The Minister of Works and Housing, Francis Asenso-Boakye, has urged metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) in flood-prone areas to take immediate lawful steps to demolish all unauthorised structures located on watercourses before the rainy season begins.
The minister also urged the assemblies to desilt and prepare storm drains ahead of the rains to reduce the chances of flooding, especially in Accra.
He has specifically directed the Ledzokuku Municipal Assembly to stop ongoing building construction works by private developers on the Kpeshie Lagoon Wetlands in Teshie, a suburb of Accra.
The Kpeshie Lagoon Wetlands, the Kordjor River, all in the Ledzokuku Municipal Assembly, as well as La Dade-Kotopong where parts of the buffer is, were experiencing heavy construction by private developers, some of them filling the reserved buffer, which is meant to hold excess volumes of water flow during heavy rains.
Mr Asenso-Boakye gave the charge last Wednesday when he toured some of the storm drains and flood-prone areas in Accra, to assess at first hand the situation on the ground.
He was accompanied by the Director of the Ghana Hydrological Services Authority, Dr John Kissi, and some engineers from the ministry.
The areas visited included Ledzokuku-Krowor, La Dade Kotopon and Ngleshie Amanfrom municipalities.
The chief executive officers of the relevant assemblies and their technical teams joined the tour.
Mr Asenso-Boakye noted that flooding in Accra was largely as a result of indiscipline on the part of the public who built on wetlands left as a buffer for streams, rivers and lagoons, as well as those who blocked watercourses, filled them up with stones and sand in order to build on them.
He explained that while the ministry was tasked with the conceptualisation and classification of policies and programmes for the systematic growth of the country’s infrastructure, it was the duty of local assemblies to maintain such works and ensure that they were fit for purpose.
He, therefore, tasked MMDAs to periodically desilt storm drains and maintain them for the rains.
“We are the cause of our own problem, and we will need some level of discipline. So, this morning, I am embarking on site visits to check on our drains to see how prepared we are ahead of the rainy season,” he said.
He said the free flow of storm water alone could prevent flooding in some parts of the city, but that the activities of some few individuals had blocked drains.
“That is why these areas flood during the rainy season,” he said.
So far, Mr Asenso- Boakye said, the government had spent GH¢450 million on mitigation mechanisms as part of efforts to fight perennial floods, especially in Accra where the results of flooding had sometimes been catastrophic.
He said the ministry was in talks with the Finance Ministry to make available some funds to continue with the dredging works to expand existing drains.
“We will do our part as a government, but we need all of you to send the message across because we can’t keep on doing some of these things and expect to develop as a country. So, all of us must come together and fight these things now,” the minister added.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive of La Dade Kotopon Municipal Assembly, Rev. Solomon Kotey Nikoi, urged the minister to appeal to Cabinet to set up a task force that would address the development of reserved lands, including wetlands, into residential communities.
He said the task force could be similar to the one set up to fight galamsey, with a clear mandate and timelines.
Rev. Nikoi, who complained to the minister about his safety, explained that anytime he embarked on exercises to restrict such developments, he was threatened, and that had been a major concern for him and his team over the years.
“What we are seeing here is becoming a national issue, and we have to get to a place where we put together a task force like we are doing with the galamsey because these developers have weapons; they threatened me that they will kill me. It’s not easy. I can’t sleep. They asked me to find out how the previous Chief Executive of the assembly died,” Rev. Nikoi said.
He added that: “We come and stop them and sometimes we have to sleep here to prevent them. Last year, they nearly killed one of our guys. It’s a challenge, and all of us, including the media and security agencies, have to come together. Yesterday, we arrested some of the trucks. Sometimes they carry arms; we can’t fight them”.