National Service is over, halleluyah!! Now to settle and find a permanent engineer job and all of that! Ei, God is good oo. Na adzɛn!!
To celebrate the end of National Service, I went on a boat cruise on the MV Dodi Princess to Dodi Island, many nautical miles off Akosombo. That boat is a real princess, I say. Three decks, a grill on the upper where you can have gizzard and tilapia, beautiful live band music on the middle deck and a little pool and a tanning area on the lower deck. The trip was just gonna be fun and as soon as I got on, I was sure of it.
So, expectations were that I’ll have a smooth cruise to the Island, see what it has on offer and then return better refreshed…in fact, shedding off the stress of these past few months. It couldn’t have been more appropriate. And if the Captain of the ferry will allow, I’ll peek into his cabin and see what sea-farers have been hiding in..lol. Little did I know I was going to come back changed!! Changed and challenged!
So there were diverse people on that boat; Caucasians, Indians, Americans, in fact, one American Joey came to ask for my standing space on the upper deck so he can smoke. These people! Ah well, I obliged! The cruise was breezy and I was snapping away at the sights, taking in the entire cool for its worth. I wanted to have fun and I was having it well.
The Island was a long spit in the distance soon and when we all got wind we were almost there, the excitement built up. We just wanted to go shake it all off. We got to the Island at approximately 1315GMT and we were to be heading back in 30minutes. So, in thirty minutes, shake off the stress, see what you can, take what pictures you can, and hop back on the ferry. Good to go! In thirty minutes, get your life changed, you don’t know!
You see, it was a trip that was made by us urban folk, going to sight-see. When we got to the landing, we saw a troupe of young people, ready with drums and all, to dance us a welcome. But us? We deserved it? That was for presidents and dignitaries. At least, that’s what the news has shown us all along. But these people were merry, simple-hearted people who had nothing to give us but their song. And in that minute, they made us their dignitaries.
When we got down to the landing, a few of us got out our cameras and stood around the troupe to send these scenes and memories back to mainland. Others joined in the now-began dance. The Island people wore clothes that you and I would most nearly use for rags and in the rising heat, many of us tourists started asking ‘Where are their houses’? Nothing showed!
You see, the Island is rocky! There’s bush all over the hillside. There’s no single structure as far as the eye can see from the landing. In fact, when we crossed the hill to the other side, we deepened our curiosity. Still no semblance of habitation, yet here were happy people, giving us their song. It looked like all they had. We didn’t even know where they had appeared from on the Island. They were poor, but in that minute, they seemed richer than us. They were the people who were alive!
Listen, the real life that God may have given us to live, still resides beyond the cliffs and the rivers, in the hearts and eyes of people who are not intelligent enough to know what a bomb is, what a gun is used for, what it means to see your neighbor suffer while you celebrate. I kept absorbing all this in as we walked up the cliff, past pockets of natives who had gathered themselves around different forms of instruments, and entertained us as we went. All they asked were any stray coins that we would be kind enough to drop in their little bowls and plates, if we thought they were doing anything worth it at all with all their music.
Along this line was a little girl not more than four years, maraca in hand, not knowing any tune to play, with a bowl in front of her, who just looked up at us as we passed. She had no song but in her eyes, when I stopped, I could see that she wanted to play us the best tune on the Island. She was adorable with her hair held up in those innocent African knots that don’t get done anymore by anyone in the city. When I knelt down beside her, she looked down shy, not even knowing what to do to please my demanding gaze. With her head still bowed, she tried to play me a tune. Incoherent, unrhythmic and not audible enough for me to hear the words! The Island people were Ewes, like me, and at least, I could have understood her just as I did all the others. She was the only one I wanted to understand. I couldn’t. She moved her maracas and made a slow rattle sound that accompanied her tune. Her grace cut me to the heart. This girl was the reason why I came to the Island.
I pushed a tear back (yes, I mean that!!) and a note into her side pouch. She stopped playing, looked up and saw that I had stretched my palm out towards her. She smacked me a five and then I got up, got her to pose and then I took this picture of her. We didn’t exchange any words but her eyes told me everything. And if she looked hard enough, she would have noticed that she had changed me.
