By Samuel SAM, Tamale

An Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) forum has been held in Tamale with a call on the Volta River Authority (VRA) to ensure full payment of compensation to affected victims before implementing the Pwalugu Multipurpose Dam project.

The forum, which engaged stakeholders, was aimed at proposing measures to mitigate adverse effects on the inhabitants, ways to enhance beneficial impacts to the inhabitants, as well as ensure the smooth commencement of the project.

The Pwalugu Multipurpose Dam project, funded by the Agence Francaise de Developpement, is proposed to be built along the White Volta River in the Upper East and Northern Region.

The project will generate power to serve the people of the north, provide irrigation development for farmers, control floods as well as integrate water resource management.

The 20-month ESIA study, which started in September this year with consultation from chiefs, opinion leaders, the public as well as the media, is expected to officially begin in 2015.

The aim of the study is to collect baseline data, predict potential benefits and also adverse environmental and social impacts resulting from the project.

According to the natives, the dam?s construction, operation and eventual decommissioning would have a potentially negative impact on the surrounding environment and community if it is not adequately assessed and managed.

They lamented that most project contractors promise to pay for relocation of family members or businesses destroyed, but end up deceiving the indigenous people.

Bede Ziedeng, Northern Regional Minister, reiterated government?s commitment to extend electricity to deprived areas, saying they also contribute to economic growth.
He said government will ensure that people living around the project site who are affected by the construction receive compensation.

The Minister urged the contractors to employ more of the youths from the area to reduce the unemployment rate.

Mr. Dyson Jumpa, Environment, Engineering and Management Consultant (EEMC) Manager, said the power to be generated from the dam will contribute to fill the electricity capacity gap in the country to help reduce the energy losses along the existing transmission line.

Developing the irrigation potential of the White Volta, he said, will support regional and national agricultural productivity, adding that lack of effective irrigation is seen as a key barrier to agricultural growth, especially in the north.

He stressed that the dam will contribute to flood protection through maintaining low water levels in affected rivers and reservoirs before and after a flood.

According to Vincent Emefa Sepenn, Public Relations Specialist for the ESIA, said Ghanaian legislation requires an environment and social impact assessment to be undertaken before implementing any project on a particular site.

The study is therefore being undertaken to meet the Ghanaian Environmental Assessment Regulations (1999) and also to adhere to the requirements of the World Bank Environmental and Social Safeguard Policies.

He said stakeholder engagement is a fundamental element of the ESIA, and added they will keep updating the public on the progress achieved so far.

Mr. Sepenn said the ESIA process involves collecting baseline data related to a range of physical, biological and social factors in the local area, and also to assess the positive and negative impacts that will occur in the construction, operation and decommissioning phases, with proper mitigation measures put in place.


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