Safeguard dams to prevent disasters- Dr. Alfa

A Draft Regulations to standardize designs and ensure safe management of dams in the country will soon be placed before Parliament to give legal backing to facilitate the work of the National Dam Safety Unit (NDSU).

The NDSU is a body set up by Government under the Water Resources Commission (WRC) to identify and document dams in the country for their safe and effective management.

When passed into law, Ghana will be the first country in the Sub-Region to have a legal framework to regulate the construction, operations, maintenance and decommissioning of dams to protect lives and property and also to manage water sources efficiently for sustainable usage.

Dr. Bob Alfa, Coordinator of the National Dam Safety Project, who disclosed this at the opening of a two-day validation workshop for stakeholders on the Draft Regulations Document at Swedru in the Agona West Municipality, was unhappy about the state of many dams across the country and stressed that they posed threat to lives and properties.

“Almost 90 per cent of dams in the country are more like weapons instead of assets” he declared, adding that the establishment of the Dam Safety Unit by the Government was very vital and will go a long way to promote safety and minimize damage to people, environment and property.

Currently a database of dams is being developed with about 240 dams identified by the unit and more yet to be discovered, with many of them not well managed due to lack of requisite guidelines and qualified personnel to direct and man their operations.

Dr. Alfa said many dams were constructed long before people encroached and developed settlements around them, exposing themselves and their properties to danger.

He said the perennial flooding of such communities during spillages from dam breaks results in the loss of lives and property and bring untold grief and pain to many families, adding that, this would be a thing of the past if a legal framework was secured.

Explaining further, he indicated that of the 240 dams identified few were owned by institutions such as the Volta River Authority, the Bui Power Authority dams and some mining companies and were well managed.

However, he noted that the Ghana Water Company and the Ministry of Agriculture dams, for instance, were yet to meet standards and that more were being done to achieve that whilst Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies and some communities which owned some of them had not done any rehabilitation at all and were therefore looming disasters waiting to explode.

He said dams owned by mining companies although are well managed, greater care and vigilance on their part would ensure that toxic spillage into rivers and streams was prevented.

He said the document was, among others, seeking that decommissioning of dams was done within the stipulated standard by artificially breaking the dam to slowly drain the entire water and carefully remove the structure to avoid disaster.

Dr. Alfa who is also the Principal Engineer of the WRC said the Netherlands government provided an amount of one million dollars towards the Project which was seeking a legal framework to guide its operations, build the capacity of stakeholders and develop database for easy identification and monitoring.

For his part, Mr Ben Ampomah, Acting Executive Secretary of the WRC said the workshop was to finalize inputs by stakeholders before the Regulation is placed before parliament. GNA

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