By: Nana Sifa Twum, a Media & Communications Consultant
It is becoming increasingly worrying as a country to just talk, and complain about flooding without meaningful and pragmatic measures for a permanent solution. Ghana over 65 years, has woefully, experienced flooding, in some cases after torrential rains. Unfortunately, this avoidable scene continues to happen, always resulting in the loss of lives and property. This year, the disastrous occurrence is, here again, the woes have been experienced, and the tears have flown again. The consolation messages from the authorities have been read, with official tours to affected areas. The National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) as usual has been quick to respond and the media always ready to tell the miserable stories. Reports have it that “Ghana has a serious flood problem”. For more than 50 years, floods have affected about five million people, resulting in economic consequences exceeding 780 million dollars. At least one major flood disaster has occurred every year over the past decade.”
It appears the problem of flooding is gradually becoming a National Security and economic issue rather than an environmental one. This is because of the number of deaths and the level of destruction of property. Two years ago, NADMO was reported to have confirmed five people dead after torrential rains in Accra, one of whom was electrocuted. Ghana, has over the years suffered severe flood disasters, and the one that readily comes to mind is the loss of more than 150 lives at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle on 3rd June 2015. Floods in Ghana have severely caused a disturbing impact on people’s health safety leading to the destruction of properties and livelihood. Last Saturday’s downpour in the capital, resulted in citizens being displaced and some of them losing their properties. The big question, therefore, is what have been the lessons learnt, if any, from these flooding and disasters?
In fact each year, the rains vastly expose the deficiencies in the country’s poor and repulsive town and country planning not to talk about the drainage system. Authorities and citizens are all responsible for the unfortunate and avoidable happenings yearly, by way of, rain disasters. Truth be told, the onus rests on the authorities. Much as we all condemn the behaviour of the citizens with respect to their attitude towards the environment, one would also ask about the authority’s position and action in terms of discipline and the strict application of the laws. The greatest danger is perhaps not poverty nor disease but rather unprecedented civil obedience. The submission of individual conscience to governmental authority has been our bane as a country and such disobedience has led to the horrors we reap. The nation’s responsibility concerning environmental protection has been laid down in our statutory books.
Specifically, the basis of Environmental Policy in Ghana is grounded in Article 36(9) of the 1992 Constitution. The Direct Principles of State Policy place a responsibility on every Ghanaian and the government to protect and safeguard the environment for posterity. Who is implementing what? Who cracks the whip? The good old book, the Bible says, “for lack of knowledge my people perish,” but I will say for lack of political will my people perish. Poor town and country planning and development by the authorities and poor attitude towards the environment could be easily identified as the primary causes of this problem, which appear to be out of control. It is clear that organisations which are responsible for strengthening Disaster Prevention and Response Mechanisms” have done very little or nothing in this area.
For example, the MMDAs appear to be the worst culprits in this respect. By-laws on environment and planning are too relaxed. Officials sit aloof for citizens to flout the laws with impunity. What is left to be done is to vigorously crack the whip. There is therefore an urgent need to engage in a thorough plan to curb this once and for all. An American author, film director, philosopher and poet, Suzy Kassem once said “ Fear the vulture, and the vulture will come. Fear nothing, and you are the vulture.” Everyone is now vulnerable to flooding as it can cause the death of anyone at any time. For how long would we as a nation continue to put the lives of others in danger? Let us act now to solve this once and for all and stop the pretense of solving the problems.