Imagine living of a couple of Cedis a day selling food from your shop and the fee to collect your garbage will cost you around 2 Cedis. If then heavy rainfall pours from the sky and the water starts to flow in the drains, soon it will become such a strong force that it will take everything along its way. Easy and cheap way to get rid of your garbage, right? Although this is not a pleasant or proud story to share for a Ghanaian, this is a reality in some lower-income neighborhoods and markets in Accra. This video will give you the idea. Are the people aware of the flood risk they are causing by disposing their waste in the drains?
Adding to the solid waste problems are the lack of private and (well maintained) communal toilets, making open defecation in the drains the only other solution to relief yourself. Walking through some of these neighborhoods in Accra is a combination of smelling sweet food smells and penetrating odors from the solid and liquid waste out on the streets. Dancehall music, traffic sounds and children playing around form the soundtrack.
This week we visited some locations in Accra together with Gideon, our supervisor from Witteveen+Bos and Kenneth, the driver. We visited Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Kaneshie Market, Alajo, Malam; all spots that have been badly hit by floods before. We got an insight into the structure of the drainage system. The Odaw drain is one of the primary drainage systems in Accra, with most central neighborhoods connected. (From the smell coming from the drain, it could be named the Odaw sewer). The entire catchment of the Odaw river is about 250 km2. Much of this surface is paved, therefore all water that falls down, runs off directly instead of infiltrating. Response times are very small. A rain event can quickly lead to devastating flash floods which no one could have seen coming.
This risk became real to us. We talked to vendors on the street who have stood up until their neck in the water and had to run for their safety. They are still selling from the same location and the rainy season will arrive in May. What is going to happen to them this year?
Luckily there are initiatives to help solve the pressing water related issues in Ghana. We were lucky to be able to meet young professionals working in the water sector in Ghana at a YEP meeting at the Netherlands embassy. It was inspiring to hear their stories and we got valuable input for our project. We'll sure be meeting up with them in the upcoming weeks!