It’s easier to take than to give. It’s nobler to give than to take. The thrill of taking lasts a day. The thrill of giving lasts a lifetime-Joan Marques
The Akosombo Dam is one of the most important infrastructures in Ghana, providing electricity to millions of people and industries. However, the dam also poses a serious threat to the lives and livelihoods of thousands of residents living along the Volta River downstream, especially during the rainy season when the water level rises beyond the maximum operating capacity of the dam.
This year, the Volta River Authority (VRA) started a controlled spillage of water from the Akosombo Dam and the Kpong Dam on September 15, 2023, to prevent a possible dam failure that could have catastrophic consequences on the entire country thus the spillage exercise which was expected to last for about a month, with a total discharge of 3,986 cubic meters per second.
However, the spillage has also caused massive flooding in several communities in South Tongu, North Tongu, Central Tongu, Asuogyaman, and other districts, displacing over 31,000 people as of October 21, 2023. Many homes, farms, schools, churches, and other properties have been submerged by the floodwaters, leaving the affected residents homeless, hungry, and helpless.
The Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources, Freda Prempeh, has blamed some of the victims for not heeding the warnings by authorities to evacuate before the spillage. According to her, the victims refused to relocate until the unfortunate incident happened, making them a burden to the government, the question I ask is, evacuate to where? What was the laid out plan for the evacuation and how were properties and businesses such as fish farms going to work in such evacuations? What was the plan?
However, some of the victims have countered this claim, saying that they did not receive any prior notice or assistance from the government or the VRA to evacuate their areas. They also said that they had nowhere else to go, as they depended on their lands and fishing activities for their survival.
One of the victims, a businessman who lost about GH¢200,000 worth of goods and equipment in his shop at Mepe, said that he was traumatized by the flood and could not even eat. He had invested all his savings in his business and had no insurance or alternative source of income.
Another victim, a farmer who lost his entire farm and house to the flood at Asuogyaman, claims of no hope for the future as he had worked hard for many years to cultivate his crops and build his house, only to see them washed away by the spillage leaving him no means to feed his family or rebuild his life.
The situation of these victims and many others is heartbreaking and calls for urgent intervention from both the government and humanitarian organisations. The National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) has been providing some relief items such as food, water, mattresses, blankets, and tents to some of the affected communities. However, these are not enough to meet the needs of all the victims or to restore their normal lives.
Some private organisations have also shown solidarity and compassion to their workers who were affected by the spillage but more support is needed from other stakeholders such as civil society groups, religious bodies, corporate entities, media houses, celebrities, and individuals to help alleviate the plight of the victims.
They can donate cash or kind to all media houses championing this cause and other reputable organisations that are working on the ground to assist the victims. Citizens can also volunteer their time or skills to help with rescue operations or rehabilitation efforts as well as help raise awareness and advocate for better policies and practices to prevent such disasters from recurring in the future.
The Akosombo Dam spillage is a national tragedy that affects us all and hence cannot afford to be indifferent or apathetic to the suffering of our fellow citizens. We must show empathy and generosity to those who have lost everything due to no fault of their own, stand together as one nation and help each other in times of a crisis like this and heed their cry for help.
WRITTEN BY: Mabel Delassie Awuku – Information Services Department