Engineering and the society; flooding and sanitation

I support a group called NShoreNa. Its mission is to promote beach tourism in Ghana.

So our tourism promotion ended up becoming clean-up exercises and community engagements.

Sanitation is something I have been passionate about and this event is the 25th Sanitation talk event that I have organized or been engaged in.

As a country, we have been talking a lot about sanitation but we have done very little to fix the problems.

Let me say a big congratulations to the Ghana Institution of Engineers (GHIE) on your 50th anniversary. 50 years is a big achievement, congratulations to all of you.

50 years is also a reminder that the institution has just 10 years to retirement. If the GHIE were a human being, she should be preparing for retirement. What would the GHIE have to show in 10 years as a retiree? Would it be anything to be proud of?

Now let’s go straight to the topic: Engineering and the society, flooding and sanitation.

Below is a table showing historical occurrence of flooding in Ghana.

No. Date of Flood Impact
1. July 4, 1968 Accra records the heaviest rainfall in 9 years: Accra registered a record rainfall of five inches in the last nine years
2. June, 29, 1971 Houses collapse in the Twin-City: The twin-city of Sekondi-Takoradi saw one of the worst floods in Ghana in recent years following a downpour which started at night. Several hundreds of dwelling houses collapsed, rendering thousands of people homeless.
3. July 5, 1995 Flood havoc: Rains which started at midnight caused flooding by morning in low areas of the Accra metropolis. The flood affected not only commuters and vehicles but also the Achimota VRA substation, resulting in power
4. June 13, 1997 Accra floods: Hours of intermittent downpour for two days in Accra caused floods which threatened to cut communication in various parts of the city. Some roads in the metropolis were affected, making it difficult for motorists to ply them. Major rivers such as the Odaw and Onyasia appeared on the brink of breaking their banks, forcing some residents to desert their homes for higher and safer grounds. The water in these rivers rose steadily when the rain started about 3 p.m., raising fears of a possible flood disaster as happened on July 4, 1995 and claimed lives and property.
5. In 1999 In 1999, floods swept through the Upper West the Upper East and the Northern regions, as well as the northern parts of the Brong Ahafo and the Volta regions. Three hundred thousand (300,000) people were affected
6. June 28, 2001 Floods Again: It is the worst in Accra since July 4, 1995: An early morning downpour submerged portions of the city, with many houses and structures at Madina, Achimota, Dzorwulu, Avenor, Santa Maria and Adabraka Official Town being affected. Residents of the affected areas who were trapped by the flood waters had to climb to safety on trees and rooftops until they were rescued or the flood waters subsided.
7. In 2007 Floods hit the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions. Three hundred and seven thousand, one hundred and twenty-seven people were affected.
8. May 5, 2010 Rains cause havoc: In Central Accra, Ofankor and Begoro. The country’s capital city’s vulnerability to floods manifested when parts of the city and its streets were deeply submerged in water after two hours of stormy rains.
9. June 22, 2010 Nation’s worst flood disaster: Death toll 35: Thirty-five bodies were retrieved from floodwaters across the country by volunteers and rescue workers who described the havoc after the rains as the worst flood disaster in Ghana’s recent history.
10. June 24, 2010 Swedru cut off by floods: Three bridges connecting the Agona Swedru Municipality to neighbouring communities collapsed as a result of the flooding.
11. June 26, 2010 NADMO registers 3,000 flood victims in Agona Swedru: At least 3,000 people were registered by officials of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) as victims of floods in the Agona West Municipality in the Central Region.
12. October 14, 2010 Floods displace 161,000 nationwide: One hundred and sixty-one thousand people were displaced across the country as a result of flooding during torrential rains and the opening of the Bagre Dam in Burkina Faso.
13. October 18, 2010 Floods submerge 55 communities: Fifty-five communities in the Central Gonja District in the Northern Region, including parts of the district capital, Buipe, were submerged by flood waters following the overflow of the Volta Lake.
14. November 2, 2010 Floods cause havoc in Afram Plains: Two thousand and eight hundred people in 120 villages and towns along the Volta Lake in the Kwahu East, Kwahu South and Kwahu North districts in the Eastern Region were rendered homeless by floods. The floods also destroyed 850 buildings, farms, markets and roads.
15. February 24, 2011 Heavy rains cause havoc in Accra: A downpour wreaked extensive havoc on property in most parts of Accra and some of its surrounding communities. The property of residents of areas such as Adabraka, Kisseman, Alajo Junction, A-Lang at Santa Maria, Oyarifa, Haatso, Adenta and the Tema Timber Market were either submerged or washed away. According to an official of the Meteorological Services Agency, Ms Felicity Ahasianyo, the rainfall, which began from 9.30 p.m. to almost 3 a.m., measured 71.5 mm, which she described as quite heavy.
16. July 20, 2011 Heavy floods in Atiwa District: Farmers stranded for 3 days: About 10 hours of torrential rain left 105 farmers stranded on farms at Akyem Osoroase Krobomu in the Atiwa District in the Eastern Region.
17. July 25, 2011 Floods kill 5 at Atiwa, cause damage in other areas: Five persons drowned after rains which caused floods in the Atiwa District in the Eastern Region.
18. November 1, 2011 43,000 displaced by Accra floods…14 deaths recorded: The death toll in Accra rose to 14, while 43,087 people were said to have been affected by the downpour, officials of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) said.
19. May 31, 2013 Morning downpour causes floods in Accra: Heavy rains caused flooding in some parts of Accra. The rains, which started in some areas around 4.30 a.m., flooded areas such as the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Darkuman Kokompe, the Obetsebi Lamptey Circle and portions of the Graphic Road, Santa Maria and the Dansoman Roundabout.
20. June 6, 2014 Deluge hits Accra; more rains predicted: Accra’s poor planning was exposed when a deluge hit the national capital after more than10 hours of downpour. The heavy rains caused flooding in the city and its environs, including Adabraka, Awoshie, the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Mallam, North Kaneshie, Abeka, Dansoman and Odorkor.
21. July 4, 2014 Heavy rains leave havoc in trail: Heavy rains resulted in havoc, with the worst hit areas in Accra such as Anyaa, Taifa, Dome, Nii Boi Town, Dansoman, some parts of Kaneshie, Adabraka, Awoshie, the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Mallam, Abeka, Dansoman and Odorkor submerged
22. June 3 & 4, 2015 Residents of Ghana’s capital, Accra experience unprecedented flood: A combination of extreme floods and an explosion at a sales point of the Ghana Oil Company (Goil) at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle claimed over 150 lives and displaced thousands of residents. The disaster started with normal rainfall, but the rains intensified as the night wore on resulting in a historic flooding in many parts of the city.
23. June 10, 2016 Flood hits parts of Accra and Cape Coast leaving one missing (feared dead) in Accra and about five (5) dead in Cape Coast. Parts of the country continues to experience heavy rains with fear of possible floods.
24. April 21, 2017 Many parts of Ghana’s capital, Accra, were devastated by floods following one hour of rain on Thursday evening.The situation made it very difficult for some motorists to continue their journeys due to the pressure of the flood waters on highways.


