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22.03.2007 General News

Rain, Rain, Why Have You Forsaken Ghana?

By Jos Anyima-Ackah

AS we well know, the downpour of rain is an opportune time for school children to recite the rhyme:

Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.

Little boys and girls want to play!'

This rhyme is a solemn prayer to God for the rain to stop. Sometimes it does, allowing the children to go out and play. At other times, it refuses to stop and goes on till school time is over.

SHOWER

Despite its danger of soaking their uniforms and books, school children love the rain. They dare to walk through it to their homes after school because it enables them to shower down. On reaching home, they don’t need to have a bath; they usually sit by the fire to dry themselves. It is a warming experience!

I believe this gist of life reminds us of our childhood days at school, when we played in the rain, wading through the pools of water on our way home and splashing it over our friends for the fun of it.

If school children pray for the rain to go away because it disrupts their play, equally so do people abhor and condemn the rain for its disastrous consequences of flooding that leads to the destruction of life and property. The havoc can be immense and expensive, if it is a rainstorm which rips off rooftops, breaks down houses, bridges, dams, electricity and telephone poles and many more structures.

The city of Accra which is a flood-prone area, has had its fair share of dangerous floods over the years, leaving devastation in their wake. A typical example was the floods that occurred in June 1996 which marooned some residents in the city. But that was a small incident compared with the TSUNAMI that raged from Asia to the East African coast a few years ago.

Thus a torrential rain becomes a curse when it causes great hardships to people and businesses. And when it ceases to come for a long time, the harm can also be considerable.

This is the danger that Ghana has faced, experiencing a prolonged spell of rainless or dry season from late September, last year, to the present. And there is no sign of rainfall sooner. The effect is directly on our source of hydro electric power at the Akosombo Dam. The water level has been reduced to the extent that the volume is not sufficient to propel the turbines to generate electricity for consumption.

According to the latest VRA report published in the national dailies, the dam water level is 238.14 ft compared with the 278.00 ft maximum level and the minimum level of 240.00 ft. This situation has resulted in consistent power outages and rationing from October last year to date.

Fortunately, frantic efforts were made to restore power for the celebration of the 50th Independence Anniversary Week. But the power problem still prevails and will continue for some time until the rainfalls in torrents to fill the Akosombo Dam to the required capacity level which can generate full power supply.

The adverse economic effects are far-reaching. Industries are producing below capacity and face the danger of being closed down. Commercial businesses and social activities are seriously interrupted at great cost. Potential investors are likely to turn away, slowing down national economic development.

Apart from the industries, agriculture is bound to suffer from the long spell of dry season. Crops production will be less, since there is no rain to water the farms. Thus famine is imminent this year as it did happen in the mid-1980s.

Under the circumstances, one lesson is clear. The dependence on rain as the mainstay of energy and agriculture is out of fashion and dangerous.

This point brings into question the reliability of the Bui Dam, another hydro power plant which is scheduled for construction soon. Like the Volta Dam, its power generation will depend on the rain to fill the Bui River to a high level which will in turn increase the dam water level.

This is the reason for the call to explore other sources of energy like solar, wind, thermal and gas. Incidentally, there are gas reservoirs in the Western Region, precisely at Effasu-Mangyea in the Jomoro District where a power barge was located to exploit and utilize the gas. But the project has been abandoned with the removal of the barge to Tema to wait for gas supplies from the West African Gas Pipeline coming from Nigeria.

In view of the current energy crisis in the country, it is necessary to pose the pertinent questions: Can we intensify efforts on the exploitation of the gas resources in the Tano Basin? Is it not more expedient and economical to complete this project before embarking on the Bui Dam which depends on rainfall? There is the need to ponder over these issues and take a decision.

Meanwhile, it is significant to note that devine reasons have been assigned for the long break in the rainfall pattern. Some claim that the gods are angry with us for denigration and dereliction of our traditional duties towards them. Ask the 'Okomfos' (fetish priests and priestesses) around, and they will give you the details; something must be done to pacify them.

Similarly, the spiritualists say that we have been iniquitous in the sight of God. At critical times like the lack of rainfall, we need to pray fervently to Him for rain to pour down from the heavens, fill the Volta Lake with volumes of water that will increase the Akosombo Dam operating level to generate enough power supply.

Though these reasons seem to be specious, one is inclined to believe them, because since the energy crisis we have not done anything in terms of pouring libation to the gods or conducting church or mosque services to pray to God or Allah for intervention to save the critical situation. A non-denominational service nationwide will be ideal. For now let us begin with the prayer:

Rain, rain, why have you forsaken Ghana?

The columnist is a practitioner in advertising and publicity and a member of the Institute of Financial and Economic Journalists (IFEJ).

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