A sorrowful dark evening filled with pain and anguish it was, four years ago, when the twin Fire and Flood Disaster hit the heart of the nation, Accra.
About 160 people lost their lives while a lot more others lost their livelihoods and maimed for their entire lives owing to the heavy downpour witnessed at the then infamous Goil Fuel Station at the then Kwame Nkrumah Circle.
Many workers and traders alike who had closed from work – seeking shelter after seeing the dark clouds and thereafter the heavy rains – have transitioned into eternity untimely.
In this piece, I examine whether or not significant steps have been taken to avert any such calamity in the near future as similar statements have been made by government officials in the then NDC government led by John Mahama and the current government led by Nana Akufo Addo.
A day after the tragedy, President John Mahama and other government officials and security agencies toured the city to assess the extent of damage and to console families who lost loved ones due to the tragedy.
Nearly 50,000 residents were affected according to Ghana business.com with the cost of damage pegged at 55 million dollars.
A World Bank report estimated that the cost of reconstruction was at $105 million in the transport, housing and water sectors of the economy.
Calls heightened for the resignation of the then Accra mayor, Alfred Oko Vanderpuije for what many described as the dereliction of duty on his side.
The then government declared a 3-day national mourning to observe solemnly what had befallen the nation.
“Government has started clearing all the illegal structures obstructing our waterways. The relevant authorities are being enjoined to ensure compliance with the safety codes for buildings and the enforcement of our sanitation by-laws.
“We have commenced an urgent clearance of filth and waste from our storm drains and lagoons. We have also commenced the design and implementation of a more adequate and efficient drainage system for Accra. In addition, funds have been provided for the reconstruction of the roads and other public infrastructure that were destroyed by the floods,” said John Mahama on June 11, 2015.
A committee was subsequently put together to investigate the cause of the disaster and as part of their recommendations, the following steps were to be taken to avert any atrocities to befall the nation.
“The committee recommends among others a complete dredging of the Odaw drain, as well as a ban on the use of plastics as carrier bags, a standardised training, certification and licensing of fuel station attendants, the creation of sanitation police, compulsory fitting of all commercial vehicles with refuse baskets or bins and equipping of disaster managers with the requisite tools to effectively handle disasters.”
Four years down the line, many of these actions remain unimplemented aside the construction of the new Kwame Nkrumah Interchange in 2016 which has not caused much change in that part of the city regarding flooding. As karma would have it, the refuse we threw into the gutters have come back to us in 2016, 2017, 2018 and this year, 2019.
The irresponsibility on the part of both government and the citizenry is causing the nation millions of Cedis which could be channeled into other developmental projects.
Would you not agree with me that the seeming dredging of the Odaw [by Dredgemasters] without any other concrete steps to curb refilling the river with filth is but nothing?
This was evident in 2016 as the news headlines read: “30 dramatic photos as Accra sinks in floods again,” said Myjoyonline.com with “Accra devastated by floods again,” also coming in from Citinewsroom.com
In 2017, and this time round under a different government led by Akufo Addo, same scripts were read by the city authorities without any concrete action to put an end to the extent of flooding in the nation’s capital.
In 2017, a headline by Myjoyonline read; “Early morning rains flood Accra, Kumasi.” It must be said that so many other news stories, on the same issue, were carried out by media houses in the country.
That was when there was the realization that only the people in charge of the city had changed but not the empty talks of curbing perennial floods.
As predictable as the ritual journey of the sun from the east to the west, the rains came in April this year and President Akuffo Addo made similar statements John Mahama made in 2015.
“The news of the death of 12 persons in the recent flooding that hit our nation’s capital is very sad. My sincere condolences to the families of the deceased,” the President said.
He also outlined some interventions to counter the flooding that claimed the lives.
“GH¢197 million has been released to the Ministry of Works and Housing to desilt choked drains, the contracts for the works have been awarded, and are ongoing.
“Beyond addressing issues of infrastructure, our attitudes towards sanitation have to change as well, in order to help tackle the problem of the perennial flooding of Accra. Every effort is being made by the public authorities to deal with this problem.”
After the floods on Wednesday, a representative of the Ghana Meteorological Agency Joseph Portuphy, who is the Head of Forecasting, announced that there is a planned World Bank Project christened the Greater Accra Resilient project [GARI project] to re-engineer Accra.
The first phase of the said project is expected to have a disbursement of 200 million dollars which will make provisions for early warning systems by the Ghana Meteorological Agency for the safety of the citizenry, to create storm drains to collect enough running water within the city, and a sanitation project to frantically tackle the issue.
It is my fervent prayer that this time round, drastic efforts would be made by all concerned to help bring an end to this issue.
Though government is seen to be failing to honor its promises, we as citizens must also commit ourselves to making sure that refuse is well disposed so much so that it would not become an obstacle to the drains to be constructed.
Two days ago, I learnt representatives of the two main political parties were arguing on a morning show about the statistics of death and destruction after the floods this year as compared to the years passed under the John Mahama government. Really?
It beats my imagination how people sink into the valley of crippling irrationalism in the name of political party loyalty.
History would wonder why we were not up to task in tackling the challenge of the perennial flooding in Accra and many other parts of the country.
I lament over our inaction and I pity the “poor” residents of the flood-prone areas.
I only hope that a year from now, much change would be seen in the capital city, Accra.
By Evans Aziamor-Mensah
The writer is a student of Ghana Institute of Journalism