The Volta Basin Development Foundation (VBDF) on Tuesday appealed to government to use the recommendations made by the World Commission on Dams (WCD) to guide the construction of the Bui dam and such developments in future.
It said there was the need for government to reassert the rights-based principles espoused by the WCD recommendations, through the various stages of planning, building and commissioning of dam projects.
“There is the need to dialogue with all actors, governments, the dam industry, financiers and other civil society groups about protecting our rivers and the rights of those who most depend upon them”, said Richard Koranteng, Executive Director of the VBDF, at a media briefing in Accra.
The briefing was to mark the 10th anniversary of the WCD recommendations that was released in November 2000.
Mr. Koranteng noted that though there was widespread consensus on the need for hydro power in Ghana, and the backing of the construction of the two – Akosombo and Kpong- the mitigation measures that were put in place to deal with the social, environmental, health and livelihood impacts of these exiting dams had been inadequate.
He thus suggested that government should critically take stock of the negative and positive impacts of the third dam under construction- the Bui Hydro project- to address all issues arising from that project holistically for the mutual benefit of the country, those around it catchment area and the environment.
He also stressed the need for the various district assemblies in that area to take a leading role in the resettlement and livelihood aspects of the people displaced as a result of the construction of the dam.
The findings of the WCD 2000 report indicated that dams had made important and significant contributions to human development, and that its benefits have been considerable.
It said that in too many cases, unacceptable and often unnecessary high price had been paid to secure those benefits, especially in social and environmental terms, by displaced people, downstream communities, taxpayers and the natural environment.
The findings also identified the lack of equity in the distribution of benefits, calling into question the value of many dams in meeting water and energy developments when compared to alternatives.
The report recommended seven strategic priorities to guide the planning processes for future dams.
It recommended public acceptance, demonstrated by recognizing the rights and addressing risks leading to inclusion of stakeholders into a fair, informed and transparent decision-making process.
It called for a transparent assessment of all options for need for water, food and energy before the decision to build dams.
The report also recommended that benefits from existing dams should, when viable, be increased substantially by rehabilitating or upgrading them, to address outstanding social and environmental problems and that all operating licenses for dams should be time-bound in order for renewals to be used as an opportunity for participatory reviews for environmental and social imp[acts.
It indicated that people negatively affected by the dam project should be the first to share the benefits of the projects, stating that the way of benefit sharing should be determined in joint negotiations and development provisions agreed upon should be recorded in legally binding documents.
The report further suggested that developers and financing institutions adopt a clear set of criteria and guidelines, which would make independent control possible.
It also advocated the consultation of neighbouring countries based on the principles of equitable and reasonable utilization in order to resolve existing disputes and issues bordering on trans-boundary Rivers.
The WCD was formed by the joint efforts of the international Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and the World Bank with the objectives of reviewing the development effectiveness of large dams and assess alternatives for water resources and energy development and also develop internationally acceptable criteria, guidelines and standards where appropriate, for the planning, design, appraisal, construction, operation, monitoring and decommissioning of dams.
The Commission after two years, came out with recommendations which have become accepted legal norms and basis for the development of international environmental and social standards.
Ghana has been actively involved in the Commission’s work and this had led to the development and promotion of the Ghana Dams Dialogue.