I have followed your petulant, hasty, yet undaunted efforts at tackling the perennial floods that bedevil our beloved capital city. I have also heard, read and seen the public criticism that you are subjected to, due to your failure to curb this problem. On occasion, I did add my voice to the mass critique of your inability to end this shameful annual drowning ritual.
But today, I shall not be criticizing you, not particularly. Instead, I intend to empathize, and encourage you to speak the painful truth – and by this, I mean you should admit that you’re incapable of solving the problem. This is possibly why you’re running for cover under the umbrella of parliament. But not so quickly, for your dear nephew hasn’t given up on you yet.
So in the spirit of truthfulness and support, I shall make my humble opinions and requests known to you in this open petition. Please spare a minute from combing your rather well manicured beard and read, carefully. For if you gave the flood challenge a bit of the alertness you accord your beard, who knows, we would all have been the better for it. Anyways, that’s just by the way. Let’s get down to brass tacks.Stop the ‘Paapaa’ and Refocus:
My dearest Uncle Oko Rick Ross, the issue of bringing finality to the floods is beyond you. In fact, it is above your pay grade. I will therefore humbly implore you to stop striding across Accra like a colossus each dry season; making promises that you cannot fulfill when the rains eventually come.
Uncle, the other day, I overheard Dr. Stephen Yirenkyi of the Institute of Planners saying that our city lacks proper planning methods and that you still rely on a 1963 blueprint. Is that true? If that is the case, with the population explosion that has occurred for over half a century in this city, how well do you think this plan can serve you for flood preparedness?
Well, let’s put this antiquated plan aside for minute. The experts also tell us that there are eight main drains that flood each year; affecting over a 1,000 residents. So I believe what you do is to go around de-silting and dredging these drains after each drowning ceremony. That perhaps is worthwhile to an extent. But with homes being erected every now and then in water ways, are you sure your dredging exercises are not being undermined? Your officers continue to ubiquitously write in bold red ink ‘stop work’ on structures under construction, but the only thing that actually stops is their visits to these sites once their palms are greased. My darling Uncle ‘Abodwes3’, until this ‘kpakpakpa’ is checked, I say unto you – verily, you shall dredge but you dredge in vain.Bring Back ‘Tankass’
Oh Lest I forget, you haven’t succeeded in ridding our city of filth. The other day, I saw Sister Derby on TV. She was trying to dump rubbish into an already full bin, but because her brother- Kubolor- was already inside the bin; she ended up littering the surroundings. But I can assure you that Sister Derby is the least of your problems. There are several others littering and defecating around in the neighborhoods. Ah, I’m sure you have heard the news. Ghana ranked second in open defecation worldwide. Wow, Africa’s number one Mayor supervises the capital city of a top ranked open defecation country; how about that for a match, Uncle?
But I don’t blame you. You no longer have any town council officers (popularly known as ‘Tankass”). So you wait until the drains are choked and you take our tax money to go and dredge them. Was that the strategy that earned you the best Mayor award? I shudder at the thought. Whatever it is, it is one lousy strategy and it’s only causing cholera and enhancing the floods. We pray you to stop it already! Be proactive; bring back the ‘Tankass’.
Henceforth, get some of those uniformed officers who go around bullying ‘trotro’ drivers and ‘pure water’ sellers in your name to go round and ensure proper sanitation. Without this much needed monitoring effort from the ‘tankass’, Accra may soon singularly top the chart in open defecation. I bet you don’t intend adding that to your remarkable collection of plaques. Do you?Oko, Accra’s Topography is Bad News:
Uncle, even if you manage to ensure proper waste management and planning of the built environment, you know very well that our city is low lying. Its elevation is only up to a 100m at the most I’m told. So there could still be floods. As such, why don’t you sit down with your team and begin to tackle this problem from first principles? I mean begin to look at the ABC of the problem before jumping to D, for Dredging. I believe you have all the experts to take you through this. But you know your nephew, my mouth doesn’t rest, I will continue to say it as it is. I have stated my proposal below. You can consider it if you like, or chuck it into the Korle-Lagoon. It’s all up to you.Putting in My Two Cents:
Uncle Oko, you may go back and pick up that antediluvian blue print of 1963 from off the shelves and dust it up. Sit with your finest planners and try to bring it to date. In fact, make it into a 21st Century plan for Accra. I know elections are around the corner and Uncle John may not be willing to part with more money. But your cousin, Nii Moi, has already been given some cash already for a 50 year plan. Simply go and copy a section of his plan, I mean the part meant for Accra. This way, you can save cost. While at it, try and get a relief map of Accra and study it. This will help you tease out the various flood prone areas of the city into categories of the kind below;
- Areas prone to risk involving loss of life or signi?cant injuries, sizeable damage to property and infrastructure, and signi?cant damage to economic activities.
