We are in the month of May and in Ghana, the major raining season with its associated annual floods have started. And as usual, in urban areas like Accra and Kumasi – livelihoods, property, economic infrastructure and lives are being impacted, in some instances mercilessly involving loss of lives.
Over the years, individuals and households have been coping by relocating, while at the national level, construction of various sizes of drains have been key in addressing flood related risks. Some members of the public contend that these coping strategies have not being generally effective in reducing the impact of floods on affected population, properties and facilities.
So, then how can Ghana’s national flood disaster risk reduction and management strategies be best enhanced to ensure that floods are prevented where possible; while interventions provided for community adaptation are effective?
To this end, a consortium comprising Germany and Ghana based institutions have been working together since July 2020, under the PARADeS project. It involved participatory assessment of flood related disaster prevention and development of an adapted coping system in Ghana, aimed at contributing to enhancing Ghana’s national flood disaster risk reduction and management strategy.
The consortium is led by the team at the Chair of Forest and Environmental Policy of the University of Freiburg, Germany in partnership with West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL), Water Resources Commission, (WRC) and National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) Ghana, the Bundesamt für Bevölkerungsschutz und Katastrophenhilfe (BBK), and the Maria Sibylla Merian Institute for Advanced Studies in Africa (MIASA), University of Ghana, Legon.
The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funded the PARADeS project. It has so far collaborated with some Metropolitan and District Assemblies to investigate key mechanisms such as the drivers, pressures, status, impact, response as well as the existing flood risk management policies and nature of human-water interaction in flood prone areas of Accra, Kumasi and the White Volta Catchment areas of the Volta River Basin.
Following their findings, the consortium has modeled hydrological and flood scenarios, developed action plans and products including flood information systems (FIS), community flood labeling and emergency response measures towards flood disaster risks reduction and management in the three pilot areas.
These were presented at a two-day workshop from April 19 to 20, 2023, in Accra to disseminate preliminary results and train trainers on the products. Participants at the workshop included the core team members from Germany and Ghana as well as other relevant stakeholders including water resources managers, disaster risks reduction, civil engineers, physical planners and the media.
One significant result is the identification of the potential damage of a flood hazard on critical infrastructure like power plants and communication information facilities, and how the risks cascade and impact power supply for hospitals and other sensitive infrastructure.
The workshop also marked the beginning of enhanced networking and intensified collaboration of a flood risk community in Ghana for strengthened flood prevention and effective response.
Later in an interview, leader of the Working Group on Ecohydrology in Water Resources Management and UNESCO Chair in Human Water Systems, Prof. Dr. Mariele Evers of the University of Bonn, explained that the Flood Information System is an all-inclusive package covering website content, leaflets and video clips.
“These will support experts and decision makers in decision making and identification of plausible effective measures,” she said, and hinted that “by December 2023 the products will be handed over to the Ghana based institutions.”
Dr. Evers added that the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research would be happy to see the publication of the interesting research results and their application in Ghana.
The Director of Climate and Disaster Risks Reduction at NADMO, Mrs. Charlotte Norman, was particularly excited about the flood labeling tool product of the PARADeS project. “It entails labelling of houses in in accordance with whether they are in danger from floods and the level of danger, whether they are resilient structures or not. So that people who go to live in those areas, understand what risks they are taking,” she explained.
In an exclusive interview, Mrs. Norman described the labelling tool as “little babe steps we’re taking that will go a long way to contribute towards building a flood resilient Ghana. Therefore, we’re looking at ways that the Assemblies would adapt them, so that the tool will be useful not only in Accra, but nationwide.”
She said the findings would serve as a two-edged sword for NADMO to implement the objectives of the PARADeS project and fulfil its organisational mandates of sensitising flood endangered communities on the risks hazards they face, and encouraging them to move to safe areas.
The Chief Basin Officer of the WRC, Dr. Mawuli Lumor, expressed satisfaction with the products from the project, as it has provided invaluable data and lessons that feed into the mandate of the Commission as the regulator of freshwater resources and coordinator of associated activities.
He said the major task is for the Ghana Team to develop a dissemination plan to sensitise flood prone communities on some of the key products, especially flood labeling, to empower them to make decisions that will safeguard their lives, property and houses.
An urban planner with the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority (LUSPA) and a member of the Ghana Institution of Planners, Cecilia Acheampong, reiterated the importance of the findings of the project as very necessary for planners. “It will help us in planning in terms of urban and general land use, by providing us with data to plan and make decisions.”
From the model presented on buffer zone protection, she was optimistic that “if we are able to protect the buffer of water bodies, infrastructure like bridges and other sensitive facilities will be protected. And this will impact positively on the economies of the individual and that of the nation at large.”
For his part, Ign. Philip Samini of the Upper East Regional office of the Ghana Highway Authority, praised the results of the project, saying, “The data generated, for instance on flood identification zones within the Volta Basin is very good and very important for engineering design.”
He opined that a flood is not necessarily a bad event, so we can withstand. and listed its advantages as providing alluvia soils for crop production and abundant water that fills reservoirs like the Akosombo Dam for sustainable hydro power generation.
“So, what we need to do, is to manage our flood advantages and disadvantages together and we shall have a lovely country. If we want to ran away from floods, our engineering input must be appropriate – designing and constructing culverts, bridges, gutters or large open drains and water reservoirs where they are required and can carry the volumes of water that come with extreme rainfalls.”
Ign. Samini also called for the cessation of all forms of encroachment on forest and wildlife reserves, as they serve as rainwater catchment areas and therefore help to reduce the incidence of floods.
By Ama Kudom-Agyemang