Dr Kwabena Donkor, Member of Parliament for Pru East, has called on the Minister of Transport and other relevant Ministries to take steps to upgrade the Volta Lake Transport Company (VLTC) to a fully-fledged parastatal.
In an advocacy statement for the people living around the Volta Lake catchment area- the Northern, Brong Ahafo, Eastern and the Volta Regions, Dr Donkor explained that they had paid a significant price for the creation of the lake, and “it is time the Ghanaian state recognises the suffering and sacrifice of this group by developing water borne transportation on the lake.”
In the statement made on the floor of the House on Tuesday, Dr Donkor, who is also a former Minister of Power, argued that justice and equity demand that “the people of the Volta Basin be provided modern water borne transportation infrastructure and it is incumbent on the Ghana State to provide such. “
The Volta River Development Authority Act (Act 46 of 1961) imposes on the Authority the obligation, as stipulated in Section 10 d of the Act, ”the provision, when and as far as practical, of facilities and assistance for the development of the lake as a source of fish, and as a route for the transportation of goods and passengers.”
It was pursuant to that mandate that the company was set up on February 23, 1970 and incorporated under the Companies Code of 1963 to operate as public carrier of all forms of water borne transport and freight on the Volta Lake.
The lake has a surface area of 3,283 square miles; and the VLTC serves a population of at least two million citizens in the four regions of its catchment area.
The creation of the Akosombo Dam on the Volta Lake, that unleashed an electrical might for the building of the city of Tema, but at a price to the inhabitants of the catchment area of the Volta River.
Dr Donkor said: “Their ancestral lands, cultural groves, fishing and hunting grounds, graves of ancestors, shrines and everything that anthropologically makes a people, were buried under the gushing inflows of the newly blockaded impoundment. The spiritual and cultural heritage of these indigenes was disrupted in one big rupture of water.
“As a little kid, I saw my grandmother’s three room house with kitchen at Yeji Salt Town go into the belly of the forcefully onrushing waters of the new Volta Lake. The River that we had known had become overnight a lake whose flowing dynamic had been abruptly arrested by a new concrete block, the like of which that land had never seen before.
“In the place of the three bedroom house, the Ghanaian State provided my grandmother, the matriarch of the family a one room uncompleted structure called a Resettlement Home at Nsuano Quarters in uphill Yeji.
“Right Honourable Speaker, the lot of the indigenes of the people of the Volta and their sacrifice made for the huge industrial development of Ghana by hydro power.”
Linking the deterioration of that VLTC to the neglect of the people in the catchment area, Dr Donkor informed the House that the Volta River Authority (VRA) recorded losses of GH¢2.3 billion between 2011 and 2015 financial years.
The parent company, the VRA is financially incapacitated, and the dependent VLTC drowning without any new investment from its sole shareholder, and having management issues, with consequent lousy services by a derelict VLTC.
Ironically, despite the sacrifices of the people in the catchment areas, they are the last to get access to electricity, and a number of them do not have access even though national penetration of about 85 percent, Dr Donkor noted.
He suggested that the State take over from VRA the equity ownership of the company and put it on the same pedestal as the Metro Mass Transit Company, and bring the VLTC directly under the Ministry of Transport.
Other areas of investment in the company, the Pru East legislator suggested are the establishment of new landing beaches, improved navigational aids, human capital development, new and specialised ferries and hovercrafts, barges and tug boats and dredging equipment.
“A strong VLTC would provide the necessary elixir for aquaculture development as a prelude to agro processing in the catchment area,” Dr Donkor said.