Dams spillage: Urgent action needed
The heart-wrenching scenes of the disaster that has come upon residents along the lower Volta Basin since the supposed "controlled spillage" of the Akosombo and Kpong dams raise issues of national disaster management.
In the circumstance when the situation was occasioned by what officials have described as an intention to salvage the integrity of the important national power installation systems, it is most unthinkable that the consequences have virtually assumed a humanitarian crisis.
More than 3,000 people have been displaced and rendered homeless as of last Saturday, with food, water, shelter, clothing and health care among the critical emergencies facing communities.
The aged, people with disability, children and women are among vulnerable populations reeling under the present situation.
We don't consider this as a natural disaster because the spillage was planned and executed, except that with hardly a sense of concern for the consequences on life and property.
Contextually, the two dams — which supply about 30 per cent of Ghana's power demands and further provide the source of treated water for more than six million of the country's 32 million people — became full with water beyond their respective thresholds, which officials explained to be the result of the recent favourable rainfall.
As is common with such scenarios, the spillage became a necessary option to avert the threat of damage to the dams.
What did not happen is an assessment of the extent of the potential havoc that could come upon communities in the channel of the spillage and how such potential catastrophe could be mitigated.
The Volta River Authority (VRA), custodian of the river's resource, holds regular sensitisation fora for communities within its catchment area, particularly when an exercise of some level of consequence to the people is about to happen.
This year was no exception. Unfortunately, the necessary measures needed to prevent this scale of crisis were not put in place.
Granted that there was early warning about the spillage, it cannot be lost on state agencies that the thousands of residents and hordes of business concerns within the area could not simply pack bag and baggage and head for nowhere.
Telling regular vulnerable people to move to higher or safer grounds without guiding their path is a meaningless rhetoric that emphasises a lack of empathy for their situation.
Why was there no temporary settlement for people expected to be affected by the spillage with the provision of tents, bed nets, toilet facilities, among other emergency materials, to ease their discomfort?
Why was such volume of water spilled within a short period so that the impact becomes devastating?
With cemeteries, dumpsites and mortuaries flooded, the sanitary conditions and general health of the immediate environment, including the Volta River, is compromised.
The VRA and its engineers owe society as much responsibility and explanation for their actions that affect life and livelihood as they require society to show responsibility towards power consumption.
Engineering is a serious science discipline that employs data to forecast events.
That is why we expected the VRA and its engineers to have anticipated the possible impact of the spillage in order to design and implement mitigating measures to prevent this scale of crisis.
And once the deficit in planning and intervention became evident, it should have triggered an immediate response.
Rather than engaging in arguments about how much sensitisation was done, the emergency must be treated as an emergency.
If the spillage of the Bagre Dam in Burkina Faso comes with adequate warning, we owe ourselves even better actions when our engineers are in charge of the Akosombo and Kpong spillage.
The ministerial committee set up for the purpose must take prompt and decisive actions to salvage what is left, as further delay could be more devastating.