Accra Will Flood Again Next Year!!

Wed, 5 Aug 2009 Source: Boadi-Danquah, Eugene

Growing up in Ghana, perennial floods have become a thing we simply have to marry up with for convenience; though in recent times, its intensity has reduced in the capital, smaller communities outside Accra have joined the trend of facing up to this non-forgiving plague.

As a country, we are gradually beginning to accept flooding as only solvable by a huge government budget, that will either compromise some other developmental project, or leave a hefty mortgage debt for our children to grow up to pay or as the tradition goes, for our children to beef it up more for their children to pay.

Sometimes I wonder why Dr.Nkrumah spent money building KNUST, when as a country we cannot utilise fundamental engineering principles to solve the problem of flooding without thinking of huge budgets. Every year when the whistle is blown for the contention with floods to commence, it quickly registers as an opportune moment to start awarding contracts. In fact, natural disasters have become the spring board for wide-mouthed contractors to attaining their lifetime ambition of robbing the country of its tax cedis. Does now surprise anyone that Hon. Joe Gidisu had already awarded contracts to contractors immediately after floods? Does it surprise anyone that Dr.Hannah Bisiw (Dep. Works and Housing Minister) announced that government had allocated $25million to combat flooding in some parts of Accra. Yes, $25 million. For people who do not appreciate this budget, it is equivalent to a 6-classroom unit in all 230 constituencies of Ghana or 1 New Regional Hospital in all 10 regions. But these funds are just on top of what Hon. Joe Gidisu is demanding as payment to contractors for their interim solutions or remediation work that was done.

As I have always tried to do, for government officials who do not necessarily appreciate the use of simple but holistic solutions for complex challenges, I will try here now, to tell all of Hon. Joe Gidisu, Hon. Albert Abongo and Dr. Hannah Bissiw how to put a permanent end to flooding anywhere in Ghana, without as always, looking around for Government money to spend. I do this in owing to my belief that this country belongs to all of us, and with our little contributions here and there, we can all help lift the image of our country up. This proposal will cost Ghanaian Taxpayers $0.000 for the 2009-2010 financial year, in fact it will surprisingly even put money in the pockets of some Ghanaians artisans, while solving two pertinent problems; flooding and water shortage. ‘’For the sake of readers, construction of new culverts will help mitigate circumstances, but it will NOT ensure efficient aqua management to address water shortages, it will cost our country too much and is never EVER enough if there are no efficient means to direct stormwater flow into them’’ Before I even outline this, Joe Gidisu, Albert Abongo and Hannah Bissiw; by the end of this week, send a bill to parliament to BAN all future construction of open concrete drainage channels...like NOW! I just could not bring myself to terms with the fact that this drainage option costs way more than laying buried PVC drain pipes yet that is most often our choice for drainage. It was recently that I came to understand why we do not employ the use of buried PVCs and readers, you will be surprised at the reason.

When one employs the use of buried PVC pipes, there is the need for a civil engineer to design and supervise how to grade the slopes of the area so that run-off is all directed into it. It does not behave the least like our conventional ‘gutters’ which would more or less ‘prostitutes’ all flowing liquid within its vicinity. For crying out loud, KNUST passes out an average of 150 new civil engineers each year ; this design is so fundamental, a 2ND year civil engineering can do. I am not here to give an engineering lecture, so I will go straight to the point. Open concrete ‘gutters’ have an extraordinarily high tendency to trap rubbish when uncontrolled, and choke up as compared to properly designed buried PVCs interspersed with catchpit manholes. They breed mosquitoes, cause malaria; they are an eyesore and are the least efficient but most expensive surface drainage option. Their only advantage is they are good for lazy minds, who do not want to spend time assessing a drainage data, and just want to put something in for the sake of it! Ban open drainage channels (‘gutters’) NOW!

While that ban is on, let us make it compulsory for each building to have a rainwater downpipe linked to a proper roof gutter system.(This should be compulsory on ALL buildings) This does not cost much, but surprisingly, it will save us more than 50% of whatever we propose to spend on controlling flooding in the future. For the sake of non-technical readers; when it rains, let us consider 40% as dropping on our roofs and 60% as dropping directly on hard ground. When one has a rainwater downpipe linked to a roof gutter the chaos of the 40% running off the roof to join the 60% which already puts open drains and culverts at its mercy is arrested.

Once this arrest of 40% of all rain water falling in Accra is made, homeowners have two choices, if you have an underground tank or a well in your house, you can direct the rainwater downpipe into it but if you are as wasteful as most of us are, that water can be channelled into the nearest storm water sewer or ‘gutter’; the most important thing is that that 40% of water falling on roofs is kept under control. We just should not allow it to run off on to the supposed ‘waterways’ which is another lazy engineering option for curbing water flow. We do not need technical minds to assess what the implications are if as a country, we are all able to keep 40% of rainwater under control. This is a 1st step, once again without considering using $3.5million or $25million but rather adopting simple engineering and management practises. This is not just hypothetical, it is what every country which is serious about curbing the flood menace while at the same time ensuring safer aqua management practises does. There are a lot more that go with these steps, but these are very fundamental, that have to be right before we start talking about spending huge monies on construction; either for the goodwill of Ghanaians or for greasing the palms of wide-mouthed contractors.

Once these are right, the Honourables can contact me for phase two of this comprehensive scheme, which deals with paving and is free of charge to mother Ghana or as usual, they can dismiss everything I have proposed!

"The best way to eat the elephant standing in your path is to cut it up into little pieces."

-- African Proverb

Boadi-Danquah (ebdanquah.blogspot.com) eb00026@surrey.ac.uk

Columnist: Boadi-Danquah, Eugene