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How prepared are we for seasonal floods?

Author: Abraham Frank Eshun
Floods at the Kaneshie Market
Floods at the Kaneshie Market

A relentless effort to prevent human activities that trigger flooding in communities is necessary in saving lives and properties.

According to a United Nations (UN) report, the number of floods per year has gone up now, with the death toll also rising globally.

Ghana, like other countries, is prone to numerous environmental and natural disasters including flooding, with varying degrees of intensity depending on the geographical location and preventive measures geared towards the safeguarding of lives and properties.

Even though natural disasters such as cyclones, tsunamis and earthquakes are not common in Ghana, floods have been seasonal, mostly affecting the lives of Ghanaians, especially in Accra.

The reason is that whenever flooding occurs, there is the possibility of the loss of lives and the extensive damage to properties such as bridges, cars, houses, industries, animals and even people.

From Ghana’s flood profile, places such as Kwahu East and South, Atiwa, Buipe, Sekondi-Takoradi, Agona Swedru in the Central Region and Accra are mostly affected by these seasonal floods.


We cannot under any circumstances forget the unprecedented flooding and explosion at a Goil Filling Station in Accra that resulted in the death toll of 159 people on June 3, 2015.

Costs

According to the World Bank, beyond the death toll, damage to housing, transport, water and sanitation totalled US$55 million, while the rebuilding costs were estimated at US$105 million.

According to the UN’s consolidated report on flood’s in southern Ghana in June 2010, the entire town of Agona Swedru in the Central Region was absolutely rendered non-commercial for a period of about four days and more.

The news was that the three bridges that connected the town to the rest of the region collapsed due to torrential rains.

According to the report, 11 deaths were recorded in Agona Nyakrom in the Agona East District.

In the Agona West District, the total number of people affected stood at more than 14,000, with about 1,300 in the camp settings, 2,000 people staying with their families and 11,000 affected one way or the other, that is, with the loss of property, houses submerged, thier being cut off, loss of farmlands among others
About 1,000 sacks of cocoa were also destroyed at the cocoa shed; with about 400 youth rendered jobless due to the destruction of their makeshift workplaces and working tools that were swept away by the Akora River.

Experts have discovered that the human causes of flooding include a lack of enforcement of building laws, improper settlement planning, especially in the urban centres where the scarcity of lands is very high and overpopulation.

Houses are being built indiscriminately without following due processes.

Improper waste management, the plastic waste menace and the improper disposal of refuse come in here, causing filth-choked drains that promote flooding.

The poor engineering of drainage and sewage systems has also been pointed to as a key contributor to flooding.

According to the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, flooding is a serious development challenge, causing widespread wreckage, economic damages, and loss of lives and properties.

Flooding is a common environmental disaster after disease and accidents and yearly statistics show that floods claim at least 20 million lives worldwide.

Flooding may cause major disruptions to Ghana’s energy, water, communication, transport and environment, cause pollution and changes to habitats and migration, if preventive measures are not taken.

However, the government sometimes spends colossal sums of money to clear drains in the cities in order to pave the way for rain water to flow, but because of our irresponsible attitude towards our environment by deliberately throwing refuse into these drains, it becomes another cost on us when floods take over our lives and properties.

Effective planning

Ghana needs effective planning measures based on an understanding of the factors that contribute to flooding fatalities.

This should include restricting activities in the flood-prone areas, removing structures from the waterways, clearing major drains, constructing proper water channels; and constructing houses and commercial structures that can withstand floods.

In addition, putting in place flood defences, protecting wetlands, introducing tree planting and above all a ‘change in our attitudes towards the environment is important as we wait for the rains.

Though floods are natural occurrences, desisting from irresponsible activities that trigger flooding will reduce the effects and may stop flooding altogether in the country.

The writer is a Journalist and Communication Consultant.
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