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Water and development in Ghana: Big Dam Lessons

Authors: Gina Bloodworth*, Salisbury University
Topics: Development, Environment, Natural Resources
Keywords: dams, developing nations, water issues
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Water and development are inextricably linked, but not always in mutually beneficial ways. When looking at dams as sources of hydro-electric power, municipal drinking water and potential industrial growth or irrigation, the relative weight given to benefits and headaches has shifted in the last generation. Building large dams, once thought to be a 'silver bullet' that would solve multiple development dilemmas, is now seen in a more nuanced light. Looking at the developing nation of Ghana and water management schemes in the Volta River Basin provides several lessons for other developing nations who find themselves in similar circumstances. A mixed-method approach is used to analyze policy, water uses, and environmental implications connected to the building of both the Bui and Akosombo dams, as a window into the complex realities and shifting priorities that challenge developing nations. What began as one big dam project, designed to feed Accra's growing water and electrical needs has now become a shaky cornerstone to Ghana's evolving water management issues. This massive dam was originally expected to catapult the young nation of Ghana into becoming the first African colonial transition success story. And in the mid 1960s, this optimistic prediction seemed possible, if not probable. A generation later, it doesn't appear to be such a simple story, and now a second dam high in the watershed has now been built, the Bui Dam compounding Ghana's water issues.

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