Every year this time, you are rudely shocked by news and pictures of wind and rainstorms mangling cars, mowing buildings and transforming humans into ghosts. Every March and April, school buildings are crushed; market roofs are ripped off; hospitals are wrenched and whole farms, farmsteads and food barns are destroyed to deepen our economic woes. Touch wood, but, it is likely next month we will be rocked by yet another in the series of boat-capsises on the Volta, Afram Lakes or our portion of the Atlantic Ocean. We never outlive our calamities. Our disasters never leave us; they overwhelm us in time.
Kintampo debacle et al
Last weekend senior high and university students who had gone to the Kintampo Waterfalls on excursion met their waterloo: about 20 of them killed by trees uprooted by ferocious winds. June 03, 2015, a six-hour downpour combined with a spark at a fuel dump devoured at least 160 people – including babies, near the Nkrumah Circle Interchange. Early 2001, a stampede caused by the caving-in of a wall at the Accra Sports Stadium killed at least 120 persons and injured even more. A train derailment in about 1982 at Asuoyaa, near Koforidua, killed people whose number has never got confirmed.
As for gas filling stations exploding to singe tens of our beloved ones, fuel tankers running into a ditch and locals pilfering petrol or diesel till fire sparks to burn most, they are all commonplace and experienced in every region. One of the public buses, the branding of which elicited so much furore under John Dramani Mahama, went up in flames Wednesday afternoon, near Kasoa in the Central Region. You probably are going to a funeral this weekend at the countryside. Just look closely at the buildings left as heritage by our parents and forebears to us and generations unborn. Most of the buildings have been allowed to be jerked up by water erosion. Especially during the rainy reason, these death-traps spring and the casualties are widespread and uncountable.
Suicides, funerals, waste
We seem to have made some gains in our battle against Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. That means malaria is either back to the number one position as our killer, or at least malaria occupies a respectable second position – second only to automobile accidents, another disaster we inflict on ourselves. What now seems to be on the radar is the tying of the noose end of a rope to one’s neck and stepping into the void or drinking poison to shorten one’s life – suicide. Ei! Oman Ghana!
Wrong diagnosis, wrong remedy
At the funeral of that poor soul you are attending, you will probably see money flaunted. Those who got cloths to be printed in the name of the old lady who needed just a thousand Cedis to heal herself but was denied by relatives; those who will drink and eat to heap a bill for survivors and those who will give big offertory in public to suggest they loved the departed soul. What is the point here? The point here is that we haven’t got our priorities right. What is the point here? The point here is that we’ve got our diagnosis invariably wrong. What is the point here? The point is that we have got our solutions and implementations completely wrong. Let us take a few examples.
A tree falls on excursionists or revelers and we blame Abronye DC for invoking deities against rigging of Election 2016. There is an accident at Kintampo Waterfalls and nananom’s interpretation is that girls in their menses have been frequenting the place or revelers went there to copulate in broad daylight. While I’d go to all lengths to uphold the customs and norms that held our society in days of yore together, I am also mindful of the overriding need to examine such accidents in simple scientific ways with the view to arriving at more realistic solutions.
Today, whether it is the Wli, Asenema, Boti or Kintampo waterfalls, the fact is that most trees at the headwaters have been mowed by criminal loggers, miners or farmers. The less than 20 trees left close to the pool into which the water falls are left unprotected against the full force of the winds. Most, if not all, the aggravating windstorm disasters we’ve been experiencing over the last three decades need not be attributed to sins and anger of the Creator or inferior deities. Are we more sinful than other nations or other continents? How many nations spend more Sundays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays in church and mosques than Ghana? Do the Japs worship through Christ or Mohammed as much as we do? No, they don’t! But the Japanese are far more serious; more respectful to nature, more responsible in their living and apply more commonsense and science than we do. Is it any wonder that the Japs have gone as far as developing houses that sit on deflated airbags and dance – instead of crumble – when earthquakes strike? Don’t girls pass their menses in Japan and still swim in the sea during the period? Haven’t the people devised means of minimising the impact of earthquakes and tsunami on their lives and property? Ghanaians, we better get serious.
How are these great rivers?
Rivers Bia, Tano, Ankobra, Densu, Pra, Birim, Afram, Volta, Oti, Offin, Ayensu, Kua, Asuokoo, Obosom and the countless others Odomankoma gave us pure and overflowing; we have killed every single one of them! What for? Often digging for supposedly precious particles for trinkets to beautify others on other continents who give us just peanuts. When we thirst, we say we are sinking boreholes to draw water from the bowels of the earth. When we thirst, we say we are desalinating the sea to get drinkable water. We have turned all our water bodies into mud and mosquito breeding pools and yet continue to delude ourselves with such mantras as Health for all by the Year 2000, 2010, 2020.
Irony of the highest order
Gordon Guggisberg, a Caucasian governor of the Gold Coast, mapped out the Aburi Hills, Atiwa Ranges, Kwawu Scarp and several other hilly areas as buffer no-go areas. Reason? Ecological balance, relief rainfall, and check against excessive erosion. Check how this nation, back in the hands of our own Black brethren, is treating the supposed forest reserves. The Aburi Hills, the rocks of which have been rampantly flaking off of late; go and check which people are violating the area. Wealthy, influential and invariably knowledgeable Ghanaians! The result? The scraping of the vegetative cover on the Aburi Hills simply means increased erosion. The erosion means a continual drift of filth downstream. That is the reason the Odaw River is full of sand every time it rains at the headwaters. And, our solution is the perpetual looking for money from unwilling sources to decongest the Odaw and other Accra drains, giving of plastic cups and mats to people ejected by floods and part-payment of cost of burial of those drowned by floodwaters in Accra? My! We tackle our problems topsy-turvy.
Ghana Today is telling the government: Stop all the illegal tree felling and illegal mining; plain and simple. And just as the only way to stop smoking is to stop smoking; the only way to stop an illegality is to stop an illegality. Talks about giving it a human face are a farce. 2) The local assemblies should not only wait for never-coming Common Fund releases, but, also explore such internally generated funds avenues as waterfalls and other tourist attractions. 3) The best way to keep the sites attractive is to restore them to their natural state; that costs next to nothing but takes lot of discipline. Chiefs and regime party people who think they can stay above the law by engaging in illegal logging or mining should be brought to book in deterrent forms. 4) Discipline and performance of duty should be made the watchword in schools and all other public and private institutions. The laissez-faire, unfettered and irresponsible liberties that go on in schools, churches and organisations today in the name of democracy should be curbed reasonably.
5) Earthquakes, tsunamis, other geo-hazards and mishaps of extreme proportions erupt on some other continents and deaths and property loss are far lower than they happen from smaller disasters in our part of the world. Safety measures in the face of adversity; teaching those titbits across our educational spectrum is crucial for our safety. 6) Calamity strikes and a semblance of investigation is launched; we never get to know the committee’s finding; or, when we do, what we are told is only laughable. Let all the investigation be done seriously, let the worthy recommendations be enforced to the letter. 7) Many of our disasters come about because our heads of family are not responsible enough when it comes to the culture of maintenance. Some of our heads of institutions and those in charge of public infrastructure are not responsible or proactive enough. There is the need for a whole cultural change, if we are to win the war against the growing disasters. Think about that!