Feature Article of Saturday, 5 October 2002
Ghanaians like to live dangerously. The capital city, Accra, where much infrastructure, government and organizations and high value establishments are located is in the highest earthquake probability area.
The coastline of central and eastern Ghana is an erosion coast and the sea takes about 2 metres a year from the land. In Keta it takes up to 12 metres annually.
The Wejia, Nyanyanu, Fete areas are some of the most vulnerable areas of Ghana and yet there are new activities and developments planned, like beach resorts and other projects.
Ghana has experienced before and will still be hit in the future by weak and strong earthquakes, bush and urban fires, floods and droughts, high sea waves and slope instabilities and coastal and bad-land erosion. Ghana has physically, and chemically, active soils. There is a possibility of natural, poisonous gas clouds.
Does anybody worry about these natural hazards? Does anybody want to know how to mitigate the effects of these hazards? What is the level of preparedness of individuals, families, the community, the city, the district, and the nation?
Many people plan their houses, their work places in the most risky areas without any special provisions. The excellent Ghana Building Regulations and Code demand some safety for the buildings like two doors widely spaced in certain cases, emergency exits and so on. Many buildings do not obey the regulations and have only one exit door, and no emergency exits at all.
Some major public buildings have no emergency exits, nor do they have facilities for the physically handicapped. In one major building project, the planned fire escape was cancelled because the money was finished! What is the price of safety, human limb and life? Well-barred and locked premises are thought to be secure. Nobody can get in. Do we realise also that nobody can get out in times of emergency? Security at the cost of safety. Secure property at the risk of life and limb?
Traffic is unnecessarily dangerous in Ghana. Safety in traffic is an unknown entity. Red lights can be ignored. Reflective strips may be of any own design. Even on official cars there is no uniformity of reflective strips.
Overloading, dangerous lane changing, ignoring pedestrians crossing and other blatant disregard for traffic regulations are the order of the day. Pick-up places and drop zones hardly exist in any coherent fashion. They are found everywhere - in curves, on crossroads, in circles and so on.
Bicycles and motorbikes behave as if they are not subject to any traffic rules such as keeping to the right side of the road, stopping for the red light, giving signals and so on. Many motor crash helmets protect the steering or the back seat than what they were designed to protect that is the human skull. In Ghana they seem to be ornamental and nobody minds, not even the police!
The National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) in Act 517 of 1996 is charged to plan with the District Disaster Management Committees to address some of the issues raised above. Has your district a well-publicised plan in place? Do you know what to do and not to do and what plans are ready for your safety?
Ghanaians like to live dangerously. Maybe some may start asking questions, I hope.