Spotlight on Sustainable Management of Volta River Delta

Researchers from the Delft University of Technology and the Delta Alliance joined forces with the Ghanaian Development Institute and the University of Ghana to discuss the challenges for integrated planning and sustainable management of the Volta river delta.

At two recent workshops Dutch and Ghanaian experts recognized that the problems in the delta relate a lack of land use planning and a limited enforcement capacity of local authorities.

It was concluded that the key challenge is to develop a plan that balances nature conservation and development and that is integrated within the traditional governance structures, according to urban deltas researcher dr. ir. Peter van Veelen at the Delft University of Technology.

The ongoing strong coastal erosion is one of the more urgent issues, said Van Veelen.

Although data is generally incomplete or poor, the coastal erosion is partly attributed to a lack of sediment that is trapped behind the dams in the Volta river. Other contributing circumstances are effects of sea level rise and associated change of coastal currents along the West African coastline.

On average, the rate of loss of land is estimated to a range between a 1- 2 m a year. Already, some coastal villages and infrastructure are lost to the ocean.

Engineering solutions such as the construction of groins and revetments stabilized parts of the coast but block access to the coast, affecting traditional marine fishing activities. The construction led to increased coastal erosion elsewhere along the coast.

Joint research agenda

At two well-attended meetings in Ghana experts recently exchanged ideas and discussed a joint research agenda between Ghanaian and Dutch universities.

The discussions with the stakeholders revealed that development and integration of base line data, for example on coastal erosion, salinization and urbanization, are key to start understanding the complex relations that define sustainability of the delta system.

According to Van Veelen a key challenge is to develop a plan in which both conservancy and development are balanced and that is integrated within the traditional governance structures.

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