Living in the Odaw enclave has become a nightmarish experience for most of the residents.
The enclave, comprising communities like Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Odawna, Adabraka Official Town, South Industrial Area and the once famous Sodom and Gomorrah towards the sea, has always been inundated following an hour of heavy rainfall.
Many years ago, the Odaw River was a source of livelihood for many residents of Adabraka. Fresh fish was abundant in the river but the unplanned nature of structures in the area and effluent from factories has polluted the river.
Nature is unique because some cities in the world have major streams or rivers running through them and these are used for water sport and hospitality activities. The upper class are the only people who live in those areas referred to as water fronts but facilities there provide employment for a cross-section of the society.
Accra?s Odaw River, which could qualify for one of those rivers in London such as the Thames, has been silted such that the least rains causes it to overflow its banks, flooding homes, and destroying lives and property.
The perennial floods in Accra always take a toll on people living in those areas. The worst disaster was on June 3, when about 159 people lost their lives in the twin disaster of floods and fire at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle and nearby communities.
The government promised swift action but very little was done until sometime June when Accra residents were told that Engineers and Planners (E&P) owned by Mr Ibrahim Mahama, brother of President John Mahama, would dredge the Odaw to forestall a repetition of the June 3 disaster.
This decision was greeted with protests from certain quarters, including the Minority in Parliament, who claimed that E&P has the opportunity to do the job because its owner was brother of the president.
No amount of explanation from E&P that it was doing the work for free by way of technical expertise and that the only cost to the state was the equipment and the fuel that was provided was accepted.
The protestations were so loud that E&P has to stop the work and hand over all equipment in their possession to government. Then presto on October 9, the heavens opened again and the Odaw enclave was flooded, destroying all kinds of property on the way of the flood waters.
The Odaw River once more overflowed its banks, resulting in the flooding of areas around the long stretch of the river; only this time, the canal that holds the Odaw River took in more water than it did on June 3.
Did dredging by E&P help?
It is not difficult to deduce that it was the dredging of the Odaw River canal after the disaster that allowed it to take more water.
When he announced the end to the dredging, Mr Mahama explained that his company was ending the work to direct its attention to some major contracts in the mining sector where it did it core business, saying that his personnel were only deployed to help the government to dredge the Odaw River, as the company awaited its new contracts.
Nonetheless, as the time of the dredging in July, he had said ?it is actually a day and night operation to be able to hasten the job but the job is not a small job. The job likely could take a year and likely a year and a half but we are at it and the government is supporting us with equipment and the fuel and our contribution is the personnel and the supervision of the job.?
Perhaps, his worry that the politicization of the project could destroy the self-help spirit of public-spirited Ghanaians needs to be weighed carefully. The question that needs to be asked is whether he did a good job of dredging the Odaw River and not who he is related to.
His belief that ?we can solve our own problems if we reduce politics and the suspicions and bring our resources together to address challenges that affect all of us? must also be considered.
The Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr Collins Dauda has said earlier that ?owing to the volume of work that was at stake, the government was not going to continue to rely on philanthropy but sit back and package this whole channel and see how we can deal with it in a sustainable manner.?
The sustainable manner suggests awarding the contract of dredging the Odaw to a construction company but it could also mean putting in place the right mechanisms to allow all who wanted to offer their help to the state in that regard do so without being slighted.
Could the politicization of the dredging have been avoided? Certainly, if the blessing given to Mr Mahama and his E & P had been made more transparent. There must be more like him in the country who would be willing to at any time to offer their services free of charge if occasion demands that.
Although Mr Dauda said the government made an appeal to individuals and corporate bodies to assist to address the situation, the mode of the appeal should have been made more encompassing, open and transparent.
Perhaps if it had been announced that the government was ready tyo provide all the equipment that would be needed for the exercise plus free fuel, there would have been a very long queue of patriots waiting to serve their country. Going forward therefore, the government needs to remove any form secrecy in the award of such voluntary jobs to competent Ghanaians.
Work to be done
For now, there is still so much work to be done, including completely dredging the whole stretch of the Odaw River canal, so that the volumes of water from smaller storm drains and the rains do not bring another calamity on us.
We need to be assiduous in our actions and let the lessons of the June 3 disaster guide us to do all we need to do without fear or favour, including following through to the end the recommendations of the fire disaster committee.
The Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project has gone on forever, with millions of cedis gone down the drain but the once flourishing Korle-Lagoon is so heavily silted that it would take purposeful action and political will to bring it alive again.
At the 46th Annual New Year School held in 2004, the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) Chief Executive, Mr Okoe Vanderpuije, said the Assembly has secured a US$600 million loan facility from the Exim Bank of USA to restore the Korle-Lagoon.
Also, although the AMA gave an ultimatum on July 19, 2015 to the owners of a restaurant sitting on a drain in Adabraka to remove part of the property sitting on the drain, the order has been flouted with impunity and only an attempt has been made to clear a portion of the structure on the drain.
By Edmund Smith-Asante, ACCRA
Writer?s email: Edmund.firstname.lastname@example.org