Ghana has six designated Ramsar websites. These are wetlands designated beneath the standards of the Ramsar Conference on Wetlands, a world treaty that seeks to guard them. In Ghana, these websites are primarily alongside the coast and are supposed to be protected as set out within the conference. However the websites have change into targets for property builders whose actions are resulting in a decline within the flood resilience of many elements of the capital, Accra. Environmental scientist Chris Gordon explains the features of wetlands and why extra must be achieved to guard them.
What’s a wetland?
Wetlands are thought-about beneath the Ramsar Conference “areas of marsh, fen, peatlands or water, whether or not pure or synthetic, everlasting or non permanent, with water that’s static or flowing, recent, brackish or salt, together with areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide doesn’t exceed six metres.” Ghana is a signatory to the conference and the primary wetland designated was the Owabi Wildlife Sanctuary Ramsar Web site. Wetland areas in Ghana cowl all of the nation’s seashores, mangrove areas, river buffer zones and low-lying land that’s flooded by water, at instances to a depth of about six metres.
What’s its significance to the surroundings?
Wetlands are essential in some ways and are related to nearly each facet of human life. They function a buffer for floods as they take up water. Additionally they assist scale back the affect of drought as they replenish groundwater by releasing that trapped water slowly into aquifers (the rocks that maintain water underground).
The holding capability of wetlands helps management floods and prevents water logging of crops. Mangroves additionally scale back the affect of storm surges, and defend the coast from erosion.
Wetlands function breeding and nursery grounds for a number of species of marine fish, that are a supply of individuals’s livelihood (each as fisher-folk and within the downstream fish worth chain). Additionally they present medicinal crops and constructing supplies in addition to home items resembling mats.
A number of species of animals and crops want wetland circumstances to outlive. All of those animals and crops have intrinsic worth too, in that they provide individuals pleasure. Wetlands are very peaceable locations.
Why are they beneath risk in Ghana?
Wetlands are focused for industrial and residential improvement in city areas the place there’s a scarcity of land or in areas the place the wetland are seen as prime land for vacationer improvement alongside the coast.
Within the city setting, wetlands are normally the final locations to be developed.
So in a spot like Accra, wetlands in low mendacity flooded areas are being focused as a result of nearly each area has been encroached because of unwell thought-about developments (generally with the indiscriminate allocation of constructing permits by native authorities).
Wetlands aren’t appropriate to construct on. Wetlands soil is waterlogged, usually acidic or saline and has a excessive clay content material. It’s subsequently unstable. Constructing on this soil isn’t the wisest factor to do: the buildings are by no means robust. Even after including chemical substances to the cement and concrete, you discover that groundwater within the wetlands erodes the foundations. Filling up the wetland by piling materiel on it doesn’t assist, as this materials act like a wick bringing corrosive chemical substances to the floor.
Landowners know this, however proceed with their developments.
What has the affect of the developments been?
The main affect – particularly in city areas – is tied to incontrovertible fact that the wetlands lose their operate of appearing as a sponge. Wetlands take in the surplus runoff after which launch it slowly. This stops excessive water ranges rising, and flooding. The lack of the greenbelt and concrete wetlands in Accra has decreased the flexibility of wetlands to retain water when there may be unusually heavy rain.
To construct in a wetland you normally must fill it. You must add materials to construct it up. The water that might have beforehand occupied that area is displaced and must go some place else. So you might have constructed years in the past and really feel your constructing is secure. Nevertheless, the water that’s been displaced will end in flooding. The result’s that infrastructure resembling roads which had been beforehand by no means flooded now change into flooded.
What will be achieved?
To revive a wetland after it has been encroached on doesn’t simply contain eradicating a constructing. You must take away the fabric that has been put there, in some circumstances illegally, then you must attempt to seed the wetland with the right kinds of crops and hope that the animals will come to reestablish it.
It’s a lengthy, costly course of. Most likely the only wetlands to revive are the mangroves alongside the coast. However even then, the issues brought on by erosion, sea degree rise and plastic air pollution and elevated sedimentation due to the runoff are tough to show round.
Wetlands are being restored in elements of Europe and North America, as a result of authorities realised that the worth of getting a wetland was better than the event that was there.
However this motion is rooted in behavioural and attitudinal change. Ghanaian must should get individuals to cease doing the injury. Then we will see learn how to take away a few of these buildings that are in waterways, learn how to open culverts, learn how to plant bushes to extend infiltration (the circulation of water from above floor into the subsurface). And learn how to get individuals to cease paving their whole compounds with tiles which improve water runoff.
It’s everybody’s downside. And everybody can profit from fixing it.