As a wrap-up of our project period, we presented our work today at the faculty of civil engineering at TU Delft. Thank you to our supporting partners, friends and family for attending and the great questions afterwards. Working on this project has been an incredible experience during our master program. Through continued university collaboration, we will make sure that our research contributes to make Accra a safer place to live. If you have any questions, or would like to learn more from our work, don't hesitate to contact us firstname.lastname@example.org
The deliverables can be downloaded from our website
We have been back in Holland for a week and a half again, and everybody is a bit Ghana homesick :( How can you not be, after such an amazing 5-week experience and meeting such wonderful people? Coming back to student life in Delft, makes you realize many things. Even though we arrived back home in our familiar environment, our developed perspectives shine a new light on many aspects of our lives here. Traveling is truly educating yourself!
Guided by our HKV supervisors, we are currently analyzing our results, developing a hydrodynamic model and writing down all of our findings and lessons learned, Instead of crocodiles, life threathening taxi experiences, or exposure to toxic drain content, our main problems are related to poor wifi connection, crashdown of a computer and losing input data. Even though we miss our adventurous life and the nice people we worked with in Ghana & the Dutch spring is calling us to relax outside, we are determined to work hard to finalize our project and present the results in 2 weeks! So many stories to tell!
This is short recap of the workshop we organized during our last week in Ghana. The session was an opportunity to present our efforts in a wrap-up session to all stakeholders we have met and consulted. We hope it was as inspirational and enjoyable for all attendees as it was for us. Thank you for sharing your ideas and instigating the good discussions.
Workshop Urban Flood Risk Assessment
Time: 9 am – 1 pm
Venue: International Water Management Insitute
Participants: Representatives from MLGRD, MESTI, MWRWH, various MMDA's, including AMA, the Hydrological Services Department, NADMO, GMet, World bank, IWMI, the Dutch Embassy, Openstreetmap Ghana, KNUST, Berenschot, Witteveen+Bos
In an opening speech, all attendees were welcomed. IWMI was especially thanked for providing a venue. The importance and purpose of the workshop was put forward as an opportunity to bring together stakeholders in Urban Drainage and share ideas on the management of stormwater in Accra. The background of the team and project was explained to create context.
Societal Challenge #1 for Accra is floods, as discussed during the World Bank City Strength Workshop. Lack of coordination between the various responsible parties in urban drainage complicates management. There is a need to for an urban drainage master plan so that activities of planning and maintenance can be coordinated.
Project flood risk Accra is introduced and presented as a smart and easy way to assess the state of the drainage system, to map out the bottlenecks and present the information in a way that can be accessed by all stakeholders involved . In a second presentation, the attendees are taken through the fieldwork experiences. Different aspects of the research were tackled such as preparations, technical and social surveys, processing data and first modelling steps.
In an attempt to show which technologies can serve to map the drainage system of Accra, student Enock presents his experiences as a volunteer mapper at OpenStreetmap Ghana and shows the benefits of an open data society. His presentation sparks a discussion about open data for public and private purposes and financial implications of sharing data. Besides open platforms, social media is an interesting tool to collect data for building a drainage model and raising awareness about clogged gutters and flood risk at the same time. The social media experiment is presented.
After the break, participants divide in four groups to discuss on 4 explicit statements meant to trigger reactions. Groups developed a common understanding of concepts through exploring the definition of the statements. There is time to debate for 15min and conclude each statement by wrapping up in 5 min. Following are the summarized findings from each discussion group that came up in the wrap-up session.
Statement #1: ‘Clogging of gutters with waste is more of an attitude problem than a financial constraint’
Attitude is underlying the financial constraint. A bad attitude towards waste disposal is triggered by the financial constraint, but also lack of enforcement, education and community engagement. Poor planning pronounces attitude issues. Lack of access to waste collection services provokes bad attitude. There is not enough capacity.
Statement #2: 'If all gutters in Accra would be clean, floods would no longer occur’
No/Maybe. Cleaning gutters will minimize flooding, but there are other more important factors such as unplanned settlements and uncontrolled developments, the low capacity of the existing system, limited water retention. Poor monitoring services. Encroachment of Buffer zones along waterways and retention. No enforcement of the laws regarding waste management.
