Addressing perennial flooding in Accra – Moving beyond rhetoric to action

The June 4th disaster remains a painful scar for many Ghanaians who lost family and friends to the devastating floods.

Year after year, government officials deliver heartfelt speeches, expressing sympathy and promising change. However, the question persists: What tangible actions follow these speeches? The need for sustainable measures to address perennial flooding in Ghana, particularly in Accra, is more pressing than ever.

Natural disasters such as floods can have significant negative consequences, including loss of life and economic damages, which cannot be entirely prevented. However, proper planning can mitigate the disastrous aftermath.

Historically, the government has employed a top-down approach to tackle flooding, focusing on large-scale infrastructure projects and policy changes. While these efforts are crucial, they often fail to address the root causes and local nuances of the problem. A more effective strategy might involve a bottom-up approach, engaging local communities in the planning and implementation of flood mitigation measures.

With regard to community-based waste management programs, local communities can be empowered to manage waste more effectively through education and resources. For example, neighbourhood committees can organize regular clean-up campaigns and establish local recycling centres. Successful programs in other countries, such as Brazil’s community-based waste management in favelas, demonstrate the potential of this approach.

Encouraging households to install rainwater harvesting systems can reduce the burden on drainage systems during heavy rains. In India, the city of Bangalore has seen success with mandatory rainwater harvesting policies for new constructions, which could be adapted for Accra.

According to the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) website, in 2012, an amendment bill was passed making it mandatory for buildings on the sites measuring 60×40 feet and more. As of now, 190,000 properties have installed a rainwater harvesting system.

Effective Communication Strategies

The government must employ diverse communication strategies to educate residents on waste management and flood prevention. Launching widespread educational campaigns using local languages and various media platforms to teach proper waste disposal methods and the importance of maintaining drainage systems. The media occasionally discuss this issue, but there should be more dedicated time to educate various audiences and viewers about the repercussions of their actions. I commend Citi FM, Joy News and some other media houses that dedicate quality time to discussing poor disposal of waste and its consequences.

There is a need to utilize social media to share information, success stories, and urgent updates. Platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook can facilitate direct communication with residents.

There is a need to engage local influencers and respected community leaders to advocate for behavioural changes that can enhance the credibility and reach of these messages.

Local influencers must encourage residents to dispose of waste properly, which can prevent the clogging of drainage systems since improper waste disposal is one of the leading causes of blocked drainage systems, which exacerbates flooding during heavy rains. When trash accumulates in gutters, storm drains, and waterways, it obstructs the natural flow of water, causing overflow and floods.

The way Forward

To combat this, it is essential to promote responsible waste disposal practices in the community. Public awareness campaigns can educate people about the impact of littering and the importance of keeping drainage systems clear. Implementing strict waste disposal regulations, as seen in countries like Singapore, can also play a significant role in reducing littering and improving overall sanitation.

In Singapore, for example, stringent laws and effective public awareness campaigns have led to a significant reduction in littering and improved waste management practices. The country’s approach includes heavy fines for littering and robust public education programs that emphasize the environmental and societal benefits of proper waste disposal.

By adopting similar measures, communities can reduce the risk of drainage blockages and subsequent flooding. This involves not only educating the public about proper waste disposal methods but also ensuring that waste management systems are efficient and accessible. Providing adequate waste bins, regular garbage collection services and recycling facilities can help reinforce the importance of proper waste disposal.

In addition to regulatory measures and public campaigns, community involvement is crucial. Encouraging residents to participate in community clean-up activities and take responsibility for their local environment can foster a sense of ownership and accountability. Schools, local organizations, and businesses can also play a role by promoting and participating in waste management initiatives.

Behavioral change towards proper waste disposal is a key factor in flood prevention and so by creating a culture of environmental responsibility and ensuring that waste management practices are effective and enforced, communities can significantly reduce the risk of flooding and improve their resilience to heavy rainfall events. When residents actively participate in maintaining their local environment, it leads to more sustainable results.

The government must invest in advanced waste management and recycling facilities. Establishing more recycling plants and incentivizing businesses to engage in recycling can significantly reduce waste.

Flooding in Ghana, especially in Accra, is a multifaceted issue requiring a comprehensive approach. Moving beyond the rhetoric to implement practical, community-driven solutions is essential. Combining bottom-up approaches with effective communication strategies and significant investments in waste management, Ghana can make strides in mitigating the impact of floods and creating a cleaner, safer environment for future generations.

The author is a Development Communication Expert (Strategic Communication, Media Management and Social Action Projects).

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