I WAS taken aback when the Executive President of the Friend of Rivers and Water Bodies, an environmental non-governmental organisation, Nana Kwabena Dwomoh- Sarpong, told me that originally there were 77 rivers and streams in Kumasi but this had whittled down to less than 20 currently.
When I tried to find out the reasons for this shocking revelation, he gave a multiplicity of reasons but all of them related to human activities.
Water is crucial for food security and indeed the survival of man. Any activity that poses a threat to water bodies, therefore, must be a source of concern to every rational person.
Kumasi, which used to be called the Garden City, has lost much of its green features. But, one other natural resource that has come under constant attack, and which some people unfortunately seem not to have noticed, is water bodies.
But for the Friends of Rivers and Water Bodies which has been campaigning for the protection of the water bodies in the metropolis, the wanton destruction of this natural resource would not have received the necessary attention.
Living in a city where the environment is under constant threat is sometimes not pleasant. The abuse of water bodies in Kumasi has resulted in the breeding of mosquitoes and its attendant spread of malaria.
Statistics at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital indicates that malaria is still the number one cause of attendance at the Out Patients Department. The disease is killing people but we do not seem to care.
Water bodies are crucial to the survival of man that is why the Friends of Rivers and Water Bodies have warned that the wanton abuse of water bodies in Kumasi is putting the entire environment of the metropolis under serious threat.
Apart from many of the rivers and streams drying up as a result of human activities, the abuse impedes the drainage of the water bodies, resulting in flooding in a number of areas during heavy downpours.
Citing the example of water bodies in the metropolis being directed into gutters and drains as one disturbing example of the abuses, Nana Dwomoh-Sarpong said the situation had resulted in many of them drying up.
The situation can even get worse if the right measures are not put in place to address the situation.
Many residents in Kumasi care less about the importance of water bodies. People throw all sorts of rubbish into rivers and streams while others build in waterways with impunity.
The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, has cautioned chiefs against the sale of marshy lands.
The Asantehene gave the warning not only with the aim of stopping the flooding that occurs in such places but more importantly, to protect the rivers.
At Ohwim, a green belt along a river at the outskirts of the town is being developed. People are building there and the danger is that those who intend living there will have to contend with flooding. The continuous existence of the rivers will also definitely come under threat.
At Kaase, a suburb of Kumasi, a major drain which serves as a receptacle for rainwater upstream has been constructed to link the Subin River. But siltation and the huge waste dumped into the drain have blocked the flow of water under one of the bridges. This often results in spillovers and flooding during rains.
The time has come for the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly to enforce its by-laws on construction along waterways. If the chiefs stop selling lands in waterways, the assembly will have no business planning demolition exercises.
Environmental NGOs like the Friends of Rivers and Water Bodies should also be given the authority to watch over green belts. I think they can do that better than the metropolitan assembly.