Accra floods need holistic approach
Accra floods need holistic approach
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Accra floods need holistic approach

Never again shall this happen! This was the declaration by officialdom when a devastating flood and fire disaster occurred at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra on June 3, 2015. The historic twin disaster claimed more than 160 lives and ravaged property running into millions of Ghana cedis.

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A combination of haphazard development along waterways, poor waste management system and indiscriminate dumping of plastics into the Odaw River and minor drains were identified as the major causes of the disaster.

To address that challenge, the World Bank provided $200 million to fund the Greater Accra Resilient and Integrated Development Project (GARID) to improve flood risk management and solid waste management in the Odaw River Basin in the Greater Accra Region.

The project was also meant to improve access to basic infrastructure and services in the targeted communities within the Odaw River Basin.

However, nine years after the June 3, 2025 flood disaster, the capital city – Accra, still reels under the debilitating impacts of flood.

Although millions of dollars have been invested in the dredging of the Odaw River, the drain always overflows its banks anytime it rains, leaving many parts of the city inundated with floodwater.

In the absence of a formalised solid and e-waste collection and management system, the dealers in scrap metals along the Odaw drain in the Agbogbloshie area have resorted to dumping obsolete fridges, television sets and computers into the drain.

Apart from the loss of lives and destruction of property, the perennial flooding in Accra poses serious health threats, especially to residents in the flood-prone areas.

Health experts are worried that the current situation where operators of the scrap metal business are dumping e-waste into the Odaw River has dire health implications.

For instance, an environmental health expert at the Ghana Health Service, Dr Carl Stephen Osei, warned that apart from being a major environmental risk factor for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, burning of e-waste also causes heart failure, stroke, reproductive issues, abortions and infertility.

He said emissions from e-waste contained metals such as lead, manganese, copper, boron and zinc that pollute land and water bodies. 

Dr Osei explained that the situation was even dire for vulnerable groups such as young children, the elderly, pregnant women, those with heightened sensitivity towards pollution, and those with pre-existing illnesses or compromised immune systems.

From the climate change perspective, the open burning of e-waste accelerates the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, thereby directly contributing to global warming. When e-waste is openly burnt, it releases harmful gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), both potent greenhouse gases (GHGs), into the atmosphere, and that affects the climate.

The Daily Graphic has not lost sight of the fact that efforts are being made by the government, through various interventions, to improve the drainage capacity of the Odaw basin.

For instance, through the GARID project, efforts are being made to construct detention ponds upstream of the Odaw Basin to store rainwater and release it gradually until it is completely drained.

According to the coordinator of the GARID project, Dr Kwadwo Ohene Sarfoh, watersheds that served as crucial ecological resource had been taken over by traditional authorities and private developers.

Again, several bridges and structures around the Odaw channel have been earmarked for reconstruction or removal to allow for the free flow of rainwater and prevent perennial flooding in the capital.

The identified bridges - the Railroad bridge at Odawna, Graphic Road bridge, Abossey Okai bridge, near the Central Mosque, Agbogbloshie bridge and the Dome Pillar Two bridge - are plagued with engineering defects that make them obstruct the free flow of rainwater into the Odaw drain.

We are also aware that the GARID project is working with relevant state agencies to roll out the Flood Early Warning System Greater Accra (FEWS-Accra), a comprehensive early warning system to mitigate the impact of floods in Accra.

The centre, which is expected to be fully operationalised before the next rainy season (2025), is being implemented with the Ghana Meteorological Agency (GMet), the Ghana Hydrological Authority (GHA), the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and the Water Resources Commission (WRC).

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Despite these and other interventions, we are of the view that a more holistic approach needs to be deployed to comprehensively deal with the perennial flooding in Accra.

It is estimated that the country requires at least $675 million for an enhanced flood protection regime along the Odaw Basin to build resilience against perennial flooding in Accra. 

While at it, we call on the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) to enforce building regulations to ensure the removal of unauthorised structures from waterways. Environmental laws must also be strictly applied to prevent the dumping of solid waste into drains and gutters.  

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