Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies (CHRHS)

The Bagre Dam Spillage Conundrum

Are Early Warning systems leading to local actions in flood Disaster Hotspot communities in Northern Ghana?

Ghana has made major strides in reducing poverty supported by relatively strong political and economic institutions. This has however occurred without a corresponding and systematic reduction of disaster risks in most communities. Since 1999, eight years after the construction of the Bagre multipurpose Hydro Dam on the White Volta sub-basin in Burkina Faso, several communities in Ghana to the downstream of the White Volta River have experienced series of flood disasters. These disasters have occurred partly because, the Burkinabe power company, Société Nationale Burkinabe d’Electricité (SONABEL) continues to spill excess water from the Bagre Dam in order to maintain the Dam’s 235 1meters water holding capacity. From the downstream side, it appears Ghana’s preparedness is still trailing as risk reduction strategies are daunting. For the past 19 years, the story on the effects of the Bagre water spillage has remained unchanged. The spillage continues to cause massive floods in communities in Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions of Ghana, leading to devastating impact such as loss of human lives and livelihoods. The recent flood disaster from the Bagre spillage happened on September 3, 2018 leading to 34 estimated deaths, destruction of farmlands, homes and many other livelihood adaptation strategies.

Funded through the HI² research seed grant program, this study intends to examine the dearth of approaches adopted by key stakeholders in managing hazards from the Bagre spillage, the post reconstruction strategies implemented to reduce the burden on affected households as well as to understand why the flood impact continues to be widespread in spite of prior hazard alerts from the Bagre authorities. The investigators will conduct direct interviews with households and key actors like the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), security services, traditional rulers and district authorities as well as hold Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with relevant groups in the affected communities in northern Ghana.