There is life still beyond those rivers, I thought, when the ferry pulled away finally. I left my heart on that Island as the ferry cruised away. One day, many years on, I will return with this picture. And find the little girl who made me see that we are running around here in circles and missing the joy that God has put in the little things that we should enjoy.
We circled the Island before we could finally see tiny huts and mud-houses scattered on the hillside. The Conductor told us that the people live this far away and ferried all the way to the landing just to give us a welcome. They gave up their whole day just so that we can return with a smile.
When we pulled away, a gleam of light caught our eye. It was aluminum roofing and we were informed that it was the only aluminum roofing on the Island. It belonged to the chief’s palace.
A decade ago, as a child, I watched newscast after newscast broadcast a marine onslaught on the shores of Keta, one of Ghana’s coastal communities. As events unfolded, I observed without much comprehension, a frenzied governmental response to keep the sea at bay. What was then called the ‘Keta Sea Defence Project’ became firmly impressioned on my mind and the more I pondered this baffling phenomenon, the less I understood the magnitude of the effects of climate change and its impact on the developing economy Ghana is: the less meaning it made that melting polar caps could push the volume of available sea water closer to submerging of land.
That was ten years ago and long before the coinage, ‘Climate Change’ became a popular phrase with me. Over time, the harsh realities of an increasingly warmer global climate have unleashed, not only on Ghana, but also on the rest of the world, series of hitherto unforeseen occurrences that have transformed the lives and livelihoods of millions across the world. This paper seeks to bring to the fore, Ghana’s longstanding experience with a rapidly changing global climate and the many effects on Ghana, detailing how the country should position itself to manage the situation better.
SO WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE?
Climate change is the gradual, long-term alteration of worldwide weather patterns, especially increases in temperature and storm activity, attributable to the increased accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This increases the temperature of the earth and carries with it a series of repercussions for the environment. The earth’s atmospheric temperature is maintained by greenhouse gases, whose duty it is to form an insulating blanket around the earth and regulate the amount of solar radiation that stays in its atmosphere. Chief among these gases are water vapour (most abundant), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). These occur naturally. Human-made additions include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%) are the two most abundant gases of the earth’s atmospheric cover by volume
per cent but have properties that restrict infrared absorption. The greenhouse gases that make up less than a percentage of the earth’s atmospheric composition are the culprits in global warming. The role of greenhouse gases is profound. The sun is the primary source of heat to the earth. The solar spectrum is a collection of radiant energy forms that are partly absorbed by the earth. X-ray, infrared, gamma, visible light and ultraviolet radiation all are emitted from the sun. Of all the radiation, some 25% is reflected back into space by the clouds and atmospheric particles. 20% is absorbed by gas molecules in the uppermost atmosphere (gamma and X-rays) and by the stratospheric ozone layer (ultraviolet
radiation). About 50% of the solar emission reaches earth and 85% of this is absorbed directly by the earth mass and flora. The rest is reflected back into space by elements such as snow, ice and sandy deserts as long-wave infrared dispersion. It is at this stage that greenhouse gases (sited up to 90
kilometres high in the atmosphere) trap the infrared radiation, get heated up and return the heat to the earth surface. In controlled amounts, the heat will just suffice for sustenance of a wide variety of life. When the equilibrium is tipped to encourage greater accumulation of heat on earth, the phenomenon called the greenhouse effect is set up. In 1988, the World Meteorological Organisation (W.M.O) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to assess and bring out updated scientific knowledge on climate change by evaluating the risk of climate change brought about by human activities. The panel, made up of a large number of scientists from all over the globe is tasked to release a global climate situation report every sixth year. In its second assessment report released in 1995, the panel agreed that most appropriately, the changing global weather situation is due, more to human activity than any other single contribution. ‘The balance of evidence suggests that there is a discernible human influence on global climate (considerable progress since the 1990 report in distinguishing between natural and anthropogenic influences on climate, because of: including aerosols; coupled models; pattern-based studies),’ the report states as the fourth of its six-point summary. Increased globalization coupled with irresponsible handling of the environment and fast-paced industrialisation has constituted man’s contribution to the war on the climatic health of the earth. Almost all of the world’s greenhouse emission is attributable to the few industrialised nations that led the Industrial Revolution. For instance, the United States contributes 35% of global greenhouse emission while Russia follows with 17%. Africa has as small as 2% global contribution, coming from South Africa’s modernisation (45%) and Nigeria’s gas flaring (45%). The effect of this has been more telling on the smaller, developing nations that have had to pick the bill of the climate change effect in their own bids to industrialise. Darfur, in Western Sudan, has long and painfully too, degenerated into a battlefield after grappling with drought and famine on the fringes of the Sahara.
