First phase of Bui Power Project comes on stream

Bui DamIt had been on the drawing board for many years but in 2008, the Kufuor administration took steps to begin the Bui Hydro Power Project.

Work began on the project located within a forest reserve and on the Black Volta that hitherto provided the vegetative cover and water for food crop farming and aquaculture for residents of the area.

Thousands of people within the catchment area of the dam earned their livelihoods from those activities and quite understandably raised their voices against the Bui Dam Project.

Green advocates and other environmentalists joined the crusade, protesting against the project with the argument that the Bui Dam would destroy fauna and flora, as well as displace the residents.

Even now, pockets of complaints abound about relocation challenges, payment of compensation and loss of livelihoods.

But if development processes come with some cost then the Bui project will not be an exception as it comes with winners and losers.

The sacrifices of the people of the area will be with the generation of the additional power to feed on to the national grid to resolve the perennial power rationing exercise.

Bui-Kintampo Transmission

It is therefore good news that the first phase of the Bui Hydro Power Project comes on stream today May 3 when a unit for the generation of 100 megawatts (MW) is inaugurated to complement the energy needs of the country.

Thanks to Sino Hydro Corporation Limited, the company which is making sure that the project [with the express supervision of its clients, the Bui Power Authority (BPA)] is completed as scheduled so that the popular Ghanaian tag on the problem, ‘‘dum so, dum so’’ may be a thing of the past.

At the moment, one of the three units to power the Bui-Kintampo transmission line at the site, which is expected to produce 100 megawatts (MW) of power at the current water level of 169.5 metres above sea level, is ready for the symbolic commissioning by President John Dramani Mahama.

The BPA and its Chinese counterparts are making feverish preparations to receive the President, government officials, as well as all other dignitaries, including traditional authorities and invited guests, to witness the symbolic inauguration of one of the units.

The Bui-Kintampo transmission line is basically to flow towards the northern direction but possibly it can turn to the Techiman direction and hopefully, as more water is collected in the reservoir, with the rainy season yet to peak in August and September upstream, more power of 133.34MW will be enjoyed.

Hopefully, the two remaining transmission lines, the Bui-Teselma and Bui-Kenyase, would soon be completed to aid the evacuation of power from the Bui generating plant to the national grid, through four substations in Swala, Techiman, Kintampo and Sunyani Kintampo for distribution to consumers by the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo).

After the symbolic commissioning of the Bui-Kintampo transmission line by the President, the two other units are expected to be completed in July and September with continuous testing of the various components before they would be finally ready for operation.

There is, however, another small power plant with an installed capacity of four MW which is ongoing at the dam site.

Funding and benefits

The Bui Hydroelectric Project on the Black Volta River, which commenced in 2008, is being undertaken by the Government of Ghana (GoG), at an initial cost of US$622 million, funded with a concessional loan of US$263.5 million, a Buyers Credit of US$$298.5 million from the Government of the People’s Republic of China and EXIM Bank respectively, with a GoG contribution of US$60 million.

It should be established that although the project, which is currently nearing completion, was primarily designed to generate hydroelectric power. It, however, includes the development of an irrigation potential of 30,000 hectares for agricultural development and presents an opportunity for enhanced eco-tourism and fisheries, as well as a resettlement and community-support programme.

The other benefits of the project include the improvement in the security of electricity supply to the Brong Ahafo, Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions, potential export of power to Burkina Faso, Cote d’ Ivoire and Mali, under the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) arrangement.

Besides, the project comprises the construction of a nucleus of a metropolis to be called the Bui City, which is expected to be the hub of economic and social transformation of the area

However, the project, which is being executed by Sinohydro Corporation Limited of China, has experienced a funding shortfall, totalling US$168 million, arising primarily from the unanticipated effects of global upheavals, as well as unforeseen essential works.

Establishment of Bui Power Authority

The 400MW Bui hydro power scheme has been considered to be the most technically and economically viable hydroelectric power site in Ghana after the Akosombo and Kpong hydroelectric power plants in the Eastern and Greater Accra regions respectively.

In fact, the idea to develop the Bui Dam on the Black Volta River at the Bui Gorge was conceived in the colonial days of the 1920s, when one Albert Kitson, a British-Australian Geologist and Naturalist, on his assignment with the Geological Survey Department of Ghana, visited the site.

His assignment formed part of the then British Government’s campaign to develop potential hydroelectric power sites in Ghana

In 2007, the Parliament of Ghana enacted an Act which former President John Agyekum Kufuor gave his assent to, to establish an authority known as the Bui Power Authority (BPA).

Under the Act, Bui Power Authority Act 2007 (Act 740), the BPA was empowered to plan, execute and manage the Bui Hydroelectric Power Project.

A visit by the Daily Graphic team to the dam site ahead of the inauguration ceremony tomorrow saw the energetic Chinese and their hardworking Ghanaian counterparts leaving no stone unturned to ensure that work was completed as scheduled.

Mr  Deng Changyi, the Project Manager of Sinohydro Corporation Limited, said in an interview that, ‘‘We have fulfilled the employment requirement of safety, environment, quality and progress and the President will launch one of the units and I believe we have delivered on the promise to him.’’

He intimated that the company had worked according to international standards, adding that by the end of the year, all the works, including those which were not initially part of the project contract, would have been completed and handed over.

Workforce, wages, challenges

The Project Manager described the project as huge and so there was the need for a greater workforce, most of whom did not know anything about hydropower but  after three years or more  they had now acquired a lot of experience.

Mr Changyi disclosed that initially the company employed about 6,000 Ghanaians but now that the project was coming to a close the workforce had reduced to 1,100, admitting that all of them had contributed significantly towards the progress of the work, and gave an assurance that the company would not hesitate to engage those who were seen to be very hardworking in their future contracts anywhere.

