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Abofu drain; another flood disaster waiting to happen?

When the rainy season sets in around this time of the year, it is not only  Accra that gets flooded, the media space too gets flooded with stories about how property are destroyed, people are stranded and lives are lost.

The defective Abofu stretch of the Odaw River drain near Achimota in Accra always make the headlines at least in the Ghanaian Times.

Last year, when I stood on the Achimota new overhead to take pictures of the drain for a story, I did not think that a year on, I would be at the same place capturing a worsened situation.

As a result of the increasing deterioration of the drain, residents  say when dark clouds gather in the skies  fear also gathers in their hearts because they know the area will certainly flood if it rains.

“Right now , the issue has become worse. We become afraid whenever it rains because we know that by all means this area will flood. We do not know when danger will strike so we beg them, they should do something about it”, a resident, Michael Baafi told the Ghanaian Times.

About the drain

The drain is part of the Odaw River which was constructed more than a decade ago to contain the river and reduce flooding in the national capital. The Abofu part stretches from Santana to the New Achimota overhead.

More than 30 houses are in close proximity to the drain including the GH Media School and the Accra-Nsawam railway.

The condition last year

On June 4, last year, when the Ghanaian Times published on its front page, “Disaster looms at Abofu”, more than 10 large slabs measuring about 500 metres of concrete slabs had caved in, impeding free flow of the river.

Erosion had wiped away the soil close to the fence walls of nearby buildings. The last flood had left its marks on the walls of neighbouring buildings.

The drain had weakened and unable to accommodate the pressure of the river during rains obviously due to lack of maintenance.

That was not all; there were cracks in some of the existing slabs which could deepen and collapse sooner than later. The rail track, lying close to the drain had not been spared the damage.

The Condition Now

A year on, the situation has worsened. More slabs have collapsed.  About four houses have collapsed. Some walls including that of the GHmedia school have done down and erosion is close to wiping the foundation of  the railway away.

The Assemblyman of the Abofu-Achimota Electoral Area, James Akogo said he has drawn the attention of city authorities to the issues several times, but to no avail, making the situation worse after every rainfall.

Hydrological Services Department 

The Hydrological Services Department (HSD) of the Ministry of Works and Housing  is responsible for the construction and rehabilitation of drains. In July last year,  about a month  after the Ghanaian Times publication, the department gave an assurance that it would temporarily fix the deteriorated portions before this year’s “major rainy season.”

But with the season here, the HSD says it has deferred the decision  because a permanent solution to the problem would be provided in September when the reconstruction of all dilapidated parts of the Odaw drain begins.

The Head of Drains of  HSD , Mr Seth Kudzordzi, explained that  the rehabilitation of the drains is  part of the $200 million Ghana Accra Resilient Integrated Development (GARID) Project.

Funded by the World Bank, he said the project, would among other things, mitigate flooding in the Odaw River basin through the construction and rehabilitation of drainage systems and bridges.

“If we look at the temporary work involved, it will be better to fix it once and for all because whatever will be done will be removed again at a cost. So that is why nothing has happened until now”, he said.

On concerns of imminent floods expressed by residents, Mr Kudzordzi acknowledged that a few houses could be affected would not be widespread.

“It might affect one or two houses but as it is now there is nothing we can do. We cannot go in and erect structures only to demolish them before the project takes off”, he said.

 We are not certain when the project would start because the Works and Housing Minister Samuel Atta Akyea has also given October as commencement date. With the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic it appears the project might not start this year.

Railway

Following  reports on situation and its threats to adjoining structures, the Ministry of Railway Development has  moved to safeguard rail tracks nearby.

The ministry, through the  Ghana Railway Company Limited (GRCL), is constructing a 50-metre retaining wall along the base of the Achimota under bridge to protect that section of the Accra-Nsawam railway from erosion caused by water from the drain.

The wall is being erected with large stones packed into metal mesh while the  eroded areas are being filled with similar stones. This was how the HSD intended to fix the drain before it changed its mind.

Way forward

As we wait for September or October for the drain to be fixed, residents of Abofu will be at the mercy of the weather.  The situation would worsen . And we can only pray that no life is lost  since  the Ghana Meteorological Agency has predicted there will be more rains this season.

There is still time to provide the  temporal solution promised. It would be better to do it and save lives and property than to save money and lose lives.

We cannot fix all our flood problems at a go but the Abofu situation is too ugly to be ignored.

If the country has forgotten so soon the lessons that the June 3 flood disaster which claimed over 100 deaths, taught us , it should not be the fact that disaster, like time, waits for no man.

BY JONATHAN DONKOR

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