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Dams, Development & Downstream Communities

Sawyerr, Louisa M.

Ghana’s Akosombo and Kpong dams were constructed on the Volta River primarily for hydropower generation, but they also provided additional benefits such as flood protection, irrigation, navigation and lake fisheries. There is no doubt that the Akosombo and Kpong dams have contributed and continue to contribute immensely to economic development of Ghana. However, the creation of the Volta Lake in the 1960’s impacted hugely on the downstream riverine ecosystem processes and communities, resulting in collapse of the shellfish industry, loss of agricultural potential and livelihoods, leading to intense poverty and movement of people. This was compounded by the construction of Kpong Headpond in the 1980’s which further changed the freshwater ecology of the lower Volta. The current thinking is that by managing the flow of water from impoundments, it is possible to obtain some of the pre-dam ecosystem services that have been lost as a result of impoundment. The project “Re-operation and Re-optimisation of the Akosombo and Kpong Dams”, on which this book is based, was conceived to explore technically and economically feasible plans for re-operation of the Volta dams that would retain and possibly enhance the existing benefits, which improving downstream livelihood and ecosystems. The book brings together the results of wide ranging, multidisciplinary research that address all the key components and implications of dam re-operation. Starting with the perceptions and concerns of the downstream communities, the book presents four scenarios for re-operation, the implications of each scenario for power generation and people’s livelihoods, flow requirements for fisheries and biodiversity, as well as socio-economic implications. Finally, the studies explore also institutional issues for managing reoperation of the dams, as well as alternative approaches for restoring livelihoods for downstream communities. We believe that the studies reported in this book provide valuable baseline information and essential considerations that will inform not only future plans for re-operation and re-optimisation of the Volta dams, but dam world-wide.

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