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Editorial | Sep 6, 2018

Ghana Must Make Economic Use Of Bagre Dam Spillage

Ghanaian Chronicle
Ghana Must Make Economic Use Of Bagre Dam Spillage

Since 1999, seven years after the Bagre Dam was constructed in Burkina Faso in 1992, its West neighbouring African country, Ghana, has been at the receiving end of the dam's devastating effects, while the Francophone country is raking in huge economic benefits – generation of electricity and supply of water for irrigation purposes.

In August 2007, the government of Ghana, under the Presidency of then President John Agyekum Kufuor, declared a state of emergency in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions after SONABEL, the electricity company of Burkina Faso, managers of the Bagre Dam, opened sluices of the dam because it could no longer contain the overwhelming volume of water which had hit 235 cubic metres, the maximum capacity of level of the dam.

That year, 12 people, predominantly those along the White Volta Basin in the Upper East Region, perished. Livestock were washed away, farm fields inundated by flood waters, and over one hundred houses collapsed.

In subsequent years, the impact of the spillage caused minimal destruction to lives and properties, until in 2010, 2014, 2015, and 2017, when the floods led the death of 27 people in the Upper East Region, while large farm fields were devastated. In the Northern and Upper West regions, similar casualties were recorded.

Now, in 2018, the region has been hit again by floods, following the spillage of the Bagre Dam on Friday August 31. The basins of the White and Black Volta have swelled up, and their banks overflowing with ravaging flood waters flowing into farms and homes.

This year's situation is compounded by continuous torrential rains in the region, which have already destroyed close to 10,000 hectares of farm lands, according to the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO).

Interestingly, this is happening at a time the government is implementing its much-talked about One Village, One Dam policy to provide water for farming and domestic uses in the three predominantly affected regions.

In 2008, the Parliament of Ghana contracted a loan of $525 million from Brazil to construct a multi-purpose dam at Pwalugu in the Upper East Region, and the Juala Dam in the Northern Region.

Although Ghana received the money in 2009, the government abandoned the two projects and diverted the money for the construction of the Eastern corridor road.

If it had been constructed, the Pwalugu Multi-Purpose Dam would have had a capacity to irrigate about 20,000 hectares of land by gravity only, and 100,000 of hectares of land when pumped all-year-round farming.

Again, the project would have been generating 250 megawatts of electricity to supply to the people of the Upper East Region. The project has a generation capacity of about 250 megawatts of electricity, to supply the people of the Upper East Region.

In 2016, seven years after the diversion of funds meant for the two projects, this was under then Chief Executive Officer of Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), now Northern Development Authority (NDA), Dr. Charles Abugre. “The cost of the project is about $700 million, and all the paper work was completed six months ago, but there is some contention around the environmental impact which we are trying to deal with. It requires government's commitment to mobilise the $700 million, so what has SADA done? We kept it in government priority agenda, so we have pushed it on the World Bank and it can only start next year.”

He said this in 2016 during the 7th assembly meeting of the Bongo District Assembly in the Upper East Region.

The Pwalugu project was aimed at accommodating spilled water from the Bagre Dam on an annual basis, and same used for irrigation during the dry season, and hydro power supply, because the sites identified for its execution were on the White Volta Basin, which has its confluence with the Bagre Dam at Dalaka in the Bawku West District. On the other hand, the Juala Hydro Dam Project was meant to supply electricity to the people of the Northern Region.

The Chronicle is convinced that the decision by the government of Ghana in 2009 to divert funds for these critical projects was a wrong one, and if steps are not immediately taken to look for alternative funds to execute them, the search for a solution to end the perennial distractions as a result of the spillage of Bagre Dam will remain fruitless.

What is more disturbing is the fact that successive governments have not been able to ameliorate the sufferings of flood victims in these regions, let alone, bringing back the lives of those who perished.

If the government today can find money to construct dams in all villages in the three regions, in areas where those dams will not collect water from the Bagre Dam and store for dry season farming, then it should be a major source of concern to those in the affected regions.

The Chronicle, is therefore, suggesting to the government, to as a matter of importance, consider the economic gains the construction of the Pwalugu Multi-Purpose Dam and Juala Hydro Dam will bring to the economy of the country, and, more importantly, human lives and properties the two projects will save if funds are made available for their execution.

Anything less will mean that next year, around this same time, we will still be talking about spending the taxpayer's money to set up Operation Thunderbolt at Walewale in the Northern Region, and another at Zebilla in the Upper East Region, to respond to emergencies when the SONABEL authorities open the spill ways of the Bagre Dam.

The time to act is now!

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