Urgent Action on the Proposed Bui Dam

Tuesday, February 22, 2000


About 30,000 people in the Brong–Ahafo–Region, Northwest Ghana, are threatened with losing their land and the right to feed oneself due to the construction of the hydroelectricity Bui–dam.


With the construction of Ghana's third hydroelectricity dam, a population of approximately 30,000 people have to fear relocation or a decline in essential fishing grounds as well as an increase in dangerous diseases.

The country's first hydroelectricity dam, the Akosombo–dam in Southeast Ghana, was built in 1966. The disastrous consequences of unfair compensation and resettlement which followed the construction and the recent power rationing due to too little water in the Akosombo dam are still fresh in the minds of Ghanaians. The majority of the 80,000 people, who were relocated, have never been provided with compensation, neither in money nor in the provision of adequate land.

The proposed Bui–dam will be located in the Bui National Park and the total area of land to be flooded fluctuates from about 17,800 hectares to 68,500 hectares, depending upon the final decision taken on the dam's elevation. The Dokokyina village situated within the park will be submerged by the dam flood. Depending upon the total area to be flooded, the number of directly affected inhabitants will vary from 652 to 4433 people. No satisfactorily resettlement or compensation plan for these people has so far been drafted. Furthermore, the government has not taken into account the destruction of means of subsistence faced by some 30,000 people's means of subsistence. These communities are scattered around the national park. They will face considerable problems due to a severe decline in the economically important fish resources. These are likely to be heavily reduced, and some species may disappear from the river entirely, as a consequence of the increased pollution and changes in water temperature resulting from the dams' construction. The population's basic food income will thus diminish and threaten their right to feed themselves.

The dominant ethnic group in the area is the Mafi, fisherfolk, who live in close solidarity with their sacred land and are dependent on its resources. Traditional values and the respect for nature are a main concern for the Mafi as well as other ethnic groups located in the region.

The construction of the Bui–dam in Ghana could end as another shortsighted investment poject. Power supply from the already established dams has been anything but reliable. Environmentalists have been left searching for the logic behind the government's avowed determination to go ahead with the construction of the Bui–dam due to long periods of droughts in the sub–region with too little water to power the turbines. Moreover, as a result of the obvious irreparable adverse impact on local people and the environment, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank have shunned the project.

Reason for the urgent action

The establishment of the Bui–dam would threaten the means of subsistence of up to 30,000 people, through the submergence and the destruction of the fishing resources.

The memorandum of understanding between the government and private investors, which are: Brown and Root (UK); Alstom Hydro Limited (UK); Grupo Dragados SA of Spain and Hyundai of South Korea, was signed on October, 15th, 1999 and the construction of the dam will start soon.

Although the dam construction was planned from 2001 it is reported that some work has already been carried out without the promised social and environmental impact assessment.

An international protest letter addressed to the President of Ghana will pressurise him to establish a satisfactory resettlement and compensation plan for all communities affected by the proposed dam before the construction work commences, in order to protect their right to feed themselves.

Proposed action

Please send a polite letter to the President of Ghana, Mr. Jerry Rawlings, in which you ask him not to start the construction of the dam before detailed proposals about the compensation have been implemented. Request him to make sure that adequate land is given to the people living within the national park as well as to the population scattered around the park which has to leave the area due to diminishing fish resources and the increase of dangerous diseases. Furthermore, ask him to inform us about any measures he has undertaken in this regard.


President of Ghana The Minister
Jerry Rawlings Ministry of Mines and Energy
P.O.Box 1627 P.O.Box 40
The Castle, Osu Stadium
Accra Accra
Ghana Ghana

Honorable President
Jerry Rawlings
The Castle, Osu
P.O.Box 1627

Honorable President,

Recently, I have been informed about the threats to the right to feed themselves of the communities living in the submergence area of the Bui–dam. According to my information, a minimum of 652 people will lose all access to land and depending upon the flood area up to 30,000 will see their access to resources partly or fully destroyed.

The withdrawal of the World Bank and the European Investment Bank from the project

due to the expected irreparable impact on local people and the environment, clearly indicates the level of international concern surrounding it.

Previous experiences with the Akosombo–dam have not been encouraging. The majority of the 80,000 people relocated were not provided with any kind of compensation.

As a State Party to the African Charter on Human Rights, Ghana has the obligation to ensure that "All people shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in the equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind". (Article 22)

More specifically Article 21.2 states that "In case of spoliation the dispossessed people shall have the right to the lawful recovery of its property as well as to an adequate compensation".

Furthermore, Ghana is a member of the United Nations and therefore agrees with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and consequently must protect the right to adequate food for all parts of its population.

As a person working internationally for the human right to feed oneself, I would like to ask you to:

– ensure that adequate rehabilitation through the provision of equivalent land or fair financial compensation is given to the people within the national park as well as to the population scattered around the park, whom will also face considerable problems due to a fundamental decline in fish resources; their basic foodstuffs.

– make sure that the investors submit a comprehensive environmental and social impact assessement before starting the construction work on the Bui–dam. Please keep me updated on the measures you intend to take in this matter.