25. June 18, 2018 Three people died at Sokpoe in the Volta Region after they were electrocuted during a rainy. The rains also caused flooding in Accra, Tema, Mankessim and other areas along the coastal belt.

Between 1968 and 2018, Ghana has experienced 25 major floods across the country with a large number of them occurring in the months of June and July.

Flooding is considered the number two national disaster in Ghana, killing in total, over four hundred (400) people. An estimated 3.9 million people have since been affected and millions of US dollars worth of damages recorded.

Recently it rained and my home was flooded. I went to my landlord and asked what we could do and he said “you went to KNUST. You studied something you can use to fix the problem. What can you do?”

That was my landlord expecting me to come up with solutions by virtue of the fact that I was trained to be able to do so.

Our Engineers and Flooding

The Ghana Institution of Engineers (GhIE) is the professional body responsible for licensing practicing engineers in Ghana. It was founded in 1968 to succeed the Ghana Group of Professional Engineers. The Institution derives its authority from the Engineering Council Act 2011, Act 819 and the Professional Bodies Registration Decree NRCD143 of 1973.

If you go to the GHIE website, the mission says that the Ghana Institution of Engineers aims to be:

  1. Be Leaders In The Development Of Science, Engineering And Technology At All Levels Of Society.
  2. Share Knowledge And Instil In The Membership, Professionalism And Ethical Practice
  3. Establish Structures To Ensure Good Corporate Image Of The Institution At All Times.

Presently, the members in good standing is about 2300 engineers. If we should spread this nationwide, we should have at least an engineer per district or constituency.

Talk of 1 District 1 Factory, 1 District 1 Engineer and 1 District 1 Solution.

I believe that the Ghana Institution of Engineering is an organization of engineering societies dedicated to advancing the knowledge, understanding and practice of engineering and members of the societies represent the mainstream of Ghanaian engineering.

We have engineers in politics, industry, academia and other key areas.

What role are the playing in our lives? What active role is the GHIE playing in our lives?

Sanitation, Flooding and Engineering

Sanitation and Flooding are BIG problems.

The government of Ghana has spent millions of cedis on sanitation and flooding.

The World Bank, the French government and other development agencies have provided funding worth millions of dollars and euros to help deal with sanitation and flooding.

The latest major intervention is the $150 million Greater Accra Metropolitan Area Sanitation and Water Project.

A lot of money has been thrown at the problem with very little to show.

If the statistic and the chronology above is anything to go by, we can all conclude that we have failed as a nation to deal with Sanitation and Flooding.

A country which is 61 years old, with some of the sharpest engineers in the world should not be talking about flooding and sanitation the way we do – to the extent that we found it prudent to get civil servant out of their offices to spend productive time to clean gutters and streets.

It’s a big shame that this happens in our country and it points to the simple fact that our engineers have failed us and the parent institution, the GHIE, has been nothing short of disappointing!

The role of engineering in dealing with Flooding and Sanitation

Engineering must solve problems.

Every society needs engineering to be sustainable and the persisting social disorder in Ghana now reflects weaknesses in engineering.

