The Volta River Authority (VRA) has revealed that there was a comprehensive simulation exercise on evacuation with all stakeholders in the affected communities of the Akosombo Dam spillage, before the opening of the dam.
For over the past 13 years, VRA, has consistently engaged communities and key stakeholders on emergency response procedures.
Before the current decision to spill, VRA held a simulation exercise dubbed “Exercise Da Wo Ho So 2023” in May 2023, to help ensure that all relevant stakeholders were prepared for a flood-related event.
The exercise tested the emergency response procedures and capabilities of relevant stakeholders, and lessons from the exercise were noted to improve response preparedness.
VRA, clothed with the mandate of maintaining the largest man-made lake in the world and ensuring the integrity of one of the most powerful dams, have an enormous task in securing and providing the electricity needs of Ghana and neighbouring countries, in addition to providing support systems for the people who live within its catchment area.
Controlled spills are a necessary way of maintaining the integrity of hydro dams worldwide and can occasionally lead to flooding if the actual rainfall pattern differs significantly from expectations. As part of its responsibilities to protect lives and livelihoods, the VRA continually carries out community engagements, training and support systems for potential floods.
Over the past 13 years, VRA has consistently, every year, engaged communities and key stakeholders on emergency response procedures. This year was no different. VRA engaged the various communities on Emergency Preparedness. The workshops focused on the impacts and what people had to do when they received notification of a dam break or intended spill.
Simulation exercises with stakeholders
Before the decision to spill, VRA held a simulation exercise dubbed “Exercise Da Wo Ho So 2023” in May 2023, to help ensure that all relevant stakeholders were prepared for a flood-related event. The exercise tested the emergency response procedures and capabilities of relevant stakeholders, and lessons from the exercise were noted to improve response preparedness.
Understanding the importance of this simulation, the Chief Director of the Ministry of the Interior, Adelaide Anno-Kumi and a delegation from the US Embassy, North Dakota National Guards, were invited to provide technical support and help to validate its Emergency Preparedness Plan.
Other major stakeholders who played various roles in the emergency simulation exercise included NADMO, Ghana Police Service, Ghana Navy, Ghana Army, Ambulance Service, Fire Service, Planning Officers, District Chief Executives, Divine Osborne Fenu, Sarah Pobee, and some traditional rulers.
The simulation exercise was conducted, concurrently at the three (3) District Assemblies namely Asuogyaman, Ada East and North Tongu while complementary simulations took place in the six remaining districts. The main objective was to “Test response to (excessive) spillage of 5,000 to 10,000 m3/s of water from the Akosombo dam resulting in extensive flooding of downstream districts.”
There was a dry run from the established National and District Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) to test the emergency communication channels, and important information regarding the exercise was also relayed to the relevant Relief Agency personnel.
The people in the communities were taken through training on how to evacuate their homes, in addition to first aid and safety responses for early warning and notification.
They also worked with the relief agency personnel on the process of search and rescue of trapped victims in flooded areas during a potential spillage scenario.
Simulations on evacuations
There was also a simulation on evacuating trapped victims to designated safe havens from communities with higher flooding risks.
Mepe was identified as one of the communities with high exposure to flooding. Therefore an EOC was set up within Mepe, with their District Chief Executive, Hon. Divine Osborne Fenu at the helm of the simulation exercise. Relief Agency personnel from the simulation exercise took their time to explain all communication and evacuation protocols to the people of Mepe. Simulations to mimic real-life situations, such as voluntary evacuation, first aid, and search and rescue activities, amongst others, were successfully carried out with selected members of the Mepe community, whilst the rest of the town members looked on and asked questions.
As part of its Emergency Preparedness Plan, VRA also allocated funds to support the purchase of relief items by NADMO. This was to ensure that there would be financial support for the immediate evacuation and relief efforts in a flood scenario.
The ongoing controlled spilling from the Akosombo dam has been carried out on an incremental basis since 15 September 2023; starting gradually from 20,000 cubic feet per second, to the current level of 180,000 cubic feet per second. This unfortunately is because, the rainfall pattern changed significantly from prior years,(a 1 in 50-year scenario) and continued to fill up the dam to critical levels. To put this in perspective, the geographical land mass occupied by the Akosombo dam is about 3% of the country’s total land area; more than twice the size of the Greater Accra Region. The increased spilling of the Akosombo dam was imperative to ensure that the dam did not break and cause fatal floods which would be catastrophic.
As the controlled spill continues, VRA has vowed to do its absolute best to help the victims in the affected communities. In addition to funds they have allocated to NADMO, they have already provided 820 bags of rice,487 cartons of canned food,7,400 kgs of legumes, cereals and nuts,350 cartons of provisions and oil, 5,400 bags of sachet water, with more to come.
Medical supplies and drugs worth over a million Ghana Cedis and counting have been made available to target diseases such as cholera, enteric fever, dysentery, worm infestations, skin infections, snake bites, malaria and respiratory diseases.
These relief items are distributed to the designated safe havens on a daily basis. Sogakope has been designated as the Medical Supply Distribution Depot to enable easy access to medical supplies and drugs.
VRA, together with NADMO, is constantly supplying potable water in tankers to the affected communities and has begun the process of restoring the water supply system in Aveyime in the North Tongu District.
VRA is determined to provide any relevant support to the affected communities and vows to leave no one behind.