MY APOLOGIES FOR WE HAVE FAILED YOU GHANA
I write because I am sad, but I write mostly because I am ashamed. Ashamed because I am a civil engineer with a master’s degree in the built environment, who gained this degree by writing a thesis on the topic “developing sustainable urban drainage systems (SUDS) as flood mitigation measure in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA), Ghana”. A paper I was so proud of until now.
I remember I had to start my thesis defense with highlights of the flooding problem in the city of Accra with historical facts on flood occurrences, and the loss of lives and properties from the 1930s to 2012. I remember doing this because my Swedish lecturers couldn’t clearly phantom flooding as a problem needing solving in 2012 at a city level. I further had to show previous research on flooding in the city, and the country as a whole. One showed the correlation between high-earn/low-earn communities and flooding in Accra, a topic not for discussion today, but one I shall surely write about soon.
All these studies, my very own much included, have been shelved and gathering dust every day. We go through hell to undertake such studies, to gain degrees upon degrees, in various fields; Architecture, Engineering, Urban Planning, Real Estate, etc.; at different level; bachelors, masters, doctorate, professorship, all in the aim of developing our built environment. Yet out of school, we go through life professional in the office behind a desk, work and get paid and worry not if we are achieving the aim we sort to study for, to make life better for everyone, everywhere.
My master’s thesis alone, proposed solution upon solution on how the flooding problem in Accra can be solved. I proposed SUDS as the best solution for a city in a developing country, proposed case studies we should learn from, both in terms of design and policy and how these should be adapted to Accra. But after getting a Pass with Distinction for that study, my thesis is also gathering dust, both physically and mentally, because I too work and get paid and worry not if I am achieving the aims for with I undertook that study.
Seeing this week’s events, over a hundred deaths, and all the properties lost, all because of floods, which should have been prevented by people like me through adequate design, proper construction and supervision, and forward thinking, I AM ASHAMED. I know what should have been done, how it should have been done, and even when it should have been done.
I write because for now, this is me stating to do the right thing, taking a step in the right direction to help solve this problem. I do not have the mandate to break buildings in waterways, or initial slum upgrade problems, resort natural water bodies, or enact the policies to solve this problem. So for now I write, bringing my profession, skills and knowledge to bear, as a start to solving this age old problem. Maybe, just maybe if I write enough articles, propose enough solutions, share my thoughts, someone will hear and implement them. This is the first of many articles to come, my own way of giving back to my country Ghana.
We as professionals (architects, urban planners, engineers, leaders etc.), entrusted with developing our built environment to making them liveable have failed you. We have looked on over the years, with arms folded, and in some cases even helped destroy it, and for this we are sorry. I pretend to be speaking for us all but in actual fact; I can only speak for me. I have failed you Ghana, and for that I am truly sorry. I am sorry for letting you all down, Ghanaians deserve better from us, for we are all leaders, SO LET’S LEAD.
Kofi A. Aboagye