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Opinions of Saturday, 1 December 2012

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

Major Nature or Man-Made Disasters Loom

Major Nature or Man-Made Disasters Loom: We’ve To Be Proactive Now.

A FAR MAJOR DISASTERS are predictable and unavoidable, but how prepared are we as a nation?

Yes, looming nature or man –made disaster is real because even “sea levels are rising 60 percent faster than previously predicted” ,according to a new U.N scientific study. Do we know what that means?

Much has already been written by me which questioned the nation’s readiness and ability to prepare and deal with disasters made by nature or our own choices. Therefore I‘d have assumed that Ghana has prepared for any disaster, no matter how small it is.

Well, I was wrong after watching Melcom supermarket’s disaster unfolded in Achimota, Accra. We literally and practically borrowed everything and anything from friends and neighbors. I mean ordinary Ghanaians had to loan the government of their equipment and services in order for the rescue operation to go on.
Interestingly, Instead of our leaders and policy makers getting on the TV and other airwaves to rally for support for a full-fledged public relations campaign to adopt a national comprehensive infrastructure strategy—from transportation and technology to energy and environmental protection to telecommunication --- they went on shopping spree to buy 12 Toyota Land cruisers for our national House of chiefs. What about building a national memorial for those who lost their lives in that disaster?

Yes, the presentation of the vehicles to our chiefs will probably nudge the needle of the election a point or two, but campaigns still begin and end with the candidates’ ability to communicate a compelling vision to voters. Indeed, the NDC has misused some of its Political capital it had after the Melcom incident by failing to rally the entire nation’s support behind the need to upgrade and address the Disaster Emergency Management Administration’s (DEMA) needs and concerns. On that, one could make a compelling argument that the presentation of the vehicles’ impact on the outcome of the election is overestimated to the detriment of NDC because the recipients of the vehicles have no control over the voters.

Nevertheless, I’m not trying to be a prophet of doom ,but greater disasters loom unless we’re proactive and fast to fix our badly broken system—from disaster and emergency command centers in every district to accumulation of emergency logistics and spending money on infrastructures to the formation of civic emergency preparedness task force in every town.

Yes, if we’re to avoid the next major-- catastrophe—(and it will come)then we have to be proactive and start paying attention to our dams, rail lines and bridges ,river bodies ,water systems and environment and food production and consumption.

Ghana’s inability to spend time and money on its aging infrastructures has leave the country vulnerable to nature and our own made choices disasters like high winds, earthquake, fast-running water and looming bursting dams, public- health disaster coming from lack of proper garbage and sewage treatment procedures, food poison outbreak, Cholera, Bird Flu and Tsunami.

We also have to pay real, undivided attention (and spend real money) to increase physical improvement in our infrastructures—like roads, railways and hospitals .There is a need to work to improve telecommunication lines so that during emergencies and major disasters we can make sure that telecommunication lines can operate when electric grid goes down and cellphones tower batteries run out of juice. There is a need to maintain communication system that could not only save lives and properties during disasters, but withstand major disasters, like earthquakes, terrorist attacks and flood from bursting dams.
National preparedness for disasters should include encouraging Ghanaians to buy disaster protection insurance policy for their homes and businesses, portable generators, and special touch lighting systems with batteries that last longer. It means we need more and better roads than potholes. There should be emergency food and water storage depots in every district that we could tap into in emergencies situations. The local governments should create evacuation responders units and at least, there should be one school or a church in every town that is certified and qualified to house families whose houses would be destroyed when nature or man-made disasters hit.
The government should create a special ministry to task the coordinating of our police service, medical personnel, local teachers, civic organizations and transportation owners to practice and prepare every six months on how to handle disasters.

Yes, I know we’re not going to do a damn thing about this issue because we can easily blame somebody else when a disaster strikes. But, if we do nothing the results are predictable and unaffordable with major consequences.
However, considering the good life this country offers to our policy makers, leaders and politicians, doesn’t she and her offspring deserve a little bit security and the Right to be protected from any disaster? Ironically, those who have much to loss when a major disaster hits Ghana are the same people who are going to turn this issue into a political wresting match; with no winner in sight.

I know I’m just a dreamer and ahead of my time most of the time, but I hope I‘m not the only lonely voice in the wilderness when it comes to national security issues like this one.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi (voice of Reason)