THE CO2 CONTRIBUTION TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Since the Industrial revolution began, humans have consistently taken stored carbon out of the earth to power huge and energy–demanding machines that have thus far driven modernisation. These have come in the form of coal, petroleum and natural gas being burnt to make carbon dioxide, heat, water vapour, and smaller amounts of sulphur dioxide and others gases. The prime cause of the release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is most probably the burning of these fuels. “Fossil fuel burning throughout the world in 1981 released about 5.3 gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. The cumulative emissions from the mid-nineteenth century to 1981 totalled about 160 gigatons of carbon as CO2. Though post-Second World War period emission of CO2 averaged 4.5 per cent increase per annum, it is now widely believed that energy consumption using fossil fuels will rise relatively slower due to rising costs and the adoption of nuclear and in fact, cleaner sources of energy”. The fact cannot be overlooked also that deforestation through bush burning is a major contributor to the increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Until the late 1940s, rain forests covered about 8.7million square miles (22.5 million square kilometres) of the earth’s land. Today, less than half this area remains covered though the risk to their continued existence is as high as ever. Massive deforestation has cut out the ability of forests to regenerate at any meaningful rate. The loss of vegetative cover in such alarming proportions means that the amount of carbon dioxide that would have been taken up by plants in their photosynthetic cycle remains in the atmosphere. The amount of oxygen that would have been produced as a by-product of photosynthesis to renew the existing stock and vitalise the survival of oxygen-breathing microorganisms is lost. The increasing accumulation of CO2 gives rise to an increased trapping of the solar heat that warms the earth and constitutes global warming. Rainwater normally trapped by forests is now left on rampage and is causing more floods around the world. It is estimated that Ghana is depleting its remaining forest cover at a rate of 62,000 hectares per annum and the annual forest depletion is quantified to be 3% of GDP.
GHANA’S SITUATION AND POSITION
According to the National Coordinator of Climate change, Mr. W.K. Agyeman Bonsu, at the inception meeting of the Netherlands Climate Change Studies Assistance Program held at Erata Hotel, Accra, from the 21st -24th April 2004, Ghana is a net greenhouse sink with a per capita removal capacity of -2. 3×10-4 Gg carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent. However, the sink reduced by 400% between 1990 and 1996 due to human activities of burning of forest cover for farming, settlement, mining and grazing. Increased indulgence in fuel wood use and charcoal making, minimal replacement of depleted forest cover and an exploding population which decreases the fallow period of vegetation have all come to bear on the country’s reduced capacity to sink.
In truth, Ghana has suffered immensely from the implications of a changing global climate especially in the areas of agriculture, water resources, energy, forest cover and climate-induced natural disasters. As a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, it is incumbent on Ghana to control her own volume of greenhouse emission in a balanced drive to industrialise. Already, developed nations that are signatories to the Protocol are each expected to reduce their emission by 5% of their 1990 values. Ghana is particularly vulnerable to Climate Change due to lack of capacity to undertake adaptive measures to address environmental problems and socio-economic costs. These include climate change associated health systems, flooding of coastal areas which are already undergoing erosion, and low operating water level of the Akosombo hydropower-generating dam in the country which produces 80% of national electricity supply, as a result of reduced levels of precipitation. The climate change impacts to be experienced under socio-economic conditions are second order impacts, the first order impacts being on the supply and demand of the water resource. Water resources in Ghana are vital for socio-economic development. Impacts of climate change on the water resource can put the country at risk and thus assessment is for planning and management to reduce the effects. Hydropower generation could seriously be affected by climate change. The projected reduction by 2020 is about 60 percent. Adaptation options are in general for water conservation and efficient use of water for projected reduction in water resources. The energy sector is currently the largest emitter of green house gases (GHG). The emissions from the energy sector grew by 6.6 percent during the period 1991-1996.
EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON AGRICULTURE
According to the IPCC, global climate (air temperature) rose by 0.6˚C in the twentieth century and is expected to keep rising, having factored in all uncertainties and expectations at this rate. This has meant that there has been a discernible change in atmospheric conditions necessary for the growth and cultivation of many very useful crops that lack a sound resistance to heat and drought. Many of West Africa’s and indeed, Ghana’s staples are maize-based and this spells a lot of food insecurity of unimaginable proportions in the foreseeable future since maize is not resilient to harshness. It is projected that by the year 2020, 6% of Ghana’s maize production would have been lost due to the realities of a harsher climate. Mr William Agyeman-Bonsu of the Environmental Protection Agency, speaking to The Ghanaian Times newspaper pointed out that the rainfall pattern in the country is already affecting maize production and by the year 2020 “it is projected that there will be a seven per cent decline in maize production.”
Bishop Akolgo, Executive Director of Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) warned that the effects of climate change would seriously affect food production in the country, if swift measures are not taken to overcome any eventualities in the near future. He again admitted that crops such as maize and cocoa would be severely affected as a result of climate change since they will not be resilient to the weather, suggesting that scientists begin to innovate on means to develop weather-resistant crops to complement the need to safeguard Ghana’s food and foreign-exchange-earning capacity. Again, traditional farmers ought to switch to more naturally resistant species and crops such as millet and guinea corn which are more resilient to climate change.
With such trends, Ghana will easily lose her place as one of the world’s leading producers of cocoa. Currently, the bulk of the country’s cocoa comes from the Western and Ashanti regions since the other regions have essentially lost their soil fertility. With the prevailing rate of weather change, it will not be long before all of Ghana becomes unsuitable for any significant cocoa cultivation. This is especially precarious for a country that has not learnt to diversify its sources of trade and foreign exchange earnings. Cocoa, even after fluctuating in annual production per metric ton since independence, has consistently remained one of Ghana’s top-three forex earners. All over the country, soils have increasingly become useless for the cultivation of crops they hitherto would have supported. Soil microorganisms that lived in and improved the quality of soil by their biogenic activities have fled the heat that discomforts their habitation and kills the plants they would have fed on. Dwindling rainfall values also ensure that prolonged dry seasons firm-up agrarian land and continually sort the eligible plant-life worth supporting. The effect is a decreasing turnover of farm produce, an increased import bill on food and food products and a continuously impoverished country.