Statement #3: ‘A shared technical database is needed to coordinate urban drainage management issues’
Data is scattered among public and private institutions. For public purposes, information should be free. Creating the database in itself is a problem. Open data should be encouraged, but making data it completely free can be financially complicated. Open data enhances innovation, but there should be a mechanism of coordination/institutions that controls the data put in place, Perhaps a Sustainability token (GHC 1-5) payment system for researches can be put in place.
Statement #4: ‘The traditional (conventional) way of drainage in Accra is the future way of drainage’ (group conclusions diverge)
The workshop was used as a platform for the young and ambitious to present their visions. Statement 4 was introduced by Kofi’s presentation, which featured a green future of Accra. He discussed how Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) can be implemented in order to reduce the flood risk of the city. His visionary speech resonated well with the attendees.
The project team was able to get input on how to assess the state of the urban drainage system. The dynamics of the drainage system that affect the high flood risk were explored in group discussions, as well as in which way to organize and plan for a well/ drained future of Accra.
This week we went back to our pilot areas to conduct the 'social surveys'. We split up in 2 teams, Gideon and Kofi being the captains, translating all the replies from Twi to English. The team with the most surveys completed wins, let the games begin!
The surveys are a moment for inhabitants to share their personal stories on the big flood event of last year in June. Our questions are about warning, responses and recovery from the disaster and we ask people about their views on the causes of the flooding in their neighborhood. By snapping pictures of flood marks, we gather information to calibrate our model on. We also learn about household waste management and the costs of waste disposal.
Recording experiences of the people living in our pilot area has been the best part of our field work. One, because Ghanaians are extremely friendly, love to talk, want to explain everything to you and out criticism without hesitations. Second, because we get great questions and comments about our project back.
We listen to personal flood experiences. How Josephine went to bed at 9pm, just to wake up an hour later with the water raising quickly inside her house. A lady selling food next to her house along the Odaw drain saw the water gushing out of the channel and grabbed her children, put them on her shoulders in search for higher grounds. In her flight, she was aided by the community. Young men had made a human chain and went door to door to get children and women into safety, as the current was too strong at this point. Shopowners found their inventory and materials ruined the following day. People would take out their stuff, pile up the damaged good and incinerate it.
How did the people recover? No help came in for Mrs. Baakume, except from family members outside of Accra. NADMO had given her family of 25, a thin little mattress for which she had to cue for. No need to state her frustration level. Others, like the previously featured 'coconut lady', did receive help from the government. The ones living more upstream in the pilot catchment did not encounter any flooding or damage. The information we receive during the social surveys is extremely valuable information for the risk assessment.
It's scary to hear that no one saw the flood coming and were surprised to find themselves up until their neck in the water in a matter of minutes. Image this happening in the dark during the night, with little children around. A terrifying experience.
Score at the end of the day: Team Gideon 10 / Team Kofi 6...... to be continued next week
Sometimes you experience too much to write a comprehensive story. This is a visual recap of all our activities duirng the last days :)
Our team experienced the first tropical rains in Accra yesterday. Of course we had to get out and see what was happening in our pilot area! Impressive and scary to see how fast the streets are flooded driving to our location and how high the water velocity gets from just a small rain event like yesterday.
Walking around New Town with the newly elected Assemblyman means walking around with a celebrity. It is impossible for this man, Honorary Alexander Mensah-Twumasi, to go for a quick walk somewhere as he knows and greets every single person along his track. Each neighbourhood selects a candidate, the assemblyman, to represent them at the council meetings. He/she forms a link between the community and the city council. In principle, the assemblyman should raise funds to develop his own area. But since the role is a voluntary commitment and he doesn’t get paid by the city council (which people in the community don’t often realize), it’s a difficult and noble task to take on. The assembly man is the person holding the most knowledge of the neighbourhood so we met with honorary Alexander last week to find out what happens during rain events. With his consent and input, we started our fieldwork in our first pilot area this week. We were lucky to have by our side 'student' Kofi Asare Aboagye, a civil engineer with a degree from KNUST (Ghana) and masters degree in sustainable urban management from Malmo University (Sweden).
