By: Rosemary Balami
Image Source: Twitter/ Hollywood Dub
Flood disasters are among the world’s most frequent and damaging types of disasters, and major cities in Ghana including the capital, are no stranger to the devastating impacts of flooding. Flood kills, wreaks havoc and costs billions. Are we adequately prepared for the rains this year?
This year's rains started with few showers that led to a heavy downpour which flooded most parts of Accra including streets and roads. We could recall the country recording its worst flood disasters on June 3, 2015, alongside the gas explosion which claimed lots of lives at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle. The floods left behind death and destruction on a scale virtually unprecedented in living memory. On Friday, 23rd June 2023, Tv3 Ghana reported heavy rains over the past months have made lives unbearable for several families living on the banks of the Nima gutter and along the Odaw River, suburbs of Accra. Also, 4 persons have been confirmed dead after they were swept away by flood waters in separate incidents in the Ashanti Region. One would ask, what might have caused these floods? Is it the actions and inactions of citizens or lack of political will to transform the country into a much safer place? These are questions that continue to remain unanswered.
In 2021, Initial assessments by NADMO revealed that 336 people were displaced after 155 houses were destroyed in the flood that struck the upper west region of Ghana. Around 1,605 people were directly affected but many more are suffering as a result of damage to crops and roads in the area. Over 700 farms suffered some damage.
Somewhere in October 2022, 1,000 houses were flooded in the Greater Accra region and 1,500 people were displaced. According to officials, 25 residents were rescued after they became trapped in their homes when the Weija Dam, located on the Densu River which is operated by the Ghana Water Company increased due to Prolonged heavy rainfall in the region.
Addressing the issue of flooding in Accra requires a multi-faceted approach, incorporating effective urban planning, infrastructure development, and community participation. Let’s take a look at some factors that cause flooding in Ghana.
Multiple factors contribute to the flooding problem in Ghana. Rapid urbanization has resulted in the conversion of natural drainage systems into concrete structures, limiting the city's ability to absorb excess rainfall. People are seen erecting buildings on waterways which is one of the major causes of floods. Moreover, poor waste management practices, including the indiscriminate disposal of solid waste in drains and water bodies, coupled with citizen’s failure to improve upon the hygienic conditions of their environment has worsened the problem. Gutters get choked with rubbish contributing to floods and tilled gutters have the debris left right at the gutter at the mercy of winds and rains, finding itself back into the gutters. An instance is the massive disposal of rubbish including plastic waste in areas such as Korle Gono, Kaneshie, and the Kwame Nkrumah circle. River bodies continue to be polluted because they now serve as refuse dump sites. All these negative actions contribute to floods. Although Floods are a natural disaster, human activities worsen the problem. Also, Climate change, with its unpredictable rainfall patterns and increased intensity of storms, further compounds the issue.
The consequences of flooding in Accra are wide-ranging and severe. Infrastructure, including roads and bridges, often sustains damage, leading to transportation disruptions and increased traffic situations in the cities. Homes and businesses located in low-lying areas are particularly vulnerable, as floodwaters can cause significant damage to property and destroy livelihoods. Furthermore, flooding poses serious health risks, as stagnant water becomes a breeding ground for diseases like cholera and malaria.
What are the way forward and sustainable solutions to tackling the problem?
The incessant flooding in Ghana can be avoided or combatted if drastic measures are put in place by all stakeholders.
One of the key solutions is risk-reduction and mitigation. This should be in place long before a disaster occurs. Rains come every year and so we as a nation should invest in a network of huge underground drains, prevent building on waterways, train communities in response to disasters to save lives, embark on sensitisation, and educate the public on the need to exercise proper sanitation including the tilling of gutters. Another is comprehensive Urban Planning strategies. This remains a long-term solution to Accra's flooding problem. This involves zoning regulations to prevent construction in flood-prone areas, protecting wetlands and natural drainage systems, and creating green spaces that promote water absorption.
Furthermore, drainage systems need to be enhanced. Upgrading and expanding the city's drainage infrastructure is crucial. This includes cleaning and desilting existing drains of debris, and constructing larger and more efficient drainage channels will go a long way for runoff water to pass through thereby preventing floods. Also, effective waste management practices are vital to mitigate flooding. Implementing robust waste collection and recycling programs, raising public awareness about responsible waste disposal, and enforcing penalties for illegal dumping are essential steps toward reducing the clogging of drains and waterways because improper waste management has largely contributed to flooding.
Another effective way is Climate Change Adaptation: As climate change continues to impact rainfall patterns, Accra must invest in adaptive measures. This includes improving weather monitoring systems, implementing early warning systems, and developing resilient infrastructure that can withstand extreme weather events.
Lastly citizens must be engaged through community engagement initiatives. Encouraging citizen participation, educating residents about flood preparedness, and involving local communities in decision-making processes will foster a sense of ownership and responsibility.
Addressing the issue of flooding in Accra is quite complex and tackling this requires a collaborative effort from various stakeholders such as Government agencies, urban planners, engineers, community leaders, and residents. There must be a political will to implement sustainable solutions such as improved urban planning, enhanced drainage systems, effective waste management, climate change adaptation, and community engagement.
Building resilient and sustainable cities is part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations which occupies the Goal 11 slot, “sustainable cities and communities” in which Ghana must work keenly to achieve. This mitigation strategy however is not the call of only the Government but a collective effort and total commitment of the citizenry to alleviate flood disasters in the Ghanaian society.