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Parliament calls for joint Ghana/Burkina Faso management of Upper Volta Basin

The Parliamentary Select Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises called for establishment of a joint Upper Volta Basin Management Agency (UVBMA) by Ghana and Burkina Faso.
"The UVBMA would be mandated to set up action plans by the appropriate governmental agencies within each country to control the perennial floods in the northern parts of Ghana due mainly to excess water spilled from the Bagre dam as well as free flow of water from rivers that have their source in Bukina Faso.
"A clear policy to mitigate floods and manage water flow, as well as preparation of a national framework for the integrated development and utilization of the Volta and Oti Water Basins in Ghana would serve as a measure to reduce the impact of the spillage," Dr. Sulley Gariba, Development Policy Advisor, of Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) stated in a statement to the Ghana News Agency in Accra.
This is compounded by siltation of the major and minor rivers, due in part to deforestation and farming on the river beds.  This situation makes it difficult for rain water to flow through the normal drainage channels, causing floods.
The statement emanated from a communiqué issued at the end of a four-day working visit to parts of the three northern regions worse affected by recent floods by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises; Minister of State in the Office of the President responsible for Public Sector Reform and SADA officials.
The team led by Mr Charles Hodogbey, Vice Chairman of the Committee, visited the Central Gonja District in the Northern Region; the Talensi-Nabdam and Bawku-West districts in the Upper East and the Funsi and Sissala East Districts in the Upper West Regions.
The Communiqué called for immediate establishment of a monitoring system that is accountable to the people; Construction of Dams and provision of other water management, harvesting and conservation devices.
"In the long term there is the need to strengthen the institutions responsible for managing Ghana's major rivers and water basins, especially in the northern savannah which is prone to perennial floods and droughts," the Communiqué stated.
"We urge Government and the relevant agencies to undertake effective design and supervision of social and economic infrastructure such as road infrastructure in flood prone areas to avoid the extensive destruction of these facilities due to floods.
"We recommend the need to design a comprehensive housing scheme for the flood-prone areas. Such a scheme should take into consideration the life-styles, culture and tradition of the various communities.  The design should also improve upon foundation and roofing materials.
"Flood resistant species of crops should be cultivated along the banks of the major rivers in the Northern Savannah areas," the Committee stated.
The committee is of the view that with the passage of the SADA Law, it is now time to move from emergency solutions to a longer-term developmental approach. It therefore tasked SADA to work with relevant professional bodies and agencies to develop a long-term planning and design for a comprehensive investment on water resources for the entire northern savannah.
It also tasked the Government to expedite the implementation of the recently passed SADA Law and provide the needed long-term and sustainable funding to enable the development initiatives to start-up.
The Committee after the visit pledged its commitment to become advocates for SADA and explain to other Members of Parliament as well as the general public the conditions in the SADA areas to promote national understanding of the need for urgent action.
The Committee commended the tireless efforts of thousands of women and men who are mainly farmers in the areas for their hard work and resilience…"We also note the efforts of the District Assemblies, Members of Parliament and the Regional Coordinating Councils of the three regions as well as NADMO, in managing the emergencies over the last four years since the major floods of 2007".
The committee notes that while NADMO has been committed to disaster relief, members did not see a comprehensive work plan and appropriate targeting of the relief items. 
"We also noted that several farms and some communities had been submerged by the flood waters, and no meaningful economic activities had been provided to sustain lives and livelihoods among those affected. 
"People have therefore resorted to harvesting potentially unwholesome maize and other cereals affected by the floods," the Committee noted.
The committee observed several collapsed bridges and some washed-off roads. We noted that these were as a result of poor design and construction, as well as weak supervision and quality assurance of works in the flood-prone areas.
The committee noted local knowledge and experiences in the flood-prone areas are high; yet for all these years, no appropriate measures, or a comprehensive plan had been put in place to provide a long-term solution. 
"Many farmers, especially women, who have taken loans to farm have expressed their concern about their capacity to repay.  Many school children in the affected areas are unable to go to school.  In some places, the schools are being used as temporary shelters, rendering regular schooling difficult," the Committee stated.
On the basis of these findings and observations, the Committee strongly recommends for immediate disaster relief preparedness and management, development of the capacity of NADMO to more effectively coordinate and implement emergency disaster as well as preventive measures to control the situation.
People affected by recent floods need immediate and adequate support in terms of food, water, and shelter. An emergency relief program should be put in place including support for households that take care of people who are displaced the Committee noted.
It added that the current system of emergency relief focusing on displaced persons does not seem to capture all affected persons. This needs to be re-examined to develop better targeting tools.
Flood affected communities especially women should be given special consideration under Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty for emergency food crises (LEAP-FEFOC).
NADMO needs to beef-up its coordination to involve other agencies, notably NGOs and also disinfect potable water sources which may have been polluted.
The Committee noted the participation of the World Food Program (WFP) in the mission. WFP pledges its support to implement food for work initiatives based on demand from the communities and their commitment to undertake communal work on flood mitigation and related public works.  This will also serve as a measure for food security.

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