New Town is a lower income neighbourhood of Accra. Many differences in types of residential area can be found here. There are five slums and a poor night market, where the most vulnerable community members reside. Many of the roads have been encroached on by shop owners, which are selling their products on top of wooden planks that cover the drains along the road. New Town does not have a complete and proper drainage system as some drains are completely missing. Last year during the rainy season, the area was hit by a serious pandemic. Lots of properties were damaged and lost. Many streams were carved out by erosion. Due to some private unwarranted constructions on top of an existing drain, complete structures were demolished by the built-up force of the water. There are settlements on the land most downstream of the pilot area (the catchment) which acts like a floodplain before it flows into the Odaw drain. The Assembly man showed us all these critical spots of the drainage system on Monday. He also told us about the human activities and attitude problems concerning waste disposal that are causing many of the clogging problems. If someone disposes or defecates in the drain and you ask him why, he will reply you: “Is that where you sleep?”
Along some surveyed tracks we see that the drains are very heterogeneous and stretches of natural channels connect to concrete U-shape drains, connect to eroded channels, etc. We find that some of the stretches of lined, concrete drains are constructed by private parties. As no improvements from the government ever consider these areas deep into the neighbourhood (just the drains along the main roads), they have taken measures to develop the drainage system to protect themselves. A group of friends who like to hang out on their favourite but frequently flooded patio, bought concrete and built a drain themselves to channel the water. Many churches have created proper drainage structures along their grounds. An old lady who lives downstream collects coconut fibres daily to strengthen the bank of the natural drain she lives beside. This way she protects her land from eroding away.
In two days we mapped a lots of drains and points and met even more people who were curious to find out about the delegation of very serious looking people in blue shirts. Everybody we meet truly appreciates the work we are doing which is making the hours we are spending mapping under the powerful sun in high El Niño temperatures so worth it.
What does the government do to prevent the clogged gutters in the city? Today we joined the AMA (Accra Municipal Assembly) Solid Waste department on National Sanitation Day, held every first Saturday of the month. AMA provides equipment, trucks, shovels and personal to assist the cleaning activities which are carried out in 10 sub metros. A major part of the work includes de-silting the fully clogged drains, so we decided to team up today and take action!
National Sanitation Day is initiated to raise awareness and educate people about proper waste disposal. Fiifi Boadi, public health engineer at AMA says that voluntary involvement of communities is low and some inhabitants use the mission to get rid of their garbage in a cheap manner. The government comes in once a month, so why not pile up our waste in the middle of a junction? Watching a couple of Obroni’s (white people) clean the drains in front of their houses and shops, made some traders think twice. Why should outsiders come in and clean our waste? At moments, our presence caused quite a stir and mobilized more community members to join the cleaning activities. We shared some good and sweaty times together!
Now, let's take a shower first...
Today we were on a mission! To speak to as many stakeholders as we could in one day. This mission was made possible by one incredibly determined man: mr. Frank Annor, lecturer at KNUST, PhD student at TU Delft, ceo of the TAHMO project, and also our project supervisor here.
The day was a series of formal introductions at the different relevant stakeholders od urban drainage in Accra. We drove to the offices of NADMO (National Disaster Management Organisation) first, to speak to Dr. Kingsford Asamoah and Philip Mantey. They had to leave for a meeting with UNDP, but in Ghana everybody has 30min to talk to you. We learned a lot about their current disaster responses and programs that are in development, such as warning messaging using mobile phones and building community resilience through placement of NADMO representatives down to the community level. Dr. Kingsford reflected on our project and confirmed that the dynamics of the state of the drainage system is the only variable which is not covered in assessing flood risk in the city. And they need to fill this information gap. "We need to map the drainage system and come up with some sort of classification", stresses Dr. Kingsford.
At the Ghana meteorological agency (Gmet) we met Captain Stephen Komla, who was so kind to to find some for us in his busy schedule ( actually this was the case for all the officials we spoke to today, very busy (wo)men !). We asked him about communication channels of the agency in case of large rain events and whether there exist rainfall thresholds which lead to flooding in the city of Accra. Captain Komla summarizes the situation; "There is no natural cause of floods in Accra, we are the cause, the humans. We are living in the flood plains, we are dumping garbage in the drains, so where does the water go? It goes into our houses." Human activities and Lack of coordination were the key words that came up in our discussions. In addition, the cause of flooding depends of the time of the year, what civil works are going on, and the intensity of the rainfall.
