Dam spillage: We conducted  Simulation exercises with affected communities – VRA

Story: News Desk

The Volta River Authority has disclosed that it held simulation exercises with all affected communities of the Akosombo Dam spillage before the opening of the dam.

VRA, cloaked 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 lead to flooding on occasion if the actual rainfall pattern differs significantly from expectations.

The VRA, as part of its responsibilities in protecting lives and livelihoods, continually carries out community engagements, training and support systems for potential floods.

Over the past 13 years, VRA has consistently engaged communities and key stakeholders on emergency response procedures. This year was no different and VRA engaged the various communities on Emergency Preparedness.

The workshops focused on the likely impacts and what people had to do when they received notification of a dam break or intended spill.

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, Mrs. 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, Armed Forces, Ambulance Service, Fire Service, Planning Officers, District Chief Executives Hon. Divine Osborne Fenu, Hon 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.

There was also a simulation on the evacuation of trapped victims to designated safe havens from communities with higher risks of flooding.

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.

hSimulations 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 September 15, 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.

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