The Ghana Government and Synohydro, the Chinese construction company which is to build the Bui Hydro Electric Dam, yesterday signed a major agreement to pave the way for the actual construction of the 400 megawatts power supply project to begin.
The signing of the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) agreement forms part of final moves by the government to get the $600 million project started by the middle of this year.
The Minister of Energy, Mr Joseph Kofi Adda, signed for the government, while the President of Synohydro, Mr Fan Jixiang, initialled for his company.
Present to witness the ceremony was the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr Joe Ghartey, and a Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Professor Gyan Baffour.
The Bui hydro project, which has been on the drawing board since the early 1920s, has been identified by the present government as one of the major long-term solution to the energy needs of the country.
The Bui site, which is located on the Black Volta, on the border between the Northern and Brong Ahafo regions, approximately 150 kilometres upstream of the Volta, is expected to provide 10 per cent of the country's present energy requirements of 1,700 megawatts.
Unlike the Akosombo Dam, which is primarily designed for hydro power generation, the Bui project has an irrigation component to irrigate up to 30,000 hectares of land, as well as serve as a major national tourism site.
Baring any unforeseen circumstances, the project is expected to take five years, after which the first unit of the project should be ready for inauguration in October 2011.
As per the timetable, the river will be closed in October 2008 to allow other major works to be completed.
A total of 1,700 people who will be affected by the damming of the river will be relocated, while 2,900 Ghanaians will be engaged on the project, which is seen as one of the key projects of the government.
Mr Adda described the Bui project as one of the pragmatic long-term measures which the government was taking to resolve the energy challenges in the country.
He said although the power to be generated from the project was small, compared to that of the Akosombo Dam, it would be enough to serve the country, in view of the other projects, such as the gas pipeline project coming on board later this year.
Mr Adda said the government was not resting on its laurels in the face of the energy challenges but was working hard to ensure that its short, medium to long-term plans were on course to ensure long-term security of energy use in the country.
He said the financial details of the project would be made known as soon as they were completed.
Mr Adda asked Ghanaians to have confidence in the construction company, since it had an excellent record and was the biggest energy construction company in China.
Mr Jixiang, for his part, said the company had a good record in construction and would do all it could to give Ghana its money's worth.
The country has been plunged into an energy crisis since last year when the water level in the Volta Lake, the major source of energy supply in the country, fell below the minimum operating level of 240 feet.
Since then, the government has outlined a number of measures to restore the country's energy needs.
One of the major short to medium-term measures is the provision of power generating plants.
For the long term, a committee, headed by the Chairman of the Council of State, Professor Daniel Adzei-Bekoe, has been put in place to consider the viability of establishing a nuclear power plant in the country, the Bui Dam is being constructed, among others.
Story by Charles Benoni Okine