Lake Volta is considered the largest man-made lake in the world and accounts for 3.6% of Ghana’s surface area. The White and Black Volta Rivers converge to form the Volta River and completion of the Akosombo Dam, in 1966, created the 8500 square km reservoir. The notion of damning the river for hydro-electric was first proposed in 1915, by an Australian geologist. It wasn’t until post-independence though that President Nkrumah set up the Volta River Authority and, in 1961, contracted the work out to an Italian company.
The main purpose of the dam at that time was to provide electricity for Ghana’s growing industrial development, mainly an Aluminium plant based in Tema. The dam is made entirely from clay and rock and stands 114m tall and 660m at its widest. When the land was flooded to create the reservoir around 80,000 people had to be re-homed, many of them farmers and fishermen. Farmers were forced to use less fertile land on the slopes of the new reservoir making conditions more difficult. To make matters worse fertiliser run off into the lake has caused issues with aquatic weeds and malaria-breading mosquitoes. The flooding of the land also left many dead tree stumps spread across the lake creating problematic conditions for fishermen as their nets become entangled. This aspect of Ghana’s fishing industry has a large problem with child slavery and often children are sent into the lake with the dangerous task of untangling the nets. These children often work long hours with no education, it’s estimated there are many thousands involved in the Lake Volta fishing industry.
If you spend the night at the nearby Royal Senchi hotel they can arrange a tour of the dam and the three magic rocks. The tour of the dam, which involves a walk along the top, is very worthwhile and is run by the Volta River Authority. This can be arranged independently, if you have a vehicle, by visiting their office in Akosombo. The three magic rocks however, seems to be a mystery which I can find out little about, except what I was told by the Royal Senchi tour guide. The story goes that these three large pieces of rock where removed when building the dam. However, after moving them the workmen returned the following day to find they had returned to their original position. When this happened a second night in a row the decision was made to make a religious offering and ceremony before moving the rocks, as it was felt their magic must be respected. This process was successful and one of the three pieces was built into the dam wall. The second now sits outside the Volta Hotel and the third outside the Saint Barbara Church.
The piece outside the Volta Hotel contains a circular marking around a natural hole. The plaque describes this cup and ring formation as a prehistoric magical symbol, probably related to animal fertility. The plaque also explains that rock engravings are very rare in Ghana and it’s thought this one is 2000 years old.
The third piece sits outside the Saint Barbara Catholic Church, which was built in 1962 as a place of worship for the workers building the damn. Hanging inside the church is a plaque that remembers the 28 workers who lost their lives during its construction. The Church and rock sit high on the hillside with a wonderful view back across the mighty Lake Volta.