|Akosombo Dam and Volta Lake, Ghana|
Blog Entry #17: Ghana Moves Forward II: Development, Conservation, and Rising Populations
Saturday, September 17, 2011
|Outflow Pipes from Akosombo Dam's 6 Turbine|
A model of World Bank sponsored and funded development typical of the 1960s – large hydroelectric dams to fuel economic development through energy, irrigation, and fishing – the Akosombo Dam initially generated so much electricity that it far exceeded the needs of Ghana’s then 6 million people.
Now that Ghana’s population has quadrupled to 24 million and recent years of drought have lowered water levels behind the dam and hence its generating capacity, Ghana has begun looking at other rivers for more dams to keep pace with economic growth demands.
The Akosombo Dam and Volta Lake illustrate both the complexities and ambiguities of such large scale development projects that have earned the World Bank much criticism and led it to altering its “big projects” approach. The energy it has generated has been critical to Ghana’s economic development, and it also provides drinking water to much of Accra.
But is has come at a high social, cultural, and environmental cost: Volta Lake submerged nearly 740 villages, displaced over 80,000 people, and disrupted the river ecosystem of the 930-mile long Volta River.
|Baobob Trees, Shai Hills|
|Coastal Savanna, Shai Hills Reserv|
Home to 19 baboon troops, other forms of indigenous wildlife are being reintroduced to the Shai Hills. Poaching is a constant threat, so a permanent guard force is maintained.
The Shai Hills Nature Reserve represent another ambiguous legacy of Western-style development: the creation of national parks and nature reserves along the model popularized by John Muir and the U.S. wilderness movement. These reserves have helped to conserve much of the world’s native flora and fauna, but often at the expense of the regions’ indigenous peoples who lived in largely sustainable relationships with them prior to Western colonialism and development. Mark Dowie writes insightfully about this in his recent book, “Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict between Global Conservation and Native Peoples.” Native peoples now find themselves excluded both from the lands they occupied historically and the traditional ways of living that supported them and their cultures.
|Above the Volta River|