A new working paper from FutureDAMS partners based at the  Water Research Institute, Council for Scientific & Industrial Research and Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, has been published.

The context and politics of decision making on large dams in Ghana: an overview‘, was authored by Deborah Darko, Michael Kpessa-Whyte, Emmanuel Obuobie, Pius Siakwah, Obodai Torto and Dzodzi Tsikata. Here’s the abstract:

Large dams were central to policy making in Ghana and the rest of Africa in the early postcolonial period as part of the quest for development, framed in terms of the socioeconomic and cultural modernisation that pertained in advanced industrialised countries.


Ghana has constructed three large dams, primarily for the provision of hydroelectricity, to catalyse industrialisation. There are plans for other dams in the future.  Against the background of debates about large dams and their implications for the environment and human wellbeing, and the continuing global interest in dam construction, particularly in developing countries, this paper provides a retrospective overview of large dams in Ghana, with a specific focus on the Akosombo, Kpong and Bui dams.


It notes that decisions and processes leading to dam construction often involve a diverse array of actors operating at different levels, with multiple interests. This potentially leads to indeterminate consequences; therefore, understanding the dialectics of decision making is helpful to avoid binary dichotomies such as macro–micro and local–global. Thus, our understanding of the interface between water politics and large dams, on the one hand, and the quest for socioeconomic development, on the other, would be enhanced by an expansion of the analytical gaze to capture the nuances and complexities resulting from a diversity of actors and power relations.


Ghana’s experiences with the construction of large dams also show that, while broader narratives about socioeconomic development play a major role, especially in terms of openness or otherwise of the domestic decision-making process, the source of funds has also proved to be a deciding factor: it shapes (1) the access of transnational actors to decision-making processes; and (2) the design and execution of dam projects. Furthermore, energy, economic and development considerations have outweighed ecological and environmental concerns regarding dams, with implications for those living near them. This is partly because decision-making processes have been largely elitist and technocratic, with limited consultations on potential environmental impacts.


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