What happens when you zoom out from Accra and look at the hydrological processes at a larger scale? You'll find an impressive drainage system: the Volta Basin, Ghana's most important natural source bringing life to the country. Most of Ghana's rivers have its origin in Burkina Faso and flow to lake Volta, the world's largest artificial body of water (8500 km2). The Akosombo dam is the name of the hydroelectric dam in the Volta river, providing most of Ghana's electricity supply. Even parts of Benin and Togo run on 'Volta power'.
To say we were exited for our trip to the Akosombo dam is a slight understatement. Having analyzed the Volta basin extensively in our course work on transboundary basin management and evaporation modeling, we could not wait to see this Civil Engineering work of art with our own eyes. The Volta region is the most tropical region of Ghana and the landscape is changing beautifully as we leave behind the noisy city for a day. (Our accommodation is located next to a church with exceptional services from 8am in the morning till 4am at night)
We are welcomed to join a festival taking place in Akwamufie, a village on the east shore of the Volta River. The festival turned out to be a funeral of the Chief of Akwamu, a big state of the Akan people. The chief is a highly respected person in this region and his funeral lasts for 3 days, whereby the entire village and surrounding towns are invited. We arrived early on sunday morning and meet with the artists and volunteers working on the creation of an artpiece, the table of hope. The table is made from wooden planks with writings from community members about their dreams and hopes; the co-creation is supposed to stir-up a good dialogue.
The table of hope is presented to the King of Akwamu and his Chiefs during an official ceremony in his palace. The guests raise when the delegation of respected men in ropes walk in. The more elaborated their bottons on their slippers, the more important the Chiefs are, we have been told. It is nice to see how the king fully embraces the project, by stating that he will use the table in his palace when he will meet and discuss matters with his Chiefs. A new ritual is created in a culture where traditions, ancestry and beliefs are so very strong.
What we learned today, besides dancemoves from the Ewe tribe and being astonished by the ceremonial proceedings ? Reflecting on our own work, we realize that implementing engineering solutions will only become a success when it fits the people and culture it is designed to serve. Creating rituals and giving a special meaning to physical constructions might be a good way to realize the envisioned end-results in communities like we visited today. What if the town's urban drainage system would hold such special meaning for the community, would maintenance still be problematic?
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!
One month has passed in the three days we have been here in Ghana. So many impressions, so many smiles and encounters, so many colors, so much heat en sweat. We are not sure whether we fully landed yet, but we sure like it here!!
No day might beat our first Sunday. Strolling the neighborhood after arriving at our guesthouse late the previous evening, we walk into Marcus, or Atta Akra, or Coach. We order coconuts at the side of the street next to the field where he is playing football. He overhears us talking Dutch and shouts; "Hey, hoe gaat t?" Quite a surprise to hear this after you just traveled 5000 km. Atta lived in Wageningen for some time and moved back to Ghana just 3 years ago to set-up his school program, Rainbow over Ghana, empowering kids through education and football.
We could not imagine this encounter led to a complete day full of meeting people, enjoying meals, discovering the city by local transport ( the tro tro) and realizing complex social issues of life in Accra. After a relaxing lunch in a club enjoyed with business men in town, we traveled to New Town, the neighborhood where Atta grew up and where he is now trying to help kids build a future through his program. Floods are just one of the problems the people are facing here. Contrast of these experiences couldn't be bigger.
Many impressions (light and heavy) to digest. But above all, what a wonderful hospitality do we experience here. Atta tells us it's in one's nature to help outsiders. It's incredible how safe we feel here from just meeting strangers around. Everybody is so kind and curious; it's an inspiration,
More about our first days at the office of Witteveen+Bos and excursions soon!
Last week before traveling to Accra and first week every team member involved!
As you might expect, we have had quite an extensive action list this week. Why is there always so little time left to prepare the final things?? GPS devices, malaria pills, passport copies, official letters, battery packs, software license files, sunscreen, etc.
We conducted a test run of our field work survey outside the TU Delft library, measuring possibly the cleanest type of drain we will find in Accra. We gathered our measuring materials by scoping the alleys of the Action and even by finding tools on the street. Prepared invitation letters to our workshop to distribute around stakeholders in town next week. Watched YouTube videos to get the Ghanaian English accent right and already got used to the tropical temperatures in our headquarters (a small library room). Also tried Fufu!
