VRA: Utilising environmental sustainability as a tool of CSR
The VRA believes that its continuous existence largely depends on its responsiveness to the environment. In this regard, the VRA's environmental policy requires that it develops and implements systems for all its business units to ensure compliance with national and international environmental regulations. It also sets out to monitor and report on environmental performance to its stakeholders.
The VRA’s Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and Preparedness Plan for its two hydroelectric plants as well as regulations, internal and external policies were strictly adhered to.
The Authority is spending about GH¢1,200,000, and US$200,000 towards the payment of environmental services to protect the Volta Gorge.
The VRA also undertakes activities such as reforestation programmes; solid waste management; and reduction in mobile emissions. The others are Lower Volta dredging; aquatic weed harvesting programme; climate smart stoves; and bamboo development initiatives.
VRA Reforestation Programme
The Volta Gorge Reforestation Programme includes environmental education in communities and schools, tree nursery establishment for raising of forest tree seedlings, tree planting, clearing of tree plantation, replacement of dead tree seedlings, wild fire management, survival surveys and monitoring, to provide feedback for decision-making.
About 3,132 hectares of the Volta gorge area have been covered by dense vegetation, plantation and natural forest.
Buffer Zone Reforestation: A total of 28,800 out of 41, 000 forest tree seedlings produced have been supplied to 31 riparian communities for planting 41 hectares of planted area have so far been covered.
Bamboo Plantation Development: In partnership with the Forestry Commission, the VRA has a bamboo plantation development programme to protect the Volta Lake. This was necessary because the Volta Lake environment, including the Volta gorge, is being degraded and deforested through livelihood activities such as farming, fishing, biomass energy production (firewood and charcoal) and sale of lands.
In addition, the Authority, in collaboration with the riparian communities, land owners and District Assemblies, has implemented various watershed management interventions aimed at protecting the Volta Lake environment and improving livelihoods of the fringe communities.
Green Ghana Project: In 2021, VRA joined the country under the auspices of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, to embark on a Greening Ghana Project by planting and nurturing tree seedlings at various work locations.
Protecting the Volta Lake
The VRA takes steps to minimize pollution of the Volta Lake by monitoring and assessing the quality of the reservoir. The monitoring is carried out on effluent from the tailrace of the Akosombo and Kpong Dams, as well as pollutant-laden effluents from suspected pollution sites along the shoreline of the Volta. This is done by benchmarking pollution monitoring performance against WHO/EPA targets in monthly, quarterly and half-yearly reviews.
Ensuring Water Quality: The 2021 results for water quality indicated that the Authority's operational areas were within acceptable limits, hence little or no environmental and social impacts on lakeside communities were detected.
Aquatic Weed Management
In order to enhance their socio-economic activities, VRA has in the past five years, invested over GH¢190,000 annually to maintain the waterfront of over 20 riverine communities including Ayikpala and Ahudzo in the Kpong Head pond whose watersides are infested with water weeds.
In the Lower Volta Basin, the over 50 beneficiary communities include Agbeve, Dzitrokope, Mafi Aklamador, Mafi Dekpoe, Mafi Dove, Mafi Dugame, Mafi Kumikpo, Vome, Afalikpo, Agave Afedome, Aglorkpovia, Akligbekope, Attitekpo, Avegagome, Avegoeme, Bakpa Tademe, Batorgodo, Fiavie Dugame, Hasikope and Kpostome.
Aquatic Weed Harvesting: The VRA harvests aquatic weeds to promote the health of the Volta Lake. The invasion of the Volta River system by water hyacinth in 1998 was identified as a disruptive event since hyacinth has the potential of changing the status of plant diversity. Maintaining the Volta Lake ecosystems through the management of water hyacinth, therefore, occupies a leading role in the VRA’s business strategy.
The waterweed harvesting intervention seeks to enhance access to water extraction sources, minimise obstruction of fishing activities by water weeds and also reduce impediment of the weed cover to boat transportation within the Lakeside communities.
Climate-Smart Stoves Initiative
To minimise the harvesting and utilisation of trees in the VRA plantations by the riparian communities, in 2016 the VRA, in collaboration with the Fisheries Department and the Asuogyaman District, successfully piloted the introduction of fuel-efficient domestic cookstoves termed “Climate Smart Stoves” (CSS). By the close of 2018, the VRA constructed 300 cookstoves for the communities. A total of 1,000 stoves are planned to be constructed by end of 2024.
The main objective for the introduction of CSS was to reduce forest degradation through reduced consumption of firewood. The use of CSS has had immense economic and health benefits for users. An assessment of the CSS by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) showed efficiency in terms of fuelwood savings of 51.45 per cent and a processing rate of 76.6 per cent. According to the CSIR, this performance met the international requirement of a minimum of 40 per cent fuel saving.
Climate Change Programme
The VRA carried out a variety of conservation programs, involving significant reductions in Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. In 2016, VRA initiated a “Corporate Carbon Footprint Management Programme” (CFMP) in response to the global call on nations and organisations to assist in combating climate change and its impact.
The programme aims at improving the environmental sustainability of the VRA’s business and helps strengthen its green credentials in the marketplace.
The first corporate GHG inventory report, which covered emissions from nine VRA power generation facilities in Aboadze, Akosombo, Akuse, and Tema for 2012-2015 was produced in 2017.
The Baseline Report was later verified by the Climate Change Department of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in accordance with the GHG Protocol and updated to cover GHG emissions for the period 2012-2019.
GHG Emission Reduction Strategies: In line with recommended GHG emission reduction actions, the VRA has developed a Renewable Energy Development Programme (REDP) to increase its generation capacity from renewable sources. The VRA’s REDP has set 5-10 years to upscale renewable generation capacity target from renewable sources from 2.5MW to 160MW.
Responsible Consumption Programme
The Authority’s activities being implemented include afforestation and reforestation, bush fire prevention and management, alternative livelihood programmes, etc.
PET Bottles Segregation and Processing Programme: The VRA intends to embark on the segregation and disposal of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), targeting Akosombo and its environs in the Asuogyaman District. Under the programme, the VRA plans to jointly establish a “Plastic Waste Processing and Recycling Centre” with Jekora Ventures Limited whose proposal for partnership under the programme is subject to the outcome of a feasibility study.
Solid Waste Segregation Programme: The VRA has made a conscious effort to reduce waste generation through preventing, reducing, reusing and recycling. In 2021, the VRA delivered a total of 2,259.50 Kg of waste paper to Akosombo Paper Mill Limited (APML). Since the inception of the programme in August 2017, the VRA has delivered a total of 7,006.50Kg of waste paper to APML, and in return, received 320 pieces of unwrapped toilet rolls.