With the rainy season just about three months away, the Odaw River, which was constructed into a canal as part of measures to end the perennial flooding of parts of Accra, can hardly hold the least shower today.
The river flows strategically from the Abokobi and Adjankote hills through Ashongman, Atomic Energy area, West Legon, Achimota, Alajo, Avenor, Agbogbloshie and finally into the Atlantic Ocean through the Korle Lagoon to drain the Accra metropolis but that service is hampered because its belly is now choked with garbage.
While city authorities battle with its costly dredging, scrap dealers, traders, mechanics and squatters who have found shelter on the banks of the river have compounded its woes by dumping all manner of waste into the river.
The Odaw River has not only become a dumping ground for solid waste but also a receptacle for excreta, as some people squat along its banks to freely attend to the call of nature, even in broad daylight.
As a result of this extensive pollution, the Odaw River is virtually dead. There is hardly aquatic life in the river, especially at the places where pollution is very severe.
Many years ago, people used to fish in the river.
Nine lives were lost, while businesses along the banks of the river suffered incalculable losses, as a result of floods in Accra in 2011.
The Phoenix Insurance Company Limited, for example, presented insurance claims to companies such as Rana Motors, Toyota Ghana and Seagate Resources Company following the losses those companies suffered during the floods in October 2012.
Although some have been paid compensation by their insurance companies, they are yet to recover fully from their losses.
According to a senior official of the Hydraulics Department of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing, Mr Wise Ametefe, to ensure that there was free movement of the river, there was the need for it to be dredged regularly, especially when it had a bad slope.
He told the Daily Graphic in an interview in Accra Monday that it cost GH¢1.6 million for Pentrexx, a dredging company, to fully dredge the about 16-kilometre Odaw River some three years ago.
He said sand traps which could have reduced the amount of silt that entered the Odaw were destroyed during concrete lining works undertaken by SNC Lavaline, a Canadian company, and the AMA?from Agbogbloshie to the Achimota bridge section of the Odaw.
“The sand traps would have to be reinstated to prevent the sedimentation of the canal, since it also has a bad slope,” he said.
Last year, the AMA awarded a sectional dredging of the Odaw to Zoomlion Ghana Limited. The company was expected to dredge from Caprice to the Graphic Road in two months at a cost of GH¢2 million.
So far, work done, according to the Head of Drains at the AMA, Mr Peter Sarbah, was between 25 and 30 per cent because the company did not have the requisite equipment to carry out the job.
“Work is not going on as planned,” Mr Sarbah explained, adding that what Zoomlion needed was a long boom, a type of equipment, which would allow it to excavate waste materials from the Odaw easily.
Motorists on the Graphic Road and those along the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Road where the Odaw flows behind the Neoplan Lorry Station are constantly reminded of the unpreparedness of the national capital to deal with this year’s rains as solid waste, especially plastic, has replaced what should have been water flowing freely into the Atlantic Ocean.
Ironically, the silt in sections of the Odaw has thickened with just three months for the seasonal rains to begin in June this year.
The lining of part of the Odaw was carried out between 2002 and 2004 but it has been fully dredged only three times, as the Hydraulics Department of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing and the AMA, the two bodies responsible for its cleanliness, have not collaborated much in the past.