According to an article published by the Institute of Chartered Foresters, trees, hedgerows and woods are a vital part of natural flood management, and strategic planting can have a positive impact in areas experiencing floods from rivers and surface water.
There are a number of ways trees can help to reduce or prevent flooding and this include direct interception of rainfall and greater ‘hydraulic roughness’ i.e., water experiences increased frictional resistance when passing over land.
Evidence from a number of studies also indicate that, trees have higher soil infiltration rates where water penetrates more quickly and more deeply into soils under and around trees than on, for example, lawn or pasture without trees. Thus, tree roots create channels in the soil known as ‘macropores’, and water from heavy rain will infiltrate the soil using these channels rather than flowing over the surface and leading to floods.
With all the stated importance of trees to control flood, it came as a big surprise to Ghanaians when the Minister of Roads and Highways, Mr Kwasi Amoako-Attah last week disclosed that, some of the historic mahogany trees along the road leading into the Sandema Township in the Builsa North Municipality of the Upper East Region will be cut off to solve the perennial flooding in the area.
The Minister said “It may be necessary to cut down some of these trees, we all know the importance of trees, and is not for pleasure that we should cut down some of these trees. But if we want to deal with the problem, build strong good roads, widen and raise the topography here, to avoid these perennial experiences, some of these trees must go,”.
Mr Amoako-Atta who paid a working visit to the Sandema Municipality to inspect the extent of damage caused by recent floods in the area, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in the Municipality that “The appropriate steps will be taken.”
According to him, felling some of the trees would be “In our common interest to save life and property.
Builsa residents challenge Minister
Meanwhile, a concern group of the Builsa North District has disclosed that, the reasons given by the Minister responsible for roads and highways to fell the Sandema historic trees are not justifiable enough.
A leader of the group, Samson Samari Eliasu told ghenvironment.org that, the trees are not the cause of the perennial flooding in the area. “We all know in basic agric that, trees are measures of checking erosion and for the Minister to suggest that, the trees are responsible for the flooding of Sandema is something that I can't wrap my head around”, he said.
According to him, the Minister should rather blame the flooding on poor engineering work and houses built on water ways rather than looking for an excuse to achieve a long-time dream of clearing the beautiful trees of age.
He asked “Is the Minister seeking to suggest that flooding in many parts of the country is as a result of trees, flooding on the Kanjarga to Fumbisi road around the big bridge is as a result of trees, has the Minister taken the necessary steps to identify other causes of the flooding around that place and can't the Minister see the big stream around where the flooding occurs”?
He said, it is imperative that the Minister of Roads and Highways ‘come again’ as the trees are not and cannot be the cause of flooding around one portion of the Chuchuliga - Sandema- Wiaga road, adding, the flooding problem is there but not the trees.
Mr Eliasu therefore suggested that, the Ministry and the contractor should consider creating channels for water passage, building and expanding the big stream that causes the flooding and should consider relocating the houses and structures along the water way.
He said the ministry and the contractor should also investigate to find out why the other side of the road doesn't flood.
“The trees should not be touched; the road can be constructed without cutting a single tree on the road. We should rather encourage tree planting and not cut trees. The short time benefit of cutting of the trees cannot offset the long-standing effects of such environmental vandalism”, he warned.
Eco-Conscious Citizens write to the Minister
The Eco-Conscious Citizens have waded into the issue and have written a letter to Mr Amoako-Attah urging him to drop the idea of cutting down the iconic mahogany trees. The letter was signed by the Eco-Conscious Citizens Co-ordinator, Awula Serwah, and supported by other members of the group.
The letter reads “Eco-Conscious Citizens respectfully urge you to ensure that none of the iconic mahogany trees at Sandema are felled. There is a climate emergency, which is affecting sub-Saharan Africa and our northern regions are not immune from the advancing desert and freak weather patterns. We must combat climate change and flooding”.
“Trees are known to reduce flood risk and make a real difference against the devastating effects of flooding and desertification. Felling the Sandema trees should not be an option. We should use the ingenuity and skills of our engineers to construct drains without felling trees, especially iconic mahogany trees. Eco-Conscious Citizens are relying on you to choose a sustainable climate friendly solution to the challenge of flooding, desertification and rising temperatures”, the letter added.