EFFECT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON WATER RESOURCES
The bulk of Ghana’s freshwater is derived from the 1500 kilometre (931 mile) Volta River, formed from the confluence of the Black Volta and White Volta. The White Volta Basin is part of the greater Volta Basin and drains three countries namely, Ghana, Burkina-Faso and Mali. It has a catchment area of about 48,000 km2 and spans all of Upper East Region, and significant portions of Northern and Upper West Regions in Ghana. The main tributaries in the Ghana section are the Kulpawn, Nasia, Mole, Red Volta and Morago rivers. The Volta River enters the Gulf Of Guinea in the south-easterly town of Ada. The Volta River covers an overall surface area of 8,502 square kilometres and it has the world’s fifth largest lake by storage capacity. With a total storage capacity of 148,000m3, it ranks only after Owen Falls Dam of Uganda, (204,000m3), Kariba Dam shared by Zambia and Zimbabwe (180,600m3), the Bratsk Dam of Russia (169,270m3) and the Egyptian Aswan High dam (168,900m3). The two major tributaries of River Volta are the Rivers Oti and Afram. Together, the Volta and its tributaries drain the Volta Basin. Ghana’s other river systems worthy of mention are the Densu, Birim, Pra, and Ankobra. All of these empty into the Gulf of Guinea. With the exception of the Volta, Ghana’s rivers are navigable only by small crafts. Located in the Ashanti Region, Lake Busumtwi represents Ghana’s only natural lake. After the construction of the Akosombo Dam in 1965 and subsequent formation of the Volta Lake, a myriad of activities have sprung up along the banks of the lake. Ideally fashioned to provide Ghana’s hydroelectric requirements, the dam has opened up the country to commerce and mobility. Large portions of Ghana rely on traditional canoes, boats and ferries to commute between lakeside communities especially so when the lake largely splits the country in two uneven halves. Fisher folk have
inherited tradition sometimes to the detriment of their own literacy and belaboured day and night to consolidate the economic strength that fishing brings them. Outside solar and fuel sources, the Akosombo dam powers everything electric in Ghana, with export to neighbouring Togo and Benin. The Kpong Water Works set up on the Volta River and in-between the Akosombo and Kpong Generating Stations, purifies approximately 42 million gallons of water a day for the eastern part of the greater Accra Region, as just one of the many water treatment plants that provide clean, potable water to the urban population of Ghana. The intrinsic value of Ghana’s water resource is practically immeasurable. Without the Volta and its many tributaries, Ghana’s development will be poignantly unimaginable.
Over the years, the Volta River has shrunk in drainage area due, primarily to surface evaporation and drying up of tributaries. Evaporation has come about because there is no green embankment or cover for many of the feed rivers. The few places that have them have been logged for fuel wood. Lakesides are variously sandy and occasionally, the silt is washed by the flowing river stream into the largely stagnant lakes. This alluvial deposition reduces the depth of water in the basin by increasing surface area of spread of the same volume of water. Aside potential flooding, this provides meet conditions for evaporation. At confluences, it is possible that the deposition of this silt cuts off the feed of tributaries and facilitates their drying up. Seasonally, the Volta River has been subjected to periods of drought when there is terminal and acute shortage of inflows. This cycle, observed to occur roughly every seven to ten years is a direct consequence of the imbalance of prevailing atmospheric conditions.
The maximum operating level of the Akosombo dam is 84.73m (278ft) and it has a minimum operating level of 73.15m (240ft).The maximum water level ever recorded is 84.25m (276.41ft) on 2nd Nov. 1974. Conversely, the lowest level ever recorded is 71.86m (235.76ft) on 12th June 1984. The maximum annual inflow ever recorded (3000m3/s) was achieved in 1963. The lowest annual inflow ever recorded was 288m3/s in 1983. This data seems to back scientific acclaim that the 1980s are the hottest years on record. If all other variables such as the feed to and removal of water from the basin for irrigation, the treatment of large volumes for urban household use and the supply to industry remain fairly constant, then it can be inferred that climate alterations have increased the flux of water levels. Seasonal repetitions of the alteration of the volumes of water in the basin have put a lot of strain on the efficiency of Ghanaian development and industrial maneuvering. In places where abundance of water caused livelihoods to be built around shallow fishing, complications have developed and people have had to adapt to more expensive ways of keeping up with their age-old traditions. In the Tongu districts of the Volta region, for instance, women and children far back in the 1960s and earlier, handpicked oysters from the banks of the river for food and sent the shells from this harvest to lime factories in Akuse and surrounding towns to be processed into limestone for the building and manufacturing industries. Those times seem to have disappeared with the reduction of water levels and the apparent migration of such molluscs to deeper riverbeds. Many households have altogether abandoned aquaculture and gone extensively into farming and livestock rearing. Over 60% of Ghanaians do some form of agric to earn or support their incomes.