We have spent millions on various projects. Yet our problems persist.

The best test of quality in Ghana is rain.

Whenever it rains in this country, the weaknesses in our built environment are amplified. Rains usually shut us down and wreak havoc; havoc that could easily have been prevented or mitigated with the right solutions.

Engineering and our engineers have failed us. We have failed to create solutions for the various challenges we face.

We have not done enough to fix our housing crisis as engineers and built environment professionals. We are building anyhow and anywhere in this country and encroaching on wetlands, waterways etc, because the fraternity has not delivered enough solutions or pushed for same.

We have homes without proper sanitary facilities. We have communities without proper waste treatment. How then do we manage sanitation at the macro level if we cannot fix housing – affordable housing?

The Ghana Institution of Engineering and partner bodies must lead the charge to help Ghana find better, affordable and sustainable ways to fix the housing crisis. That will be a good start to dealing with flooding and sanitation.

When you listen to the radio, you’ll hear the lawyers, the economists, the journalists and the other people in the talk economy leading the conversation.

You hardly hear an engineer participating in conversations to drive development and growth. We leave the conversations to the talk economists and subject Ghanaians to propaganda, pedestrian arguments and largely uninformed positions when it comes to technical issues.

I believe that the engineer’s role is dual. As an engineer, as a citizen, you are enjoined by the constitution to be responsible for the development of the country.

The GHIE/Engineers must wear play the dual role with all the seriousness it deserves.

Infrastructure and corruption

Our failure to fix a lot of the problems has been because of corruption.

Sometimes, one cannot come out publicly for fear of victimisation. However, the Ghana Institution of Engineers can and should stand up for the right things to be done as a collective corps of public-spirited intelligentsia.

What has the GHIE done to help solve our problems and also protect the public purse?

My friend Bright Simons wrote something on Facebook about airport construction. I believe this leads to the corruption the engineering fraternity has not been able to solve or the corruption the fraternity is gleefully enjoying and promoting.

In 2015, Ghana spent $24 million *renovating* the 2KM runway at Kumasi Airport. In 2016, Ethiopia built the new Hawassa International Airport, complete with terminals and a 3KM runway for $23 million. Hawassa was made ready for large bodied aircraft that same year. Kumasi hasn’t seen a single large-bodied aircraft since. Are the professionals at the Ghana Institute of Engineering, Surveyors, Costing cominini there? Have they written a single memo on these issues ever? Working paper? Journal article? Merely to educate we the lay people on what’s going on? On how things can improve?

As engineers, you are the conscience of the society and you must be felt by all. My friend who lives in the village knows nothing about strength of materials, axial forces or designing. However, if you designed a good toilet that would cost about GHS500, she would not have to think of going into the bush to do number 2. You would be solving a problem.

Flooding is a big problem. Sanitation is a big contributory factor. They both tie in perfectly with the planless planlessness in the system and the urban sprawl.

I have a strong opinion that the Ghana Institution of Engineering, the Ghana Institute of Architects, Ghana Institution of Surveyors, Chartered Institute of Builders etc have been a big disappointment and have collectively failed Ghana.

Sometimes when we talk about our national problems, some engineers send us messages under conditions of anonymity to tell us that they cannot really do much because the politicians are in charge.

I agree that we have politicians and sometimes foot soldiers in charge at the Ministries, Departments, Assemblies and Agencies.

However, I expect the engineers and other trained professionals to be resolute in ensuring the right things are done.

What can/must the public-spirited engineering collective do for Ghana?

I believe the collective must be advocates for development. They must be at the forefront of the development conversation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

We are tired of the business-as-usual.

The Ghana Institution of Engineering and other allied bodies must find their voice in the public conversations. They must be the active advocates for development. They must engage the society and educate us well enough to keep the thieves and the nation wreckers in check.

The engineers must not sit aloof while the thieves milk Ghana dry through non-functional engineering procurement.

The space for advocacy is open but we don’t see the right advocates. They are either busily conniving with politicians to steal from us or are afraid to push for the right things to be done because of victimisation.

How long can we continue in this state? Should we continue along this path, would we have an environment that can support future generations?

We need our engineers to be actively involved in governance at the local level. Our engineering fraternity must be activists. We have left that space to politicians and their kind. We need to rise and take control of Ghana’s development efforts.

When issues of constitutional and legal matters come up, the Ghana Bar Association and related bodies are heard. When flooding, fires etc happen, we hardly hear our engineers.

Some of our engineers are short-changing us with the support of some politicians.

Inflated contracts and badly executed projects cost Ghana millions of dollars each year, yet we have a passive institution of engineers that seem disconnected from the larger society.

50 years of the Ghana Institution of Engineering must mean something.

We must see a more active institution and professionals.

They must actively collaborate and push duty bearers to plan, construct and maintain public infrastructure.

The engineering fraternity has failed us. The evidence is there for all of us to see.

However, the challenges present an opportunity for us to design and build a better Ghana – a Ghana that is resilient and support the growth of the society.

The economic and emotional costs of flooding, sanitation and the general dystopia are enormous and we must act now.

Our engineers and other professionals must do better.

Source: Citi News

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