To the elderly, the first major disaster that has hit the Kwaebibirim area in recent times was in 2007, when the first major flood swept across the area. About 400 persons suffered various losses, including personal effects and buildings.
Then in 2011, four years later, the most gigantic disaster occurred. The month was July and the date 19th; the whole of Ghana?s attention was directed towards the Kwaebibirem District in the Eastern Region.
The entire Presidency of Ghana moved to that part of the country, because another flood had swept through the area with nine communities heavily being affected with 2,855 people displaced. They were displaced because heavy flood had either swept away or taken over their abode .
The disaster hit Adankrono, Kade, Kade Zongo, Akwatia and Boadua, among others, all in the Kwaebibirem District. The River Birim and four other rivers overflowed their banks, destroying property and rendering that great number of people homeless.
At Adankrono, the Birim River had travelled more than 500 metres from the toll bridge to the town. An incident Nana Sarpong Kumakuma, the Adankronohene, described as ?the worst in living memories.?
Farmers lost their farms, small-scale industries halted; workers could not go to work?in fact, productivity halted in the Kwaebibirem District, as well as the other surrounding districts, including Atiwa, Birim Central and Fanteakwa among others, because water had swept the entire area.
Most communities were cut off from the rest of the country, as flood waters blocked access roads leading to those areas.
It was ?diagnosed? that, the causes of the flood were as a result of illegal mining called ?galamsey,? and the indiscriminate felling of trees, and the destruction of the forests, in that part of the country.
The illegal mining activities had blocked the course of most water bodies that hitherto flowed directly into the main Birim River. Instead of flowing through the river valley, the water diverted its course, and rather entered into human habitats.
After that incident, the nation spent huge sums of money to construct a resettlement and provided relief items worth millions of Ghana cedis to all those who were affected. Individuals and organizations squeezed their budgets for that year, to procure and donate more relief items to augment government?s efforts to help the victims.
That money could have been used for other purposes if the forests had not been destroyed. That money could have been used for other developmental needs of society, if the Birim River and other river bodies had not been traded for gold.
Delving further, one realized that, the illegal miners and loggers could not have engaged in such acts, if the land owners and the chiefs had not given out the concessions to them.
That incident went to rest. Victims are still reviewing their losses and barely four years after, on March 6 this year, when the nation was celebrating its Independence Day anniversary, another bad news was reported from that same Kwaebibirem District.
This time, it was not flood, it was rainstorm. On that fateful day, over 400 residents were displaced because the rainstorm had ripped off roofs of over 100 houses, and broken down over 15 other houses.
Four school buildings were also affected by the storm as a result of which pupils would not be in class for a period of days.
When Mr Antwi-Boasiako Sekyere, the Eastern Regional Minister visited the affected areas with officials from the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), it was realized that, the storm was able to cause that severe havoc, because there were no trees in those areas to serve as windbreaks. Thus, if the trees that made Kaebibirem ?Kwaebibirem? or the dense forest were still there, the storm could have come, but that disaster could not have occurred.
No trees in Kwaebibirem?? It is like saying there is no tree in the forest- A forest without trees cannot be called ?forest? but a bush. However, Kwaebibirem had been a forest area. It seemed not possible but it has become factual, due to irresponsibility on the part of some leaders in Kwaebibirem District.
As a result, the NADMO is now going to contact the Forestry Commission to offer tree species to be planted in those parts of the district.
God was never a fool to have made Kwaebibirem a forest area with enormous trees. Everything He created for every area was ?good? for that area. He was never a fool to endow Kweaebibirem with the Birim River and other rivers which have now been polluted beyond acceptable limits, because of greed.
The painful aspect is that, those who allowed and observed the destruction of the water bodies and the deforestation, knowingly or unknowingly, are making it difficult for the future generation. Kwaebibirem has become ?bald? because of irresponsibility and indiscipline.
As it happened on March 6, no wealthy person or household was affected, but rather it was the poor people, living in weak buildings, who were severely hit and displaced by the storm.
?Kwae? in the Akan dialect means ?forest?. And so the name Kwaebibirem was adopted because of the rich nature of the forest in that place.
Thus, one expected that Kwaebibirem would never be hit by that disaster if it had preserved all that God in His own wisdom endowed her with naturally.
Community leaders, chiefs as well as community members in Kwaebibirem need to work again to restore the glory of that area. They would need to embark on a massive tree planting exercise; they would need to come together to agree that galamsey would never go on there on their lands, and on the river bodies again.
Chiefs in that area should never wait for it to occur and then expect political leaders to come to their aid or promise them what is not there.
July is just around the corner. The rains are just beginning, and already buildings are collapsing, and people being displaced. No one knows what would happen next if the rains fall heavilly. A word to the wise?
My focus has been on Kwaebibirem, but Birim Central, Fanteakwa, Atiwa and East Akyem whose leaders almost look idle while galamsey freely goes on in those areas; BEWARE!!