Ghana has a history of perennial downpours from time immemorial. The rains are here again and some regions have recently suffered the devastating effects of floods. As a country, are we prepared enough to prevent any unfortunate incidents in the rainy season?
The sad incidents of June 3, 2015, which claimed more than 150 lives and brought myriad hardship to a great number of people across the country after hours of heavy rains, are still fresh on our minds.
The unprecedented disaster threw the entire nation into a state of shock and mourning for days. The happenings of June 3 took centre focus in the media for a while, and the subject goes to rest without any practical solution.
In less than one year after the June disaster, some parts of the country recorded incidents of what can be best described as preventable floods. Subsequently, properties were destroyed with a few casualties.
It would be recalled that on Saturday, May 21, 2016, the Greater Accra region was hit by long hours of rainfall and floods. Notably among the affected suburbs were Adabraka, Darkuman, Kaneshie, and the Kwame Nkrumah Circle.
In fact, this is a clear indication that the country is behind time as far as preparations towards the rainy season are concerned.
Meanwhile, the Ghana Meteorological Department has predicted more rains this year, particularly in the months of June and July.
As humans, there is little we can do to prevent an act of God. But there is more we can do to protect lives, properties, and our environment from the adverse effects of natural disaster.
Some environmental experts have identified human errors, attitudinal and behavioural changes as the main factors that account for torrential disasters in Ghana.
The common causes of floods in Ghanaian communities are improper settlement planning, poor drainage system, indiscriminate disposal of waste, deforestation, choked gutters, and lack of vegetation.
It has become the norm that most drains in Accra and other parts of the country are left open. Unfortunately, people dump refuse and all manner of waste substances into them. A situation that prevents the flow of rainwater.
Social effects of torrential rains
Undoubtedly, the rainy season is the best weather for most Africans in the tropical zone. However, too much of rainwater can cause chaos to developing countries like Ghana if not managed well.
The reggae legend, Bob Marley, made a proverbial statement that “Some people feel the rain, and others just get wet”. How do we find the condition of Accra after an hour of heavy rainfall?
As a matter of fact, the impact of torrential rains and floods has a toll on socio-economic development, the road transport, businesses, the environment, public safety, and agricultural activities.
The amount of money, time, and manpower required to repair the damage caused by the rains cannot be overemphasised. For instance, the June 3 disaster destroyed several properties worth GH¢1,658, 847.00.
More often than not, open drains are filled with sand, stones, used plastics and sometimes human excreta. This, therefore, poses health hazards to the public.
Enforce sanitation laws
Few years ago, the Town and Country Planning Department (TCPD) now under the Ministry of Environment, was very instrumental in ensuring orderliness, public safety, and the health growth of Ghanaian communities.
The Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) started as a Town Council in 1898. The officials of Town Council commanded so much respect at the time, and their operations such as the house-to-house inspection brought some discipline in our communities.
Regrettably, the TCPD and the AMA are not active like they used to be?
It is disgusting that in the 21st Century; people defecate into the ‘Odaw River’ broad daylight and go unpunished while others put up illegal structures on waterways and so forth.
For the benefit of readers, the ‘Odaw River’ is a huge open drain at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra.
It is welcoming news that the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development earmarked the first Saturday of every month as a National Sanitation Day across the country. The day is set aside for every citizen to tidy-up their various surroundings.
The exercise is a laudable initiative, and it is high time Parliament passed the sanitation day law to compel many more people to participate.
In effect, the relevant institutions should put their act together to enforce sanitation laws, so as to promote a healthy environment.
The way forward
Public education and creating awareness of good sanitation practices should be intensified in order to alleviate the adverse effects of torrential rains.
The Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies (MMDAs) should go the extra mile and not hesitate to pull down unapproved structures that endanger the lives of occupants and the community at large.
Other stakeholders including the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and waste management departments should be well resourced to undertake preventive measures prior to every rainy season.
We cannot afford to lose precious lives and property to the rains. At least, there should be a contingency plan to reduce the spate of flood disaster in our cities.
The big question that remains unanswered is whether we are strategically placed for the rains this year. The June 3 disaster is a bitter lesson, and we should not give room for such preventable incidents to recur in the future.
Like a wild animal, the floods can be tamed if we play our cards well and behave responsibly towards the environment.
A stitch in time saves nine, so let’s act now to keep Ghana clean as we begin the month of June. “Prevention is better than cure”, they say.
The writer, ASP James Annan is with the Public Relations Unit of the Ghana Prisons Headquarters.