The Densu River system is one of Ghana’s coastal drainage basins. Its floodplain and river channel have been dramatically altered by building and construction, installation of a dam, salt mining, grazing, channel incision and other fluvial processes. The basin has an area of about 2490km2 and an average length of 225.6km. There are about 200 settlements in the basin and the total population is approaching 600,000, equivalent to 240 persons per km2. This figure is considerably higher than the national average of about 100 persons per km2. Mainly the Kuia, Adaiso, Nsaki and Aprapon tributaries feed the river. The Densu Basin passes through the Eastern, Greater Accra and Central Regions of Ghana and falls under ten administrative districts. The basin plays a critical role in the socio-economic development of the many towns and satellites villages dotted within it. Most of the urban centres such as Koforidua, Nsawam, and Suhum among others get treated water from the Densu River. Aside small settlements depending on untreated water from the Densu River and its tributaries, the Densu reservoir at Weija supplies the population of western Accra with treated water. The Densu Basin is also intensively used for the cultivation of both cash and food crops. Principal food crops cultivated within the basin are cassava, maize, yam, plantain, banana and cocoyam. Cash crops include cocoa, oil palm, papaya, pineapple, mangoes and citrus. Other land use activities include housing, sand winning, animal rearing and salt mining. These activities have depleted the vegetative cover of the basin with both hydrologic and geomorphologic implications such as flooding, soil erosion, siltation of the river channel and evaporation.
According to a study performed by ASAMOAH et al on, among other things, the impact of climate change on the availability of water to meet future demands in the Densu basin (with a plan horizon up to the year 2020), it was found that for a realistic change of 10-20% fall in rainfall and a 1-2˚C rise in temperature, surface runoff will drastically fall to between 15-20%. From their data series and table of analysis it is established that climate change at this rate would markedly reduce the ability of the Densu, one of the most exploited rivers in Ghana (due to its size), to act as a source to meet requirements in any satisfactory way without a water augmentation scheme. In addition, downstream sites such as Nsawam will have a reduced coverage of about 20%. Even with the commissioning of engineering works by the Ghana Water Company Limited in 2006 for final design and construction of a pumping scheme to transfer water from the Volta Lake to supplement the Densu supply, the analysis showed that by 2015, water shortages would again hit Koforidua. It was proposed that an additional transmission line be connected from the Volta Lake to supply water to Koforidua and Old/New Tafo demand sites to curtail apparent water shortages.
EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON ENERGY
The Volta River Authority’s first hydroelectric station is the Akosombo Generating Station. Studies into the feasibility of producing hydroelectric power from damming the Volta River began in 1915. The primary stage of the construction began in 1961 when the Volta River Project was established and work started on the Akosombo dam and Power Station. Altogether, four units with total installed capacity of 588MW were completed in 1965, significantly impressing on Ghana’s stride toward industrialization and
economic growth. Ghana’s first President, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, in January1966, formally commissioned the plant. In 1967, the Volta Aluminium Company (VALCO) became the main purchaser of power generation from Akosombo apart from the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) and the mines. In 1972, the second stage of the Power project was completed with the addition of two generating units with installed capacity of 324MW to the Akosombo Generating Station. This brought the total number of units to six and total generating capacity to 912MW at that time. During the Akosombo GS Retrofit Project, which took place between October 1999 and March 2005, each generating unit was upgraded to a maximum output of 170 MW. Total Plant capacity therefore stands at 1020MW. Eight kilometres downstream is the Kpong Generating Station, which adds 160MW of energy to Akosombo’s output.
In December 1972, the transmission system was completed to link Togo and Benin’s power system to Ghana’s, enabling power to be transmitted to these countries. Although hydropower capacity of the combined Akosombo and Kpong dams has not appreciably increased to match growing industrialisation and urbanisation needs, these sources continue to make up the bulk of Ghana’s energy supply.
Ghana has struggled in times to keep up with her energy needs due to low influx into the dam and has resorted to load shedding to avoid a total shutdown of the dam. Last year (2007), Ghana recovered from a prolonged period of inconsistent power supply, beginning in late 2006, by rationing power and forcing the mines and industry in general to cut down on energy use. The water level in the reservoir reached its lowest-recorded value of 234.9ft for the last drought on the 25th of July 2007. This caused the VRA to respond by shutting down some operational units, leading to conservative production of power. This affected productivity over the effective period and caused a decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to a GNA news item, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) recorded real Gross Domestic Product for the 2007 fiscal year to have dropped from 6.4% in 2006 to 6.2% in 2007, snubbing the government’s projected value of 6.5%.
