When the Rains Comeby Frederick Sowah

When the Rains Come

by Frederick Sowah

Published on Thu, Jun 25 2009 by Frederick S.
The dry season in Ghana usually occurs from November to the latter part of March. In December dry and dusty Sahara trade winds blow across the Western coast of Africa, bringing harmattan, a dry period that causes reduced visibility and parched skin and lips.  (There is a proverb in Ghana that the best time to choose a wife is during the dry harmattan season; I am sure this one needs no further explanation). After the misery of the dry season, comes the rainy season, which typically ranges from late April to November, to cool things off.

The rainy season is an interesting period, because it brings different things to different people—a mixed bag of weather, if there ever is such a meteorological accessory. Ghana still mainly depends on hydroelectric power from its Akosombo dam, which dikes the Volta Lake, the largest man-made lake in the world. In recent years the water level in the famous dam has reached record lows, and this has been a contributory factor to the numerous power disruptions in the country for some time now. And since the dam relies on rain for its water supply, the rainy season is always viewed as a welcomed relief by the power-supplying industry in the country. To them, more is better.  Ghana actually experienced some rainfall shortage a few years back, and this prompted several churches to pray at the site of the dam. The rains came not too long after the prayers.

Despite the fact that the service sector is the fastest growing sector of the Ghanaian economy, the agricultural sector still remains the largest sector, contributing more than 50% towards national economic growth. However, a significant percentage of farmers in Ghana still use basic traditional methods of farming, and that includes relying solely on rains to water their crops. Thus a slight delay in rain severely affects national food supply, and prices rise.

However, not everyone is happy when the rains come. As a result of a potpourri of reasons (that include poor housing planning, ineffective drainage systems, etc.), many residential areas in Ghana get severely flooded with the least rainfall. Houses get destroyed, lives are lost, and roads turn into streams, becoming unmotorable. Every year the same thing happens, and the masses complain, and leaders and town planners respond with soothing words, but no action.

This year the rains have started claiming lives again. Properties and homes running into several millions of Ghana cedis have also been lost. The government has come out to say that the flooding is in part caused by houses that have illegally built on waterways, and thus must be removed. This is not the first time that citizens have heard this explanation. Whether or not these houses will actually be razed remains to be seen; and whether or not bringing down forty-five houses or so will solve a deep-seated perennial issue is also in question.

Some experts believe that a stricter and scientifically verified building and estate development permit system needs to be set up. The Environmental Protection Agency should play a more active role in advising whether certain building projects should be allowed. Such a multi-pronged approach will help to treat the problem from its source, rather getting rid of a few of its symptoms.


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