VOLTA RIVER PROJECT TO THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
Accra, March 25, 1963
Mr. Speaker; Members of the National Assembly, on February 21st, 1961, I made a comprehensive statement to the Assembly about the Volta River Project. In my subsequent statements in January and September, 1962, l indicated briefly the progress which had then been made in the work on the Project. I propose to tell you today of what I saw at the Darn site at Akosombo during my inspection visit on February l9th this year and to convey to you the sense of thrill and joy, and the hopes and aspirations, which revived in my mind at the sight of the translation of the cherished dream of a generation into masses of rock-fill, slush grout and concrete in different, phases of the Project.
You may recall that I participated in the ground-breaking ceremony at Akosombo just about a year ago. These past twelve months have seen steady progress of work in all activities according to the schedule of the Contractors, lmpregilo and Company. It is an exhilarating experience to see the transformation of the whole scene at Akosombo. The surging, rushing waters of the great Volta River have now been tamed by the upstream and downstream coffer-dams, and in future, the bulk of water will flow downstream through the 1,000 feet long Diversion Tunnel. Our Engineers were baffled for a time, with the de-watering of the area between the two coffer-dams, but they have overcome the problem, and there is every expectation that the construction work will proceed smoothly in the coming months.
Twenty-five per cent of the construction of the dam has already been completed, and all phases of the project are on schedule. The Consulting Engineers, the principal Contractors and all Ghanaian nationals and expatriate staff engaged in this great work deserve our warm commendation.
The immediate objective now in the construction programme of the main dam will be to build the dam as high as possible above the rock foundation of the river bottom prior to the start of this year’s flood season. The programme will be interrupted to allow the flood waters to flow over the uncompleted dam. After the flood subsides, the construction of the dam is scheduled to rise to such a height that when the floods of 1964 arrive, they will be impounded above the dam, and Lake Volta will start to form.
A monumental task to be completed before the formation of the lake is the resettlement of about 70,000 people from the inundated area. It is the policy of this Government that no one should be worse off as a result of the Volta River Project. The movement of the people involved is therefore being planned to provide them with new villages with better communal facilities and better farming methods. This activity which is being coordinated by the Volta River Authority relies on the support of all governmental agencies and Ministries as well as the full cooperation and the efforts of the people themselves.
The Volta River Project and its ancillary activities represent the largest single investment in the development plan of our country. It is important, therefore, that everyone in Ghana should fully understand how the project is being financed and the sacrifices which we are making for its realisation.
The project itself, comprising the dam, the power house and the transmission lines, envisages a total capital outlay of some G70 million pounds. One half of the amount, that is G35 million pounds, is being provided by the Government of Ghana, in other words, by the people of Ghana. In order to meet the remaining G35 million pounds, we have accepted loans at commercial interest from the World Bank, the two United States Government’s Agencies, namely, the Export and Import Bank and Agency for International Development, and from the Export Credits Guarantee Department of the Government of the United Kingdom. Let us be quite clear that these loans which are being provided from abroad are not free grants or gifts. They are commercial loans which will have to be repaid by us at rates of interest ranging from 31/2 percent to 53/4 per cent.
So far, we have drawn very little against these loans. The preliminary site works at Akosombo, which we built in 1959 ahead of schedule and in advance of the signing of the various agreements, cost us some G2 million pounds. This early action on our part has had the effect of reducing by one full year, the time required to construct the project. We must also remember that Tema Harbour and Tema Township, which represent an integral part of the Volta River Project, have been constructed from our own resources at a cost of nearly £G30 million pounds.
Furthermore, we have matched our faith and belief in this project by bearing the brunt of the expenditure in respect of the project in the initial years. The total expenditure over the project from its inception to the end of February, 1963 is estimated about G3 million pounds. Over 90 per cent of this amount has been paid by the Government of Ghana as part of its 50 percent share of the capital outlay.
The Volta Project will confer numerous direct benefits on the national I economy. It will create larger avenues of gainful employment to Ghanaian nationals both in the construction and final operational stages. Currently, about 3,000 Ghanaians l are working at Akosombo and taking advantage of the opportunity of learning technical skills on the job. The Power House, the Transmission System and the Smelter may provide new jobs for over 2,000 skilled and semiskilled workers. The abundant supply of electrical power will bring light to thousands of homes in the countryside where darkness now prevails. It will make available power practically at the door-steps of business men and entrepreneurs in urban areas and offer them a powerful stimulus for the modernisation of existing industries and the development of new ones. The increased use of electricity will help to reduce the foreign exchange expenditure on imported fuel oil. The production of aluminium ingots will add to the range of Ghana’s export and stimulate a greater development of our rich bauxite resources.
While the Volta River Project has been conceived mainly as a hydro electric project, the Government is not unmindful of its vast potential for development in several other sectors of our economy. The vast artificial lake extending over 300 miles with a surface area of 3,275 square miles may provide practical possibilities for developing a system of inland navigation and transportation through a network of harbours on the lake. This will help to open up the inland areas and encourage larger movements of agricultural produce, forest products and fruits from those areas to be principal consuming markets. The development of inland fisheries in suitable areas of the lake also offers another possibility. With these facts in mind, the Government have already employed a competent group of Consulting Engineers to advise on the prospects of lake transportation system. The development of fisheries is also engaging attention. On the one hand, the Volta River Project may have to be mainly a hydro electric project as the hulk of the useful storage water in the reservoir behind the Dam will be needed to produce electric power. On the other hand, the regulated downstream flow of water below the Dam may offer real possibilities for scientific irrigated agriculture comprising heavy water — using crops such as sugar-cane, rice and irrigated cotton. These possibilities will soon be investigated by competent technicians.
As the construction work at Akosombo proceeds steadily according to Schedule, the promise and the prospect which the combined Volta and VALCO Project offers for Ghana’s economic growth and development begin to get into focus and stand out in their proper perspective. The Volta River Project is both a challenge and an opportunity; a challenge because it calls for dedication, public spirit and hard work from the personnel engaged on the work as well as the leaders of public opinion and the people at large; an opportunity because it calls for a high degree of resourcefulness and initiative on the part of farmers, workers and entrepreneurs in Ghana.
I would like to urge the Members of the National Assembly to visit the Dam site at Akosombo from time to time and to persuade their constituents and friends here and abroad to come and see this gigantic dream come true. It is indeed an inspiring experience to visit the Dam site and imbibe the message of hope and growth it conveys for our Nation. Major projects such as the Volta are the new "places of Pilgrimage" in this modern Age of Science and Technology. They serve as monuments to the determination and dedication of a whole people to raise themselves to a fuller and richer life. In this noble endeavour, we welcome foreign Capital — institutional or Private-from all sources, provided it is offered without strings and it is attracted to this country not merely by the economic viability of projects but especially by a spirit of true partnership and a willingness to help to build up Ghana’s prosperity and the welfare of its people on enduring foundations.