The rains are here once again and as usual many flood victims and observers will be reminiscing with fears and trepidation the perennial pain of dealing with the loss of lives and properties including post recovery trauma and associated psychological impact. Currently Government officials, government agencies spearheaded by the NADMO are visible out there assuring the public preparedness and public awareness.
It was refreshing to read about the tour of the Minster for Works and Housing to some flood prone communities in the Capital where dredging and drainage works are ongoing. It is good to note of his assurance that Government was going to commit resources towards addressing flooding in the country. I have also heard the NADMO on various platforms cautioning the public and providing public education. We need to indeed keep the momentum going to avoid the worse should the floods come. I listened to NADMO officials on a Kumasi based FM station and indications are that they are braced for readiness and also in keeping the public on the alert which is all good, for all intent and purposes.
While all efforts are being done with good intentions, one area that deserves equally important attention is community-based flood risk initiatives which empower communities, recognises self-responsibility and citizen participation at the community level. In this respect, communities are expected to be at the forefront in preparing for the rains and putting in place plans for community preparedness, emergencies, evacuation and recovery, should the floods come.
However, it appears to me that so far, the approach has been more of a one-sided approach of speaking to the communities but not engaging them, to initiate their own flood risk management plans. Our research at the Centre for Settlements Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) indicates that communities have confidence in the Assemblymen, MP and Chiefs (APC) of their localities and are ready to avail themselves towards fostering a common vision to manage the risk. As a matter of urgency, high risk communities should have by now been reflecting on engagements following restricted public fora (as a result of Covid protocols), sharing flood risk information and ensuring the preparedness and readiness of the communities to be responsible for their safety, through adaptation.
Here, it is important to highlight the enthusiasm with which settlers in the Barangay Tumana community in the Philippines have embraced community-based flood risk management which is achieving positive impact. Having suffered several devastating floods in the past, they mobilised themselves into volunteer groups to assist officials in their educational programmes. They organise regular fora and workshops, share flood risk information and prepare their own flood risk maps and evacuation plans including an early warning system. The volunteer groups visit schools and move from house to house to share regular flood risk information beyond awareness but for community members to accept full responsibility and recognise the importance of citizen participation in the control of floods. Lessons from the Tumana experience are published in the Journal of Science and Technology, KNUST, Vol 38 (1, 2, 3, pp. 66-80)
Obviously, the contribution of local government officials including the NADMO in heavily promoting community-based flood risk management initiatives will be crucial. Going forward, a nation-wide community-based framework would have to be incorporated to guide local governments in engendering support for regular and full community participation in managing flood risk across the country.
Source: Prof. Divine Ahadzie (Centre for Settlements Studies, KNUST)