The IEA report attributed the economic decline to a combination of factors, which included the nation-wide electrical energy rationing that ended at the end of September 2007 and increases in the world market prices of crude oil at the time. The inconsistent power supply has made the Volta Aluminium Company (VALCO), which also is the single largest consumer of Ghana’s hydropower, a most affected industrial and threatened Ghana’s plan of owning an integrated aluminium company. The power-intensity of this scheme calls for a more pragmatic approach in securing energy for the country’s industries should the integrated aluminium company come on board. In 1994, VRA declared a force majeure on VALCO when water levels fell to 239.48ft. Such measures cannot be healthy for an integrated aluminium company and stuttering productivity has its own negative consequences on trade and industrial partnerships. Already, ownership of VALCO has changed hands variously due to the seeming impossibility of a secure power supply in times of hydro energy recession.
The whole discomfort for industry when hydropower becomes unreliable has necessitated the idea of supplementing the country’s energy needs with thermal power especially. The construction of the Takoradi Thermal Power Plant at Aboadze has provided 34% of Ghana’s energy requirements since it was commissioned in year 2000 and upgraded in 2007. ‘By 2020, the government wishes to extend electrical services to every community of 500 people or more, amounting to roughly 4,220 villages. The government plans to do this by extending the existing electrical grid. This could, however, prove challenging and difficult, given the low density of potential consumers in rural areas, low incomes of rural residents, and significant distances and costs of extending electrical lines to these areas. In addition, most of the equipment would have to be imported. If the present rate of population growth (3 percent a year) continues, by the year 2020, the population of Ghana will double, presenting an enormous added challenge to rural electrification. Thermal power from fuel oil would be the marginal source of electricity for rural electrification’. Ghana’s fuel consumption is expected to go up with the discovery of commercial quantities of crude on the shores. Extending the electrical grid to rural areas, therefore, would result in increased emission of greenhouse gases.
A research conducted by Databank Financial Services Group into the real cost of the most recent load shedding exercise indicated that, using the following as proxy for the ensuing sectors; Banking for the services sector, Manufacturing, Consumables and Pharmaceuticals for the Industrial Sector, the Mines as an independent sector and 5% of the total cost for the Agric Sector, Ghana lost about $62million per month ($744million per annum). This translates into 5.95% of GDP for the year 2006 and a staggering 21% of projected tax revenue for the year 2007.
Ghana has lost a lot already in terms of energy and its implications for development. All this is due to the country’s over-reliance on the natural rainfall cycle, severely altered in recent years by a changing climate. Ironically, the salvation that has come in the guise of a crude oil find will improve Ghana’s emission and worsen weather patterns if unchecked. Bioenergy talks are still on the drawing board and may yet take a long time to finally make any meaningful impact on the energy landscape of the country.
CLIMATE-CHANGE-INDUCED NATURAL DISASTERS
In September 2007, Ghana experienced some of the worst flooding in her history as large tracts of the three northern regions were washed away. This had serious implications for the residents of these places with regards to their health, food and shelter. The Ghana Red Cross in the Upper East Region reported that 22 people died and an estimated 90,000 people were cut off in the Builsa district due to destroyed roads and bridges. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Ghana found that 11,239 homes were damaged in the Upper East Region, most of them completely destroyed. A UNICEF team estimated that 8,000 to 10,000 people were displaced in six of the region’s eight districts.
Ghana’s climate has markedly become unpredictable. After a year of drought that unleashed on the country a crippling energy crisis, floods, helped by the spilling of the Bagre dam in Burkina Faso, inundated large farm and residential area in proportions never seen in decades. Overnight, demand for
food, shelter and medicine in the three northern regions spiralled as relief and aid agencies struggled to contain the situation. Climate change could not have come more disastrous.
Greenhouse gas emission increases gas density in the atmosphere. Upon cooling, the amount of available rain-bearing clouds increases if the gases were updraft with a high moisture content. In this case, rains that fall could be of flood proportions. Again, some gases such as silver iodide and dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) are good cloud-seeding agents. If any of these gases rise to heights enough to cool down quickly, they may precipitate more rain-bearing clouds that could worsen flooding situations.
