Commuters and boat owners hailed the government’s tree stump removal program, which they say has improved transport safety on the Oti River.
Dangerous tree stumps made transportation through the area a dangerous undertaking, as several lives were lost.
The Ghana Maritime Authority has launched a program in 2020 to clear all tree stumps in the river, which is the only source of transport for residents of Oti, North and Volta regions.
Traveling on small boats on the Oti River is considered one of the high risk adventures.
Small boats and canoes are often overloaded with passengers without life jackets as riders meander through waters filled with several tree stumps.
American philanthropist Fred Osei-Yeboah runs several projects in Kpandai District, Northern Region.
His activities require him to cross the Oti River by ferry or canoe.
Mr. Osei-Yeboah’s NGO, Soles of Hope, has given hope to people in the northern region with water education infrastructure, among other things.
“Who reads the safety instructions? Where are the live jackets? There are none here. Even the ferry doesn’t have a life jacket, let alone the canoe,” he said of the safety of small canoes and passenger boats on the Oti River.
He prefers to travel with his team on the ferry operated by the Ghana Maritime Authority than on canoes.
“So for our safety we prefer to travel by ferry rather than canoe,” he said during a trip on the Oti River.
Disasters and boat fatalities have until now been commonplace for residents of the Oti, North and Volta regions, as the Oti River has become the only means of transportation.
Tree stumps lodged in the river are the bane of travelers in boats and canoes.
In November last year, seven students from St. Charles Liwanga High School in Saboba District in the Northern Region died after one of the two canoes they were sailing in capsized in the Oti River.
The students had gone with the school principal to harvest the rice.
This has since led to the director’s prosecution.
Additionally, the body of a child was recovered by rescuers from the Oti River following a boat accident in western Krachi district in 2020.
Commuters and boat owners say stories like these and many more were common until the government launched the tree stump removal program.
Chezki Akwasi is a boat owner and president of the local boat owners association in Dambai.
“We haven’t had any boat accidents in this area since they removed the stumps. It has benefited us a lot. We closed at 6 p.m. Traveling on the river at night was a dangerous adventure because of the tree stumps,” he recalls.
“You can’t detect strains when you’re traveling at night. Now that the stumps have been removed, we no longer close early; we sometimes close at midnight. He added.
Chezki has many canoes under A1 Boats. He says the tree stump removal program has reduced boating accidents on the river as safe transportation is provided for operators and travellers.
He wants the exercise to be extended to Kabiti, Yikhey, Gbetzu.
“Before the exercise, we closed at 6 p.m. On the contrary, we now work beyond 6 p.m. until midnight. We sometimes get calls from commuters from Accra, Worawora, Krachie asking us to wait for them in the deep of the night. The majority of our commuters prefer to travel at night on the river now. »
“I would be lying if I told you that the tree stump removal exercise was not beneficial. They should expand it to Kabiti, Gbi Zongo, Ekay and Kpachu.
Some customers, including a prison officer, praised the exercise.
“As far as removing tree stumps, that helped a lot. In the past, accidents on this lake were common, especially involving boats, but after removing the tree stump, if it’s not a thunderstorm, you don’t normally hear about a boat capsizing revealed ASP Michael Odoe of Kete Krachie Prisons.
“Now the security is better,” he added.
While commending the government for this gesture, there is an appeal to President Akufo-Addo to keep his promise to build a bridge over the Oti River.
“Last year in December, President His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo promised the people of the Oti region that he would build a bridge over it, and we haven’t even seen any development taking place.”