Once again, the rains are here and we have already started feeling the impact with the annual ritual of devastating floods across the country. The rains are yet to peak, yet the Meteorological Agency is already warning of potential catastrophe ahead.

Listening to radio and TV commentary, it is becoming clear that the Government is now overwhelmed by the gravity of the annual phenomenon and may be losing hope. Communities are also getting frustrated, feeling that they have been failed by Governments of day in seeking to seriously address flooding as a national priority.

Indeed the situation is becoming alarming and bleak. There is therefore the need for a new strategy to ignite confidence in the citizenry. My proposal for the long term is, for the Government to move in to acquire all lands in flood prone areas including encroached low- lying areas for re-engineering. It seems a herculean task, but that is what we have to eventually do if we want to seriously address the menace.

However, the government must as part of its social responsibility, resettle all the residents in such areas. Moving in to demolish and displace residents is not the solution. They all have the right to housing and that must also be a top priority for the Government. Thus, Government must first have a scheme in place to resettle all persons living in flood-prone areas, acquire the lands and then redesign such areas with the view of building flood-resilient structures. Until then, we have to prepare for the annual ritual and rhetoric.

However, in the short term, we have to engage all communities in flood-prone areas to begin flood risk management at the micro-level rather than the over-concentration on the macro level. Communities must have their own flood risk management team, develop flood risk maps and recovery plans. Communities should be empowered to be at the forefront of this risk management approach where they are able to engage themselves regularly on how to adapt and live with the condition for now.

Here MPs, Assemblymen and Chiefs within such communities would have to play an active leadership role in community mobilisation towards building a common vision for an integrated flood risk management at the local level. This may help manage the situation for now especially in reducing the impact. It will also help in preparing the communities to become major stakeholders in the country’s flood risk management approach.

Last year, I suggested that we need a Flood Control Act and I still emphasise this point. Current building regulations and codes offer limited guidelines and are limited in scope. The Act will help elevate flooding, as a national issue, regulate many aspects of construction and civil engineering with respect to the provision of flood resilient construction and highlight the responsibilities of the players and community members, which of course would now be backed by law.

We need not wait any longer, the earlier we embark on very strategic and pragmatic efforts, the better it will be for all of us in the quest to see some relief and hope. Otherwise, we shall be having this conversation every year on and that will dampen our confidence, as people who have the knack to solve problems.

The author, Prof Divine Ahadzie, is the Head of the Centre For Settlements Studies at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).