Perennial floods: Enact laws, introduce flood risk management in schools – KNUST Professor

Perennial floods: Enact laws, introduce flood risk management in schools – KNUST Professor
Source: Ghana | Myjoyonline.com | Jerry Tsatro Mordy | Email: jerry.mordy@myjoyonline.com | Twitter:@jerrymordy
Date: 26-06-2018 Time: 07:06:30:am
Prof. Divine Ahadzie says the nation is now at a crises point with flood hazards.

An expert in housing construction and flood risk management says it is high time Ghanaians accepted flooding as a part of their lives and adapt to it.

Professor Divine Ahadzie, who is head of Centre for Settlements Studies, College of Art and Built Environment at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), says accepting that flooding is inevitable will lead to the institution of measures to effectively tackle it in the long term.

According to him, the measures that will be instituted will cause people to understand the behavioural attitudes needed to mitigate the worst effects of flooding.

Many parts of the country, particularly Greater Accra and Central and Volta Regions have over the years seen devastating floods leading to loss of lives and property.

This has mostly been the results of under resourced state institutions to put up defences in flooded areas coupled with people’s lack of knowledge about simple safety precautions whenever there is flooding.

Several promises by government to find lasting solution to the perennial problem have been met with the lack of funds. 

The issue has found its way back to major media discussions after last Monday's floods killed a young 32-year-old female doctor, Aya Hayfron, who recently completed her housemanship at Ridge Hospital.

The late Dr. Aya Hayfron

Read: Body of missing doctor found after husband cried ‘please help me find my wife’

Prof. Ahadzie in an article copied to Myjoyonline.com, observes that the existence of flood defences alone cannot be full proof for flood prevention, as sometimes, flood defences can fail under excessive pressure.  

Prof. Divine Ahadzie

He suggests, there is now the need for flood risk management curriculum to be developed and introduced into the educational system in Ghana, even from the basic school level.

“It is therefore refreshing to note that, the NADMO [National Disaster Management Organisation] in the wake of the recent events are now highlighting community awareness and engagement towards new adaptation and mitigation strategies,” he said.

“It is high time we accepted that we are now going to live with flooding and it is better we begin to put in measures to understand the risk involved and the behavioural attitudes needed to adapt and also mitigate the worst effects,” he added.

The full article by Prof. Divine Ahadzie is published below:

NEED FOR FLOOD CONTROL ACT and POLICY TO INTRODUCE FLOOD RISK MANAGEMENT INTO EDUCATIONAL CURRICLUM FROM THE BASIC LEVEL

By Professor Divine Ahadzie, Head, Centre for Settlements Studies, College of Art and Built Environment, KNUST

Once again the rains are here and as usual the regular rhetoric has begun, but we all know where it will end. We shall be back next year with the same discussion. Naturally, the emphasis of the discourse has mostly focussed on lack of appropriate structural measures which obviously is the biggest challenge to Government. However, increasingly global financial difficulties implies that government is not likely to be able to raise the much needed funds for major flood defences in all affected parts, depicted by the regular promise and fail. Moreover, the existence of flood defences alone cannot be full proof for flood prevention, as sometimes, flood defences can fail under excessive pressure.  

It is therefore refreshing to note that, the NADMO in the wake of the recent events are now highlighting community awareness and engagement towards new adaptation and mitigation strategies. This is the position that we have adopted at the Centre for Settlements Studies, KNUST over the last year in a study seeking to engender community resilience to flood hazards.  Thus, there is now the urgent need for resources to be equally challenged to promote social responsibility as an alternative to building resilient communities in flood prone areas.

It is high time we accepted that, we are now going to live with flooding and it is better we begin to put in measures to understand the risk involved and the behavioural attitudes needed to adapt and also mitigate the worst effects. In the short term, we wish to suggest that, all communities in flood-prone areas should organise regular public fora as a matter of urgency to take their destiny into their own hands on what measures they can put in place to help adapt to the situation; before, during and after floods. Here, the essence is for the community to initiate and own whatever plans they agree on and make sure systems are in place for them to work. In the medium term, we also suggest that, there is now the need for flood risk management curriculum to be developed and introduced into the educational system in Ghana, even from the Basic school level.

It must be accepted that, flooding is now the most devastating natural hazard confronting the nation and we need robust behavioural change to help build resilience in communities. Currently, we are all ill-prepared in terms of the knowledge base including simple safety measures and precautions to take, before, during and after flooding. We, therefore, call for vigorous and comprehensive educational policies at all levels of our educational system as part of an integrated flood risk management approach. In this respect, we also think that it should now be mandatory for all schools to start teaching our children basic swimming lessons and associated life –saving skills. These suggestions here, may seem long term, however, if we start now, it will put us on a strong path in building a resilient society, so that we would be able to minimise some of the avoidable tragedies of flooding.

As it is now, we are not sure of the regulatory measures in place for flood control in this country. While some measures may exist, it appears they are scattered in different regulatory documents, serving the objectives of different organizations albeit ineffectively. Our view is that, the threat from flood hazards is going to be a crucial developmental challenge and there is now an urgent need to have a Flood Control Act to help bring the seemingly scattered regulations under one umbrella to guide all flood risk management activities in the country. This suggests that, we would need to make the fight against flooding a national priority by also establishing a Flood Control Authority that will oversee the implementation and enforcement of an integrated flood risk management in the country including aspects relating to flood resilient construction and adaptation.

The fact is that we as Nation are now at a crises point with flood hazards.  We, therefore, need to take a cue from the US, which when in the early 20th century faced similar problems, enacted such an Act and gave powers to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take control of the design and construction of flood-projects with the requirement for local community involvement. Luckily for us, the NADMO is already collaborating with many other organizations including the 48 Engineers Regiment of Ghana. Thus, we already have a resource base that can quickly be transformed into a Flood Control Authority to oversee and enforce a more proactive and pragmatic integrated flood risk management regime in the country.  The national threat of flooding to our socio-economic survival is real and the time to act is now.

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