- Areas prone to risk involving harm to humans and property.
- Areas with minor or limited risks with no direct threat to persons and economic activities.
Uncle, with a clear demarcation like the one above, you can certainly determine areas that should not be used for residential or other infrastructure purposes, or if they are to be used for such a purpose, it must be mandatory that the architecture of the structures conform to a design that can withstand the risks.
From this point, the rest of my prescriptions will involve others outside your fiefdom. You must get Uncle John’s blessing to push for two things;
- You need a Flood Risk Governance legislation to give you the impetus to carry out a holistic and long term change in the planning of Accra. The legislation is needed to protect you from the risk of law suits that may pile up on your table like Dangote’s money; when you set out to rebuild Accra. With this legislation in place, a Risk Prevention and Protection Framework can be developed. This will, among other things, require that residents and businesses in high risk areas are relocated or, if possible, have their buildings adapted to meet the right architectural standards that can withstand the risk indicators.
Nevertheless, don’t jump into action just yet Uncle. When I talk of relocation, please don’t get any ideas of the sort you carried out last year in Sodom and Gomorrah. I don’t mean dawn raids, carried out in Hollywood style military showmanship, where you displace people and crush homes. No, not that. There should be a framework within which all this should be carried out, as I indicated earlier. This would ensure that a proper environmental and socioeconomic impact assessment is carried out in affected areas. When this is done, people will be treated with the decency and respect they deserve in the event of a resettlement.
- Response and Recovery Operations: This is what I think your office, the Police, the Armed Forces, Fire Service and NADMO have been attempting during the past few days. But you see, you don’t have to wait till it is June every year before you start. You have to form a unit with representatives from the various outfits to develop a Civil Protection Mechanism. This way, all year round, you can plan ahead and get short codes ready for use; instead of those long phone numbers you call emergency lines. How can a person in distress have the presence of mind to note all those digits? If you are able to develop this Civil Protection Unit properly, it can work to install a network of advanced early warning and alerting centres, so that those in flood prone areas can move away or be rescued before disaster strikes. Oh, the talk of early warning reminds me of your cousin, Joe Portuphy, and his crew at the Meteo Agency. You need to bring them on board. But please and please again, beg Uncle John to give them ‘noko fio’ to update their obsolete gadgets. Because it appears their forecasts are like Asamoah Gyan’s penalty taking. Only 30% accurate, leaving most Ghanaians with broken hearts 70% of the time. Please let them upgrade or they might as well pack their rickety rain gauges up and close shop. We may be better served by smart phones.
I’d like to end here. But again, don’t renege on forming the Civil Protection Unit, because unless you’re bailed out by the uncertainties of climate change, the floods are sure to repeat next year; and telling you ‘I told you so’ is now clichéd. Oh, but this is a new one, I heard the Canadians have gone a step further to devise a casino game based on our annual floods. How true is that? Can you confirm that from their high commission?
Anyways, my bearded Uncle Oko Rick Ross, I guess I’ve been chattering on for far too long. But please don’t take offence that a ‘small boy’ like me has spoken to you like this in public. However, in the likely event that you do, you’re free to chastise me all you like in the media.
Thank you very much for your audience. I don’t look forward to reading your reply. Rather, I am dying to see action from you, real and sustainable action, pretty soon.
Writing from Chorkor with Love,
Your clean-shaven nephew – Jason Tutu