Volta River Project – New Towns

“It is important to reflect upon the heritage that the ex-colonial countries have left in developing countries all over the world: India, Africa, South-America and the Orient. This heritage that comprises both the good and the bad has been the point of departure for urban development after independence. . . . Today all these countries are autonomous. And even if the heritage of the past has not always made things easier, they have the possibility of decision in their hands. But this possibility of decision is extremely limited because the means for study and realization does not exist”.  Michel Ecochard

One such gargantuan project was the Volta River Project (VRA) – also once called the Golden Triangle Project – which was intended to industrialize the country through the exploitation of its natural resources, minerals and water power. The Volta River Project consisted of the Ajena Power Development, new railways, the Bui Gorge Hydro-Electrical Project, the Aya Bauxite mines, Tema Harbour, Tema New Town, the Kpong Smelter and the resettlement of over 80,000 people in 52 New Towns along the newly created Volta Lake.

The project had been on the drawing board before independence, but was put into effect by then Prime Minister Dr. Kwame Nkrumah as a part of his post-independence agenda of Pan–Africanism:  an agenda designed to yield a prosperous and stable African country able to take care of its own affairs.

But today, however, most of the New Towns are ruined or deserted and the following three focal points of the VRA – intended to resettle the flood victims in the New Towns in what could be termed a process of ‘imposed modernity’ – have been failures.

  • To use the resettlement as an opportunity to enhance the social, economic and physical condition of the people.

This has not resulted in improved conditions, but rather in deprivation, something possibly due to the cash and food handouts at the beginning of the programme.

Insufficient social and economic infrastructure was provided to sustain the growth. Not even basic amenities were provided with the housing.

  • To improve their system of agriculture and so enable residents to effect a transition from subsistence agriculture to commercial farming.

Not enough farm land was provided. In addition, most traditional inhabitants lived on or near their farm lands, not in distant houses.

  • To plan and locate the New Town in a rational manner so that those resettled, as well as others (the host community) in the Volta Basin would benefit from the creation of the lake.

Since not enough infrastructure was provided, no one benefitted from the programmes. The plan also resulted in problems with sanitation and overcrowding

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