He envisaged that in about five years time, Ghana would not experience power outages and the Chinese were ever prepared to work with Ghana to develop its economic potentials and that the friendship between the two countries would grow from strength to strength.

He expressed sorrow at the death of one of the Chinese engineers of malaria in 2009 while one Ghanaian worker also lost his life when he was not on duty and was trapping fish and 10 others who also died, adding that four other Chinese became seriously sick but survived.

The Chinese company has established a medical centre since 2008 which takes care of both Chinese and Ghanaian workers, as well as the local people, and, according to the Superintendent Physician Consultant, Dr Ou Qinghe, about 10,000 of sick people were seen every year, and that the common disease was malaria attacks.

He said those reported cases which were beyond the scope of the centre were normally referred to Sunyani, Wenchi, and Kumasi.

A number of workers also interviewed expressed their different sentiments about the work and their employers, with the general admission, however, that the project was very laudable and would help solve the power shortfalls of the country.

Some of them pointed out that the Chinese were not paying them well in respect of the tedious work they were engaged in and the danger they were exposed to, adding that the tax they had to pay was too much for them.

Messrs Musa Nasiru, a driver; Isaac Okyere, a foreman; Matthew Donkor, labourer headman; and Abdulai Shaibu argued that they had protested against their minimum wage of GH¢8.5 per hour but nothing positive had come out, saying, however, that the more hours one worked, the more pay he or she got but then the tax swept what they could have earned in the long run.

A Pakistani driver, Mr Abaz Khan, said he had worked with the Chinese company for the past five years in Ghana after doing same with Sinohydro back in Pakistan and was satisfied with the pay even though he admitted the money was not enough.

Mr Daniel Nnipa, a carpenter, also noted that initially communicating with the Chinese was the problem and so the least thing there was misunderstanding but gradually there had been a drastic change and everything was on course, adding, ‘‘Once there was effective communication, the Chinese were prepared to teach you the work.’’

Ms Abena Asantewaa, a Human Resource Assistant of the company, also noted that the Chinese people who understood a bit of English were quite free with the Ghanaians but the language barrier put some of them off.

For the deductions, Ms Asantewaa said the management of the company usually did so in consultation with the union, saying that illiteracy was the bone of contention at the site, with some of the workers launching unnecessary attacks on the management.

She said the Chinese were good people and if one knew how to interact with them there would not be any troubles at all, disclosing that they had even instituted an annual award scheme to reward hardworking individuals.

In response to those tax deductions and other accusations levelled against the Chinese, the Project Manager rebutted that and said the company would ever follow and obey the laws of Ghana and pay social security and ensure that the correct taxes were deducted and paid to the government.

‘‘We don’t want to break the laws and fall into trouble with the government. We will not do that kind of work and that is why at times we bring in officials from the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) to educate the workers. Most of them don’t understand the system.’’

The Chinese attend social gatherings, including funerals, and had been making donations in that regard and the Daily Graphic team was a witness to one of such events, when the Deputy Project Manager, Mr Chen Quimin, and some BPA officials attended a funeral of the Bui Chief’s son at the BPA resettlement site.

Relocation of settlers and effects

The development of the Bui Dam was expected to create a reservoir that would involve the inundation, as its full supply level of about 144 square kilometres of land, including parts of the Bui National Park and the area of inundation included six communities, which needed to be resettled.

Although, one community, Dokokyina, would not be inundated, it needed to be relocated because it would be surrounded on three sides by the reservoir and large parts of their land, which was used for cultivation, grazing, hunting and collection of forest products, was to be submerged.

It was also intended to relocate the Bui Camp, which was the then residence of Game and Wildlife Officers assigned to protect the Bui National Park.

In all, the project, therefore, involved the resettlement of eight communities, with a total population of 1,216 people at the time and the implementation of the resettlement programme was divided into three parts, A, B and C. The communities are, Brewohodi, Dam Site Village, Agbegikro and Lucene.

Nana Kwadwo Wuo II, the Chief of Bui, in an interaction, said the resettlement area was inaugurated on June 8, 2011 and all the people, mainly farmers, fishermen and petty traders, moved there to start a new life.

He said everything was free at Old Bui, where they easily had access to medicinal plants to cure various ailments, arable lands for their farming activities and fishing at any given time but now,

‘‘We don’t get what we used to have at our old place,’’ adding that there were no bigger plots for farming.

Nana Wuo also indicated that the resettlement area had brought in all manner of persons with different backgrounds and hence cultural adulteration, coupled with high cost of living, adding that fish dealers came from Accra, Kumasi and elsewhere to buy in bulk, leaving virtually nothing for the local people to live on.

According to the chief, there was no clinic to serve the medical needs of the people and so sick people travelled to Bongase and Nsawkaw for medical attention while there was no police post and market, with prospective builders finding it difficult to acquire land to own houses.

The queenmother of the area, Nana Akosua Adjei, a farmer, however, was happy that they now had access to vehicles which picked them to other destinations unlike previously, where there was the difficulty in sending sick persons to nearby health facilities.

She again acknowledged the provision of potable water and electricity supply which enabled the children to study at night.

Mr Joseph Kumah, an official of the Wild Life Division at Bui, appealed to the BPA to fulfil its obligation to support the people with a livelihood programme and the provision of a public place of convenience.

All in all, the fulfilment of the century-old dream of Bui Dam would not only be a great achievement of the economic, technological and trade cooperation between the governments of China and Ghana but also witness the great transformation of ties between the two countries.

Source: Daily Graphic

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