By Patience Gbeze / Edward Dankwah
Accra, May 09, GNA – The Volta River Authority (VRA) and the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) has begun a simulation exercise for the Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP) for the Akosombo and Kpong Hydropower Dams.
The exercise was to enhance the readiness of the state agencies to respond to emergencies arising from the release of significant amounts of water from the Akosombo and Kpong Dams.
The exercise would be conducted in the Asuogyaman, Ada East and North Tongu Districts.
During the opening ceremony of the VRA EPP Exercise dubbed, “Da WoHo So” 2023, Mr Edward Obeng-Kenzo, Deputy Chief Executive in charge of Engineering and Operations, VRA, said the EPP was designed to provide early warning of any potential disaster.
He added that it would also manage the responses to minimise effects on life and property in communities downstream of the two Dams.
Mr Obeng-Kenzo said, climate change and its impacts were becoming evident in Ghana and worldwide, as the increasing occurrence of national disasters indicated.
“According to the World Bank’s Ghana Climate and Development Report 2022, flooding affected about 45,000 people yearly, where the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 13 recognises climate change as a real and undeniable threat to our civilization,” he added.
He also indicated that the effect of climate change would be catastrophic unless actions were taken to limit and adapt to it.
Ing. Obeng-Kenzo said in the case of excessive spillage or the unlikely situation of a Dam break, it was estimated that over 30,000 people would be potentially affected.
He said over the last decades, Ghana had invested in disaster risk management, including establishing NADMO in 1996, where they have responded to several emergencies by collaborating closely with MMDA’s to evacuate victims and provide disaster relief.
He commended VRA, NADMO and all the agencies involved in this exercise for the critical steps in preparing for emergency and disaster management.
Mr Kwaku Wiafe, Director of Engineering Services Department, VRA, said they had safely operated the dam for more than 60 years, however, when the Dam was constructed, an EPP was not a standard requirement.
“This success is due to dam safety management being at the core of our operations as an institution, therefore, our dams are safe, and a dam break is unlikely,” he stressed.
He said global trends in climate change and their anticipated impacts made it necessary to enhance the preparedness as a hydropower plant operator.
Mr Wiafe added that, to ensure dam safety, they had instrumentation on the dams to measure physical and hydrological data daily, weekly and monthly, where a dam safety unit monitored the information to ensure its safety.
He said VRA had an Early Warning System which monitored the inflows into the Akosombo reservoir so that they could know in advance if there would be a potential spill, to be able to advise the necessary stakeholders ahead of time.
“We also have a Dam Review Board, which comprises a team of international experts that consult internationally on other large hydropower dams,” he stated.
Ing. Wiafe said the EPP specified the roles and responsibilities of first responders and affected communities in the event of a spill or a dam break that threatened downstream life, property and economic activity.
Mr Eric Agyemang Prempeh, Director-General, NADMO, said disaster management had become more difficult as disasters occurring more frequently, were more intense, and were multidimensional.
“Therefore, as a nation, we can never be adequately prepared for disasters, but we can be aware of the importance of prevention through early warning systems such as simulation exercises and by building an efficient system to respond to them,” he said.
He said the Akosombo Dam was a major national asset that had driven and continued to drive the nation’s socio-economic development all these years, therefore, the failure of such an asset would bring the entire nation to a standstill.
Mr Prempeh said continued exercises of this nature would improve the preparedness and resilience of local communities, where gaps would also be identified and the capacity of response agencies, including NADMO, to manage and reduce disaster risk would be increased.
He encouraged all stakeholders to engage in full-scale historical simulation exercises to test the country’s plans and response systems.