Rains are usually expected in May/June in many parts of Ghana but they don’t usually cause these massive destructions. Some even argue that these are isolated cases. But, these incidents highlight the need to rethink our building plans, permit issuance and a strong view on climate change.
This is just the latest in succession of flooding in Ghana. In May, the entire community in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis was submerged rendering all residents homeless following a heavy downpour. In Tema, dozens of homes were filled with rain water which rose to several feet high forcing residents to evacuate. In Ho, a five-year-old boy was found dead after a heavy downpour. On June 3, a twin disaster of flood and fire killed 153 people in Accra, the biggest disaster in the nation’s history.
Rains are usually expected in May/June in many parts of Ghana but they don’t usually cause these massive destructions. Some even argue that these are isolated cases. But, these incidents highlight the need torethink our building plans, permit issuance and a strong view on climate change.
Poor urban planning
Rapid urbanization and its attendant activities have been identified as one of the major causes of flooding in Ghana’s major cities.
As more and more rural folks move to the cities, buildings are springing up in areas otherwise known as the ‘forest belt’ or ‘green belt.’ The green belt act as cover against erosion, heavy downpour and harsh weather.
As the green belt depletes, the environment becomes exposed to harsh climatic conditions.
A research on ‘flooding in Accra’ claims housing development has in some cases come into close proximity to streams and other primary drainage facilities and/or led to the almost total devegetation of hill slopes. Such stream channels have been rendered incapable of coping with the high volume of runoff generated during storms, which invariably carries large amounts of silt.
Warning of more rains
Ghana’s problem with flooding is not because we have not been warned about heavy downpour but how we dismiss warnings from the Ghana Meteorological Service Department.
The agency is poorly equipped and uses old-fashioned instruments to measure the weather. That notwithstanding, the men and women working there, are defying all odds to produce excellent weather predictions.
After the June 3 disaster, Meteo has increased it engagement with the public through statements and media interviews to prevent another disaster. In 2016, the agency predicted more rains and warned against fast moving water. This year, the agency has said its forecasts indicate an amount of rainfall above average.
It has predicted that the pattern is likely to continue as the country is currently at the peak of the rainy season. Another worrying prediction is that there would also be long dry spells, especially over the coastal areas.
The agency is an indispensable institution, we must begin to change the narrative. It is the only credible institution we can rely on for weather information, for example, in agric planning, in building and on climate change policy.
The benefits of flooding
Flooding will continue to wreak havoc if we don’t find innovative ways to deal with it. It may be difficult to determine where will get flooded but the pattern of recent flooding gives enough clue.
However, flooding is not bad as we think. When dammed, flooding could serve a useful purpose for farmers and people in the agricultural sector.
Multiple write-ups on the benefits of flooding say it provides nutrients to the soil that were lacking, It makes the soil more fertile and increases the agricultural production.
In addition, an article on the advantages and disadvantages of flooding published on Onlinesciences claims floods improve the health of the fishes that can be consumed , There may be the relocation of fishes and the organisms living in the water bodies , The flooding may improve the ecosystem , New predators and prey are introduced to the areas , balancing the aquatic population.
Educating the community about flooding is important, and could be the most significant step toward dealing with it. Admittedly, it is a natural disaster and human intervention may have little impact.
But talking to people about the dangers of building in waterways, the need to construct proper gutters and the need to plant trees can help. In addition, people should be educated on how to evacuate to safe areas in the event of flooding.
This can be achieved by involving the people at the bottom at the forefront. The top-down decision-making approach has proved to less useful.