With the floods that came in late 2007, Ghana lost a lot of resource; human and material. With such floods, malaria and water-borne infestations could be rife and spread out in epidemic proportions. Of all the countries in the West-African sub-region, Ghana was hardest hit. Held up as one of the examples of a model African democracy, the major in-roads made into developing the country thus far could all keep eroding one flood at a time and one drought at a time. Serious consideration needs to be taken with respect to guarding all possible areas of the economy that are irreplaceable and sitting in flood plains. Twenty-two lives in one downpour is a Ghanaian bill too much to pay for the negligence to a warming world. With increasing global climate, icy polar caps have reduced in volume, converting their mass into available water. The effects of this are two-fold. In the first case, the net reflective surface for harmful solar radiation reaching earth is reduced. Secondly, thrust is given to waves that pound the coastal shorelines so that gradually, the land is eroded and taken up. Consequently, there is expense in keeping the sea at bay with the construction of Sea Defence projects as happened to Ghana in the case of Keta back in the dying years of the 1990s. Aside having lost property, many livelihoods were changed, as local inhabitants migrated in search of higher and safer places to dwell.
POSSIBLE WAYS FORWARD
Ghana is a meaningful player in the developmental agenda of West Africa. It should be noted that any efforts made by any country in the region to unilaterally fight the effects of a warming climate would amount to a negligible change. Ghana’s efforts at curbing emission would not make a difference if Nigeria keeps flaring gas. Likewise, Nigeria’s channelling of gas into power pools will make no impact if the other countries in the region do not attempt to control growing emission from the recent oil finds that seem to be making the news in West Africa. In summary, there needs to be strong sub-regional co-operation in fighting the menace of emission-induced climate change. This is needful to do since the region already ranks lowest on the Global Hunger Index and is projected to lose about 50% of its agricultural produce by 2020 at this rate. Any West African climate change control strategy should have as its goals, poverty reduction and improved food security through better water and energy management. In the specific case of Ghana and Burkina Faso, who share the largest portions of the Volta Basin, care must be taken to quickly initiate and formalize procedures for the use and conservation of the river resource so as not to generate any hostilities and tensions.
President John Agyekum Kufuor aptly told the UN conference on climate change held in Accra in August this year (2008, meant to work out details of a new UN deal that will be agreed in Copenhagen in 2009), that time is ticking against the international community to act fast to change the negating trends of global warming. The impact on developing countries is already great and more money may be needed to change aggravated problems in the future if reversal measures are not urgently funded against worsening food, water and energy situations. Developed countries need to heed this call as quickly as possible and pay the pledges and commitments they have made repeatedly to help reduce the burden brought about by their unrestrained industrialisation drives.
Again, it is important that school curricular in Ghana be reviewed right from the basic to the tertiary level to include studies on climate change and its effects. Aside producing the local expertise needed to manage the crises, it will be an easy way to reach out to the entire growing generation of Ghanaians since basic education has now been made free and compulsory. The consciousness that this will create in one home, could go a long way to improve the habits of many, especially with regard to forest conservation and bush burning.
Ghana must, as a matter of urgency, enforce laws that will make it criminal to log timber without the approval and supervision of the Forestry Commission or other specialised agencies set up for the purpose. Local timber firms must be strictly licensed and monitored, to be sure that they replace any trees they fell. This is the only way effective conservation of our rain forests can be guaranteed. It will help also if a day is set aside every year for all institutions and establishments, from the military, through the MDAs and all the way to primary schools, to plant tree crops in a bid to complement the former UN Secretary General, Busummuru Kofi Annan’s agenda to step Africa on the road to a green revolution.
Ghana can start the process of tackling climate change head-on. It may be a road hard and tiring, lonely and daring, but like the star of excellence that she has become in the eyes of the international community, Africa may one day have to turn to that ancient architect of her cooperate independence. Climate change was caused by the will of men. By the will of men, climate change can be fought.