This year, flood incidence has been rather widespread. It started in June when the Central Business District of Kumasi got flooded including parts of the Oforikrom Municipality where a fifty-year-old woman lost her life while crossing a wooden bridge.
The usual incidence of flooding in Accra, the capital city also followed including the popular Kasoa stretch. There was also news of some flooding in parts of Ho in the Volta Region and later Cape Coast in the Central Region and then Sunyani in the Bono Region.
Generally, flood incidence in the southern part of the country is not a surprising event, since the June-July period is normally the peak of the rain. However, the period from September to November has also particularly in this year, witnessed what could be described as unusual heavy rains and flooding. It started in the Upper West Region where the road network was destroyed, cutting off whole communities.
Then came the news of flooding in the Northern regional capital, Tamale, Chere in the North East Region, Daboya in the Savanna region and then Bolgatanga in the Upper East region. Koforidua, the Eastern regional capital also recently had its own share. Techiman in the Bono East region also recently has cities and conurbations experiencing flooding in October this year. Then only this week, on the 7th November, 2021, we experienced one of the worst coastal floods in the Keta and Ketu Municipality of the Volta region.
The statistics is striking as almost every part of the country has experienced flooding. Indeed, it appears that flooding has been experienced in cities and/or conurbations in 13 out of the 16 regions, which should be alarming. What is also striking is that, while the October/November floods in the Northern part of the country may be unusual at this period of the year, cities in the Southern part again experienced repeated incidents in a period that should normally be the minor raining season, that is, from September to November.
What does this mean for our flood risk management strategies going into the future? The literature suggests that, warmer climate increases the risks of floods. Is it the case that the impact of climate change is being felt? According to a published article in NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE, flooding exposure is expected to increase all around the world as a result of climate change.
It is further argued that cities and conurbations in developing countries are more vulnerable for reasons that are well- known. What is also worrying is that, while developing countries are deemed to be the most vulnerable, relatively little has been done in the uptake of integrated, sustainable and effective flood risk management solutions.
Given that, the incidence of flooding has been so widespread across the country this particular year, there is the need to begin to have a rethink of our Disaster Management Approach. The signs are obviously clear that the threat is escalating while at the same time our preparedness is not matching up.
The triple action plan for flood risk management is defences and protection; early warning systems and evacuation; adaptation and community action. This triple-action plan must go hand-in-hand in an integrated manner, if we are to make the desired effort in reducing the risk. Currently, our situation in Ghana looks like this: defences and protection are largely not in place yet; we are unprepared when it comes to early warning systems and evacuation; we are yet to begin the discourse on adaptation and community engagement.
The irony is that, it is not like there are no best practices out there to fall on. There are now growing plethora of research materials on flood risk management in Ghana and beyond that should help provide useful guidelines to support our flood risk management plans.
There are also many country case studies that should be important lessons for us. Flooding was for instance the leading natural disaster in the US in the 20thcentury responsible for numerous casualties and devastations. What did they do? They provided more autonomy to institutions by establishing the Flood Control Act, which among others gave powers to the US ARMY corps to be responsible for the design and construction of flood-control projects. Community engaged flood risk management was also encouraged and empowered.
The UK also suffered similar devastating floods in 1953 that inundated over 240,000 homes and killed over 300 people. Again in 2007, there was severe floods in the UK that engineered the largest rescue effort in Britain since the second world war. Several initiatives where to follow in the UK which was later elevated to the Flood and Water Management Act of 2010. Here in Ghana, it is clear that, even though the NADMO might be doing their possible best within their mandate, they are currently overwhelmed by the escalating nature of flood disasters and would not to be able to handle severe flood situations.
The earlier we think of reforms, the better for us. At a time that the Hydrological Bill is in parliament, it offers us the opportunity to have a very serious broad-based discourse in how to empower an authority with much powers and swiftness to deal with future escalating incidents. Given that warmer climate is likely to lead to frequent and more devastating floods, there is the need for increasing attention towards improving predictions and building resilient communities in our societies. Future floods may also severely disrupt the limited network of infrastructure we have, as independent assets for economic development.
Future infrastructure and building construction would therefore have to focus on promoting FLOOD RESILIENCE CONSTRUCTION TECHNOLOGIES. This has implication for the requirement of appropriate Building Codes, which are current lacking. Thus, there is indeed a lot to be done in putting the appropriate legal, organizational and structural regimes in place in the pursuit of sustainable and effective flood risk management agenda for the country.
The very recent bruhaha in parliament is perhaps a “timely prompt” of the real challenges ahead, should the Nation experience simultaneous flooding of our cities and/or conurbations, which is a possibility that cannot be ruled out as a result of climate change.
Consensus building is obviously the way forward, as the road ahead is highly uncertain and could be rough indeed. With community engaged flood risk management being the preferred mode in the 21st century, our MPs have an obligation to unite all of us towards fully embracing the concept at our local levels and it obviously start from the August house, parliament.