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The rains are here again, floods anticipated

Thu, 5 May 2011 Source: GNA

A GNA Feature by Paul Achonga Kwode

Tamale, May 4, GNA - Rainy season is an annual affair in Ghana but i= ts pattern differs from one geographical area to the other. While it may rain throughout the year in Axim in the Western Region, the same cannot be said for the northern parts of the country where there are fewer months of rain followed by long periods of drought.

Rainy season is the most important season for brisk farming activities across the country since most of the agricultural activities are mainly rain-fed and therefore marks the beginning of sowing of new crops, greening of grasses for animal grazing among others. It can therefore be inferred that without a rainy season, the country may not be able to feed itself and may perish.

The season is not mainly for agricultural activities, it is also a season where rain water harvesting is done by collecting rain water and storing it for future use, dams replenish their water capacity during the raining season while habitats including humans enjoy the season because of the cool weather which makes people feel better and sleep well. Rainy season begins in the northern regions between April and May and ends in October and November while in the Ashanti Region, there are two rainy seasons. The major rainy season starts in March, with a major pick in May. There is a slight dip in July and a pick in August, tapering off in November. December to February is dry, hot, and dusty. Average annual rainfall of 1270mm is recorded. The Northern part records an average rainfall of between 750 mm and 1050 mm.

Notwithstanding the blessings the rains bring, the havoc associated with their annual arrival left in their wake loss of life and property. Floods in 2007 and 2010 resulted in the destruction of school buildings, farms, homes and the loss of lives and the displacement of thousands of others. Livestock were not left out.

A report from the government showed that about 332,600 people were affected and caused the death of 56 people. Some 35,000 houses, 1,500 kilometres of road and hectares of crops were destroyed and the government called for international assistance.

The 2007 floods did not affect Ghana only but also other African countries and according to the United Nations, it was one of the worst floods in recorded history.

In Ghana, 24 persons died in June 2010 in the Volta and the Greater Accra regions and Agona Swedru in Central Regions. School buildings, roads and farms were destroyed.

The Upper East, Upper West and the Northern regions as usual were the worst affected. About 170,000 persons were reported to have been displaced leaving several others impoverished.

Memories of the Central Gonja floods still lingers in the minds of the people since many of them had still not recovered from the disaster. Seventeen people were said to have been killed in the three northern regions.

There are indications there would be heavy rains this year and the Meteorological Services Department has issued warnings that there would be heavy rains, thunder storms and strong winds. The country does not need to do a piecemeal exercise on an annual basis by telling people living in low laying areas to move to higher ground.

Most of the floods that occur in the northern regions were as a result of the opening of the Bagre and Kompienga dams in Burkina Faso. To prevent the devastating effects of floods in the country, demolition of structures along waterways must be encouraged while a strategic national policy on how to deal with floods must be considered.

The Upper East Regional Minister, Mr. Mark Wayongo, last year suggested that a dam should be built in the Upper East Region to take in water spilled from the Bagre and the Kompienga dams in the Burkuina Faso.

Such a dam will not only reduce the flooding but serve as an economic gain for farmers who would use the water for dry season farming. In Ghana and in most African countries, flooding can be prevented if citizens and governments are committed to policies on environmental issues and protection of water bodies.

Dams must be designed wholly or partially to prevent floods. Rivers pron= e to floods must be carefully managed and levees, bunds, reservoirs and weirs must be built as were built in Humber River in Toronto to prevent floods.

Columnist: GNA