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City authorities, indiscipline cause of floods

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
Rapid urbanisation, haphazard construction, ineffective engineering of drains and poor waste management, have contributed to the annual flood problem.
Rapid urbanisation, haphazard construction, ineffective engineering of drains and poor waste management, have contributed to the annual flood problem.

The inaction of city authorities and gross indiscipline on the part of the citizenry have been blamed for the perennial flooding in the nation’s capital, Accra. Weak enforcement of laws on the built environment, rapid urbanisation haphazard construction, ineffective engineering of drains and poor waste management have also been identified as contributors to the annual flooding.

 These were the views of three experts on what could be done to address the problem of flooding in the capital city.

The experts are the President of the Ghana Institution of Engineering (GhIE), Prof. Rev. Charles Anum Adams; the President of the Ghana Institute of Planners (GIP), Mohammed Alhassan Damba; and a Sanitation Engineer and Co-ordinator of the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area Sanitation and Water Project (GAMA-SWP), George Asiedu.

Recent rainfall

On Saturday, May 21, and Monday, May 23, heavy rain caused areas including Odawna, Abossey Okai, Kaneshie, Dansoman, Kwame Nkrumah Interchange, Alajo and Agbogbloshie, all within the capital city, to be inundated with floodwaters.

Many residents had their rooms flooded and personal effects running into millions of Ghana cedis, destroyed.

In the wake of the devastation caused by the floods, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo directed MMDCEs to ensure that all structures on watercourses were demolished.

At the commissioning of two IHC Beaver 50 dredgers and marine equipment of Dredge Masters Limited (DML), a subsidiary of the Jospong Group of Companies (JGC), in Accra last Wednesday, President Akufo-Addo said flooding in Accra must be brought to an end.

“We will ensure that these directives are complied with. I have established a monitoring unit, and they will be reporting directly to me on the progress of the implementation of these measures. I am putting all MMDCEs on notice and will be held responsible for any breaches that result in damage as a result of flooding.

Horrible attitude

Speaking to the Daily Graphic Friday, Prof. Anum, who is a Professor of Civil Engineering, said it was a cause for concern that the issue of flooding had been discussed at length every year but no serious action had been taken on it.

“As long as we continue on that path, things will worsen,” he said.

He said the attitude of the city authorities and some members of the public to waste management and disposal had been horrible, and something needed to be done urgently.

“People pour waste in drains and backyards, which choke the drains. Meanwhile the authorities fail to act even though there are bye-laws,” he stated.

Prof. Anum, who had worked as a consultant on several internationally funded projects in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Liberia, said historically, about two-thirds of Accra was in low lying areas, which meant that when it rained water spread on the land. “So if you sit on a low-lying area and you cannot control sanitation, the result is what has been happening in the city,” he explained.

Although, the GhIE President said the assemblies had not lived up to expectation, he also nonetheless would not absolve successive governments, parliament and other national leaders of blame.

“Apart from the local assemblies, the government, parliament and indeed all other national leaders are based in Accra yet they all have not done much on flood prevention,” he said.

Who is to blame?

Sharing his views on the development, Mr Alhassan said weak leadership at the local level was the bane of the flooding challenge.

"The basic unit of development in Ghana is the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs),and the problem is happening in these units in a cross-border fashion," he told the Daily Graphic.

Explaining the enormity of the situation, Mr Alhassan said there were instances where drains were not designed to the appropriate capacity to be able to accommodate the volume and speed of run-off water.

"If the drain is supposed to slope at a certain gradient and it is designed flat, and the water spills, it is an engineering problem. If we have a drain hitting at a 90 degrees angle without a clear meandering pathway to flow, then there is an engineering problem.

If the drain is supposed to be a 1.2-metre drain and it is designed with the capacity of 0.6 metres, then there is an engineering problem," he said.

Tackling flooding

On how to address the perennial flooding, Mr Alhassan said the solution was multi-layered and revolved around enforcement, reducing the amount of water that was thrown out into drains and increasing the capacity of the drains to carry water by ensuring that there was no silt and garbage in the channels.

To promote the conservation of water, he proposed an incentive regime for people who incorporated systems to harvest rainwater into their building designs.

He stressed the need for the enforcement of the law that empowered MMDAs to demolish unauthorised structures to allow for free flow of water when it rained.

Again, he said human activities that reduced green surfaces should seriously be looked at to prevent flooding. 

"We need to secure ecological assets such as Ramsar sites and lagoons in ways that help us improve the resilience of our cities because if we do not take good care of these holding forms, in no time, we have to live with more floods," he added.

Drains expansion

For Mr Asiedu, he said priority must be given to expansion of drains and proper waste management to mitigate flooding in Accra.

"The flooding in Accra, particularly around the Kaneshie area, is because all the drains around Kaneshie are narrow and choked so with the least rain, the drains will not function.We should expand the drains and de-silt them," he said.

Action by MMDCEs

Meanwhile, some of the assemblies in Accra have started implementing the President’s directive on the demolition of structures on watercourses.

A day after the demolition directive by the President, the Ledzokuku Municipal Assembly (LEKMA) carried out an exercise to clear containers and other illegal structures at Manet Junction along the Spintex Road.

More than 200 illegal structures, some of which served as residential accommodation, garages, vulcanising shops and food vending joints, were brought down by the assembly's task force.

However, some of the victims described the exercise as inhumane and condemned the assembly for the manner in which the demolition was carried out. While some blamed officials of the assembly for giving them an impromptu notice, others claimed there was some announcement to that effect.

The Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) of LEKMA, Mordecai Quarshie, who led the operation, said adequate notice had been served the affected people.

He said the exercise should have been carried out after the Easter holidays but was postponed to give the squatters enough time to vacate the area.

He said apart from the eviction markings on the structures, the assembly also engaged the people and advised them on the need to leave the area.

Ablekuma West

For his part, the MCE for Ablekuma West, George Cyril Bray, said the assembly had already started the process to demolish all unauthorised structures from watercourses.

He said the exercise would start from the Dansoman area in the next two weeks.

He added that persons who had property on watercourses and other unauthorised areas would be made to pay for the cost of the demolition.

Ayawaso East

The MCE for Ayawaso East Municipal Assembly, Hajia Salma Sani Mohammed Adams Kuta, said the assembly would engage stakeholders and go ahead to demolish the unauthorised structures on watercourses.

"We know the nature of the people we are dealing with, so we are going to involve the police and military to demolish those structures to prevent floods as the rain descends," she said.

KoKMA

The Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for Korle Klottey Municipal Assembly (KoKMA), Samuel Nii Adjei Tawiah, said the President's directive for unauthorised structures to be removed from watercourses had given impetus to what the assembly had been doing already.

“We have done a lot of decongestion which has enabled us to remove unauthorised structures in pubic walkways and pavements. The interventions we put in place mitigated the impact of the recent rain on flood-prone areas," he said.

Mr Tawiah also said in preparations for torrential rain,the assembly had made provision for safe havens for people to seek safety in times of need.

GARID project

Meanwhile, the Minister of Works and Housing, Francis Asenso-Boakye, has said the government is investing $200 million in the construction of detention ponds upstream of the Odaw Basin through the Greater Accra Resilience Integrated Development (GARID) project.

He said the GARID project would lead to the expansion of drains, dredging of the heavily polluted Odaw River and construction of more drainage infrastructure to hold large volumes of water to prevent flooding.

The minister added that the GARID project would see the reconstruction of some bridges to remove materials that impeded the flow of water in the basin when it rained.