Bui Dam, Ghana
Although Ghana has for decades had a very erratic electricity supply due to its over-reliance on hydropower from large dams, it is now building yet another large dam, and one that is drowning a good portion of a national park. China's low-interest loans for Bui Dam got the project off the ground despite earlier vows by the energy ministry in Ghana to move away from hydro and diversify energy supply. Situated on the Black Volta River, the dam has been criticized by wildlife biologists, who say that Ghana's rare black hippopotamus populations will be threatened by the dam project. With construction in full swing, new problems have arisen, with poor working conditions at the dam site, a lack of information among the affected population, and inadequate attention to the impacts of climate change on the project.
The project's environmental analysis ignored the potential for climate change to reduce the dam's electricity output, and glossed over the project's climate-change impacts in terms of greenhouse gas emissions from rotting vegetation in the reservoir. Most of the country's electricity now comes from dams, and the nation has seen severe load-shedding in times of drought. The ongoing problem is expected to worsen as rainfall is predicted to become even more scarce and variable, according to a recent policy brief. The study also predicts an increase in flood strength, which will speed up siltation behind the dam. The International Water Management Institute, in conjunction with the Ghana Dams Dialogue, proposed the need for further assessments of the Bui project's impacts and the issue of climate change, but construction appears to be moving forward undaunted by public concerns. China's Sinohydro says it plans to bring the project on stream by 2012.
Funded largely by China Exim Bank and by the Chinese government, Bui is being built as a Build-Operate-Transfer dam by Sinohydro for US$622 million. The dam's capacity of 400 MW of electricity could be severely constrained by increasing drought from climate change. The dam project would inundate a quarter of the 700-square-mile Bui National Park, home to one of two populations of hippos in Ghana, and rare species of monkeys, lions, buffalo, monitor lizards, antelope and leopards. The altered flow regime would also negatively impact 46 species of fish that are economically important to the local communities. Inundation goes against many of the tenets of the Community Resources Management Areas of the Ghanaian Forestry Commission.appealed to the government of Ghana for representation in the Bui Dam Development Planning, which had until then limited public participation.
Slideshow: In their own words: Affected people talk about Bui Dam resettlement
Climate Change: Impact of Climate Change on the Black Volta Basin and the Bui Dam, Policy Brief by GLOWA Volta Project (March 2008) and Ghana Reservoir Would Be Major Greenhouse Gas Emitter by Patrick McCully.
Affected People: Read interviews with affected people from a field visit by a public health graduate student.
Bui Dam Threatens Hippos and Humans
World Rivers Review, August 2001, p. 12-13.