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The Akosombo Dam, unlike Bumbuna

The Akosombo Dam, unlike Bumbuna

The Akosombo Dam which generates electricity for Ghana is situated on the Volta River which is also the main source of fresh water supply to the country. Construction of the project commenced in 1961 and the first phase was formally commissioned in January 1966 by Ghana’s first President Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. It had a total installed capacity of 558 Mega Watts. The final phase now has an installed capacity of 1020 Mega Watts. Further downstream is the KPONG Hydroelectric plant which has a total installed capacity of 160 Mega Watts of which the operational output is 148 MW. Today the combined installed capacity of Akosombo and Kpong is 1,180 Mega Watts which REGULARLY supplies clean, (“Uninterrupted”) electricity to all parts of Ghana. In addition the Togo/Benin power system is linked to Ghana’s enabling power to be supplied to those countries. During my last visit to Akosombo in May 2009 I enquired whether the Plant had ever been shut down and the answer was an emphatic NO, the exception was in 1980 and 1990 when the low level of water due to drought brought the export of power to a halt. The lowest annual inflow of water ever recorded was in 1983 which resulted in low output only. The Technical details of Akosombo are mindboggling and only a few details will be given here, courtesy of the Information pamphlet of the Hydro Generating Department of the Volta River Authority. (Photo: Dr. Sama Banya)

The maximum height of the Dam from bedrock is 104 meters or 374.00 feet; the length of the main dam at the crest is 660m or 2165.33ft. The volume of material in the main dam 7943520 cubic meters or 26061100.42 cubic feet.  Minimum water level ever recorded was 71.25m or 234.96ft.

The point being made here is that the Akosombo dam and generating plant have been in existence for over forty years and continue to supply regular power all over Ghana, for domestic use while supporting a very huge industrial complex including the Volta Aluminum Company VALCO.

One is aware of the almost infinitesimal capacity of BUMBUNA when compared to AKOSOMBO, but then the former has been operating for barely three months and yet has had to be shut down on three occasions for maintenance work of one kind or the other.  When I visited the KPONG construction site in 1980, accompanied by honourable Philipson Kamara our High Commissioner to Ghana at the time, the contractors there were Salina Construction Company, the same contractors that built Bumbuna. I recall that one of their oversea Directors Mirabelle and I visited Brazil in search of a soft loan for Bumbuna. So how come work that they have done on a much smaller project has had so much teething troubles? The answer may lie in the fact that when the final funding was obtained there was a mad rush or unnecessary rush to commission the project against a self-imposed deadline of April 27, simply to fulfill an electioneering pledge for the purpose of vanity.  I could still recall the professional advice of an anonymous technical expert who had earlier cautioned against commissioning in a rush. He emphasized that there were technical problems to be overcome; the man was speaking with considerable experience with similar projects; he added that if the authorities went ahead, it would work but run into difficulties later. Is that where we have arrived already? It would be a great pity if that anonymous expert were proved right.

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  • Dr. Banya, after your 1980 Visit to KPONG in Ghana what did you do or help to alleviate the energy problem in Sierra Leone? NOTHING. You “Old South-Eastern politicians” are a DISGRACE to us from the SOUTH-EAST. YOU DISGUST ME

    29th July 2010

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