An Architect’s Take on Accra’s Perennial Flooding

An Architect’s Take on Accra’s Perennial Flooding

When I was a child I loved running around, playing outside barefooted and free in uncompleted buildings or open fields. Of course, when you spend so much time away from home and you need to use the bathroom it’s going to be out in the open or behind a random bush, since going all the way home would ruin all the fun.

Passing water in the outdoors requires some level of expertise. There are two things you need to look out for: the first is a well concealed area to ensure privacy; the second is a dry, absorbent ground to conceal the act as best as possible. I’ll focus on the second point for this presentation.

I’m sure you were just as wild and free as I was. Yes, I mean you, the one reading this piece. Now, don’t pretend. At some point we may all have observed how the beautiful Ghanaian red earth gulps up any fluid that is poured on it. You may have also observed that irrespective of the amount discharged, more often than not, the only evidence of a liquid discharge is the wet spot and not a pool of liquid.

This permeable nature falls in line with the Sponge City concept  which has been a major solution to the flooding challenge in many countries. As we delve into the details of a Sponge City, kindly picture in your mind’s eye the western absorbent sponge and not the porous Ghanaian sponge.

A Sponge City refers to a sustainable urban development that has flood control, water conservation, water quality improvement and natural ecosystem protection. It envisions a city with a water system which operates like a sponge to absorb, store, filtrate and purify rainwater and release it for reuse when needed.

Here a deliberate attempt at ensuring paved surfaces are restricted to areas that absolutely require paving. These could also be interspersed with soft landscapes to allow rainwater to be absorbed by permeable ground as well as be stored in man-made lakes, ponds and tanks. The benefits of this include but are not limited to the cooling of the microclimate, the preservation of local flora and fauna coupled with the elimination of flooding and its related consequences.

In line with the rapid urbanisation all over the world, Accra has grown in size – by approximately 35% in the last 20 years. Unfortunately, within but not restricted to that timeframe, there have been myriad reports of flooding dating from as far back as 1930.
The effects of these floods are evident; their devastating consequences range from the loss of life, the damage of property, homelessness, the spread of disease and emotional trauma to the loss of productive time and livelihood.

Between the years 1995 and 1997, the cost incurred through damage caused by flooding was estimated at $30,000,000. This was a 100% increase in cost recorded in previous years of the same duration. Unfortunately, 10,000 people were rendered homeless during the said period.

As a people we are well aware of the fact that the causes of this recurring challenge are interrelated: impervious surfaces, inadequate infrastructure, clogged drains, poor sanitation, the uncontrolled siting of buildings on waterways and, in some cases, the high tide.

A strong will to ensure regulatory, institutional and structural changes must be applied to ensure a reduction and final eradication of these deadly annual incidents.

Accra is a wonderful city with amazing potential; let us do our part to make this city as beautiful as the fictional yet inspiring nation of Wakanda. #Wakandaforever



1.  Asumadu-Sarkodie, Samuel & Owusu, Phebe & Rufangura, Patrick. (2015). Impact analysis of flood in Accra, Ghana. Advances in Applied Science Research. 6. 53-78.      10.6084/M9.FIGSHARE.3381460

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    • Akwasi
    • April 19, 2018
    • Reply

    Awesome read Aggie. So how do we integrate this spongy concept into the building of the city? Are there specialised commercial products for road constructions, pavement constructions that contractors should be looking at? I’m yearning to read and know more

    • Akwasi, thank you for your kind comments, I really appreciate them. There are many strategies we could use such as permeable pavers which contractors could look at and implement on a large scale . Also the integration of bioswales are a great way to absorb and control storm water. There are a host of other technologies which can be utilized, We are currently working on a second part of this article which will elaborate on our proposed solutions.

    • Nuzrat Gyamah-Poku
    • May 10, 2018
    • Reply

    This a nice and interesting piece.
    Sometimes I wonder if it’s not too late for the nation especially Accra to be like wakanda. The city is already choked and people are just building onto the mess. In your opinion how can we gradually change our cityscape and help the nationals to see the benefit and possibility of Accra/ Ghana being like Wakanda?

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