Posted by: rumnet | October 8, 2010

FLOODS DARE SADA

FLOODS DARE SADA

As MPs Visit Affected Communities

By Abdallah Kassim

( Published in the September edition of TheADVOCATE)

 

Escaping from a flooded House

 

Two of the main problems that could determine the success of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) are the sporadic draughts and perennial floods that threaten the livelihoods of the people of the northern savannah belt.

Draughts and floods have become great concerns for the people of the north. In 2007, the north was hit by a combination of excruciating draught and overwhelming floods. The prolonged draught was followed immediately by devastating floods, which claimed several lives and displaced over half a million people.

Not only that! “Livelihoods were severely impaired as thousands lost farms and assets; infrastructure was destroyed and thousands of young girls, women and children joined a teaming under-class of street porters (known in Ghana as kaya ye) in the urban commercial centers of southern Ghana,” says a document put together by the Northern Development Initiative at the time.

“This sudden manifestation of climate change provided the most vivid manifestation that failure to tackle poverty and environmental decay in northern Ghana could result in even more dire consequences for the entire country and ecological area.”

Hence a long term development strategy was designed to address the development needs and potentials of the northern savannah belt, including the perennial floods. Eventually, the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) was put in place to implement the strategy. The SADA Bill had barely been passed into law when the floods descended upon the area again in August.

When the Meteorological Department announced early this year that the northern regions would experience scanty rainfall, farmers and households that depend on agriculture were disheartened and anxious. The reason was that the announcement portended a draught; which meant their means of livelihood –farming- was going to be severely destabilized. The result, they feared, would be shortage of food, hunger and escalated poverty.

But they were wrong; so was the Meteorological Department. For, a couple of months after the announcement, the heavens opened up and the rains pounded the earth in uncontrollable torrents. The floods overwhelmed several villages, hamlets and cottages.  Many abodes- mud huts- crumbled; farms metamorphosed into ponds and mini lakes; footpaths turned courses for rivulets.

The situation was compounded by the excess water spilled from the Bagre Dam in Burkina Faso. This swelled the already silted White and Black Volta Rivers up north, threatening most of the habitation along their course. Some families who had cultivated across the rivers, could not standby to watch their crops perish. So they dared the high tides and angry currents of the rivers and crossed over to their farms to harvest their produce. Some drowned in the process.

At the last count, 17 people had died, 10,000 displaced, about 7,000 acres of farmlands flooded with water, and a number of livestock perished.

The news about the travails of the affected people, homes and farms wafted to the hearing of the Parliamentary Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises. Indeed the Committee was instrumental to the passage of the SADA Bill. So, upon the granting of Presidential accent to the Bill, the Committee found it expedient to tour the SADA programme areas to have a firsthand insight into their problems.

The Committee of 20 Members of Parliament was led by Honorable Charles Hodogbey and the Ranking Member, Honourable Akosua Frema Osei Opare. Their tour focused on the areas most affected by the floods: Central Gonja District in the Northern Region; Talensi-Nabdam and Bawku West Districts in the Upper West Region; Funsi and Sissala West Districts in the Upper West Region.

After touring for four days, the Committee noted in a communiqué that “several farms and some communities had been submerged by the flood waters, but no meaningful economic activities had been provided to sustain lives and livelihood of the people. People have therefore resorted to harvesting potentially unwholesome maize and other cereals affected by the floods.”

Those most affected by the floods are women and children. Children are not able to go to school because their classrooms have been converted into shelters to accommodate the displaced. Some women who have obtained loans to farm wonder whether they would be able to repay them.

The committee saw many bridges that had collapsed and roads that have been washed away, due to “poor design and construction, as well as weak supervision and quality of work.” They realized that the perennial floods in the northern parts of the country could be managed to the benefit of the people, by developing and making use of the Volta and Oti Water Basins.

While acknowledging the response of the National Disaster Management Organization’s (NADMO) to the flood situation, the Committee decried its inability to put in place a comprehensive work plan and its inappropriate targeting of relief items. It therefore recommended that NADMO’s capacity should be enhanced to enable it co-ordinate and implement disaster preventive measures.

It advised that as a matter of urgency, construction of dams and other water management, harvesting and conservation methods should be adopted as part of the solution to floods. It called for a policy on the mitigation of floods and asked government to negotiate with the Burkina Faso government on how to manage the Upper Volta basin to lessen the effects of its spillage on the people of northern Ghana.

The Committee urged Government to give tangible meaning to the SADA law by providing it with long-term funding to enable it start operating in earnest. And this, the Committee advised, should begin immediately.

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