible for occupants to sleep. During such situations, affected residents spend hours either scooping rainwater from their rooms. They, therefore, have no choice but to remain standing till their rooms are dry. Some people do not even go out for their usual economic activities and livelihoods, thereby bring untold economic hardships to them. In some cases, houses have to be abandoned for several days or weeks until the water levels subside.
These have become serious problems for residents in such areas. However, city authorities and government officials would usually quickly organize media tours of the affected areas, with assurances of putting in place measures to stop the perennial flooding; but year in year out, the same situations occur. In such circumstances, there are general concerns and commentaries over human activities that do not help us all in the long run.
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The expectations have always been that those who are the hardest affected by such floods would learn some lessons and desist from doing the same things that cause them the pain. Again, it is expected that new private estate developers would also learn from these flooding and redesign their plans for building structures along waterways; but unfortunately, the same mistakes continue to be repeated with impunity.
Today, the rains are here again, and the question is whether or not we are prepared to surmount the devastation that comes with it? Indeed, we have not yet reached the peak of the rainy season, yet we have already begun seeing the levels of the havoc that are being recorded.
A couple of weeks ago, a bridge that was constructed by the Member of Parliament for the Ablekuma West constituency, Hon. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, at the cost GH¢850,000.00, over the Odaw river in Accra to link the two communities of Choker and Chemue lasted for just about six months and was carried away during one heavy downpour. Videos and pictures on television and social media showed that the river was heavily polluted with refuse which aided the pushing away of the bridge from its location.
Only a week ago, an hour and a half rainfall in Accra saw most parts of the city flooded, bringing to the fore our unpreparedness for the heaviest parts of the rains which are yet to occur. In fact, no visible steps have so far been taken whatsoever by city authorities apart from the usual rhetoric.
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It is sad, that even though everybody knows that come April, May, and June we would be expecting heavy rains and that flooding is likely to occur, we all seem to do very little or nothing at all to avert the obvious havoc that occurs in the wake of the rains. We all have always behaved like the proverbial vulture who always says “I will build my house” whenever it rains, yet forgets all about it when the rains are over.
The rain will come when it will come. This is a natural phenomenon that no one can stop it. What we have to do is to take the necessary actions to prepare for them. It is, therefore, time that we all changed our attitude towards our human activities that contribute to the flooding, and the authorities also put in measures to ensure that there is strict adherence to the various building and physical development regulations. This way, we all would be assured of some higher levels of safety and comfort when the rains come, because whether we like it or not, the rains will come.
By Agnes Melissa Yovo | Volta Regional Correspondents