In large part, the preparations for Project Flood Risk Accra have been carried out at HKV Lijn in Water, a consultant specializing in advice and research in the field of water and safety. Together with TU Delft, HKV consultants initiated the research to assess urban flood risk in Accra after having experienced these flash floods while working in the city. They have a supervising role in this multidisciplinary research project.
The company facilitated a 2,5 month internship for team member Lexy Ratering Arntz. In this period, Lexy was able to make preparations for the field trip: both technical (literature review, preliminary analysis) and organizational (work plan, stakeholder contact, fundraising).
“It's been a nice experience working as an intern at HKV Lijn in Water and to get a feeling of what consultancy work in water safety would be like. I was given the freedom to develop myself as ‘a sort of’’ project manager of Project Flood Risk Accra. My main supervisor Joost van der Zwet set the direction at the start and I could consult him about any problem or doubt along the way. Colleague Job Udo, who has worked on the set-up of early warning systems in Ghana and lived in Accra for a year, spend time supervising us which greatly improved our project. Thanks to HKV for the opportunity to learn a lot about project management in such a short internship period, and, of course, the free lunch at the office every day :)“
In preparation for our fieldwork in Accra, we have already been traveling to some cities....
In Amsterdam, we received a training by Charlotte Soedjak on how to make use of the Akvo FLOW application during our field work. This application helps collecting, evaluating and displaying any quantity of geographically referenced data. Instead of manually collecting data, using papers and re-entering it all in the computer afterwards, by using this tool we can gather, share and organize our data way easier by simply using our smartphones/tablets. Looking forward to use it in the field!
In Utrecht, Marjolein Lem from Berenschot Consultants kindly shared her experiences working on the GNWP project, a joined program by the Netherlands’ Embassy and the government of Ghana about Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). Together with local and national government authorities and private parties, Berenschot (in a consortium with Witteveen+Bos and Simavi) developed five WASH Master Plans, which hold valuable information for our research to build upon. Hearing her stories about the institutional challenges in the WASH sector helps us to develop our perspective.
In Rotterdam, we met with Hanneke Schuurmans, Herman de Jonge and Frank Annor to discuss collaboration possibilities between our project and the flash flood forecasting application, developed by RHDHV, Infoplaza, 3Di and NADMO. More detailed information on micro drainage system can help improve the model that backs the app. Sharing data to improve results!
Conclusion: Share your talent !
Before we leave for Ghana, we wanted to find out why we don't see waste ending up in the canals in Dutch Cities. What kind of system and processes does it take to organize waste management in the Netherlands? We found out at Van Gansewinkel, a large waste service provider, recycler and supplier of secondary raw materials. Peter Vingerhoeds and Niels van den Hoek invited us a for an afternoon in the VGW headquarters in Eindhoven and told us all about the business and strategies.
Niels had been involved in developing a model for the waste market in India, Municipal Solid Waste is divided in three separate streams: wet waste, dry waste and rejects. In his project, improvements in the waste chain focus on collection and primary segregation and handling. Through a tipping fee based payment scheme, informal collectors and ragpickers would be compensated for their services. As in many developing countries, the recycling market is already highly developed in India. Peter emphasized the importance of a financial incentive for the successful set-up of any kind of waste management system. Waste collection is not going to work as an environmental idealistic endeavor; running a waste business means that money should flow in accordance with your objectives.
We concluded the day with a visit to the biggest transfer center (Volume-wise) van Van Gansewinkel in Acht. Johan Doezé, head production, showed us around and explained the processes of different waste streams and in what way value can be added. 1000 tons of waste a day is processed in this large facility including waste streams as biodegradable waste, household waste, wood, debris, plastics, scrap metal, etc. Electronics (Coolrec) and glas (Maltha) are processed at other facilities
Equipped with new perspectives, safety tips and Van Gansewinkel's fluorescent vests we are ready to find out about waste management in Accra! Many thanks to Peter, Niels and Johan for sharing their expertise.
Welcome to our website! The team is working hard to kickstart this project. In preparation, we are contacting universities, companies and institutes to set-up collaborations. With all the gathered input from discussions with experts and literature studies we have defined the scope for this project and continue to work it out in more detail. We keep you updated about our progress through our blog posts here. If you would like to get involved, please contact us