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Opinions of Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Columnist: Paul Kwabena Wadie

A stupid man's solution to the problem of flooding in Ghana

Flood Pregos Some parts of the country flood whenever there is a downpour

The solution I am going to propose for tackling our perennial flooding in our cities is so simple that I would not be surprised to the inundation of derision that would be thrown my way.

We are told by the experts that our problem stems from a litany of factors. Narrowed open drains which could hardly contain the large volumes of waters during our torrential downpours; giant buildings in our waterways which act as huge dams with no tunnels; and the modern concrete jungles which prevents percolation of rain water added to the indiscriminate dumping of rubbish.

My focus is on the rubbish we generate and how we dispose them. I believe every Ghanaian of my age or older would have lived in both the pre and post plastic period. Growing up in the holy village, our morning 'breakfast' of 'peewa and abenkwan or emo ne abenkwan' was neatly packaged in wrap leaves.

There was an economic side to this as we harvested this leave to sell at Dunkwa on Offin on Tuesday and Friday markets. I remember how we woke up at 4am to treck the 7 miles road to the Dunkwa on such days.

In that pre plastic years, the rubbish we generated was mainly organic. Our refuse dump sites were also decentralised such that every small suburb had its own spot for dumping waste. For the 19 years I lived there, I do not remember any incident of 'borla' problem.

Then the plastic arrived. Everything got wrapped up in polyethylene. I mean everything. I first learnt about the Ahenema Kokoben dumping site. Then when a course mate at Tech, K. K. Korsah, decided to do his academic research in refuse management in the Kumasi Metropolis, we went to the Kwapia refuse dump site. My experience there would make me resist any attempt to create a dumping site close to my house.

But that did not cause flooding. What is happening now is the dumping of rubbish in the streams whose courses have been blocked by church buildings and the like. I invite you to come and witness a live episode of rubbish dumping in gutters and streams at Kokoben.

Just after the end of the dual carriage, where we have the street market, when it rains and the main storm drain starts flowing with rain water, as if by cue, every one of the traders would go for their rubbish, wrapped, of course in polyethylene, and throw them in the water to carry them home. Home, where these same people, by virtue of their economic circumstances live and get them flooded. But it is very difficult for them to connect their actions at the market to the flooding in their homes.

Without sounding technical, l believe we create tons of rubbish everyday in our cities. I also believe that plastic constitute a considerable portion of the rubbish and it would continue to go up.

What makes it difficult to deal with it is the fact that the rubbish is wrapped up and it constitute a great amount of earth. Our women continue to sweep the compound everyday and collect the earth which they mix with the plastic and organic matter and carry it to the refuse dump. The managers of the site usually take 50 pesewas a headload and set about burning them. And because of the mixture of earth, organic matter and plastic, it never gets burnt. Mind you, these sites are usually situated near streams such as the one at Aboabo along the 'Pelele'.

Then when we throw in the recent *Aboboyaa' refuse collection contractors that are as regulated as breathing, then we see a compounded problem.

Is there a way to reduce the rubbish we generate in order to minimize its ill-effects? Yes, there is! But it requires a lot of discipline. And in a society such as ours, I understand why people would see my solution as coming from a nitwit.

I first propose a small garden in every house. Then the men in the house should see to the sorting of plastic from organic matter in the house and put them in two separate containers. The women should also reduce the number of sweeping they do to twice a week. They should stop using the traditional broom which causes waste pains and use the long broom.

All the organic matter and the earth collected after sweeping should go into the garden. That is fertilizer!

The plastic must be burnt! I could hear the 'environmentalists' screaming, 'pollution, pollution'. And my response:'hush you little self-bloated egoistic wannabes'. If you were not fake, you would know that our contribution to the world's pollution from gasses, which they have succeeded in drumming to our ears as 'global warming and ozone layer depletion' is so 'abysmal' that we are statistically insignificant. Besides, what about the pollution to our water bodies as we continue to dump waste into them with its attendant flooding problems?

I culled this from one of my favourite columnist of the Daily Mail newspaper in the UK, Tom Utley as he wrote on a new speed limit policy in England. 'This means drivers in London spend an average 227 hours a year stuck in jams, belching toxic fumes from their exhausts. Other UK cities are little better.' Take that, you Ghanaian environmentalist.

If we did this, we would significantly reduce the volume of rubbish we sent to the refuse sites. If this was not coming from a stupid man, I believe we would try it.

Anyway, for the past eight years since I have lived in my house, I have never sentenced my little daughter to carry a load of rubbish to 'borla'. Never! All the plastic get burnt and the organic matter and earth fertilizes my plantain and cocoyam. I also plant some beans as well for my homemade 'awaakye!

Get me the environmentalist, the serial polluter is at work!