Posted by Karen White on
Lake Volta is a large reservoir contained behind the Akosombo Dam. It is completely within the country of Ghana and has a surface area of 8,502 square kilometres (3,283 sq mi).
Lake Volta lies along the Greenwich Meridian, and just six degrees of latitude north of the Equator. The lake's northernmost point is close to the town of Yapei, and its southernmost extreme is at the Akosombo Dam, 520 kilometers (320 mi) downstream from Yapei. Akosombo Dam holds back both the White Volta River and the Black Volta River, which formerly converged where the middle of the reservoir now lies, to form the single Volta River. The present Volta River flows from the outlets of the dam's powerhouse and spillways to the Atlantic Ocean in southmost Ghana.
The main islands within the lake are Dodi, Dwarf and Kporve. Digya National Park lies on part of the lake's west shore.
The lake is formed by the Akosombo Dam, which was originally conceived by the geologist Albert Ernest Kitson in 1915, but whose construction only began in 1961 with completion in 1965. Because of the formation of Lake Volta, about 78,000 people were relocated to new towns and villages, along with 200,000 animals belonging to them. About 120 buildings were destroyed, not including small residences, as over 3,000 square miles (7,800 km2) of territory was flooded.
The Akosombo Dam provides electricity for much of the country, as well as for export to Togo, Benin, and nearby countries, to earn foreign exchange value. Lake Volta is also important for transportation, providing a waterway for both ferries and cargo watercraft. Since the huge lake lies in a tropical area, the water remains warm year-round naturally. Given good management, Lake Volta is the location of a vast population of fish and large fisheries.
The lake also attracts tourism, and tourist cruises visit the island of Dodi.
Recent developments include a large-scale enterprise to harvest submerged timber from the flooded forests under Lake Volta. This project harvests high-value tropical hardwood without requiring additional logging or destruction of existing forest and, according to Wayne Dunn, "could generate the largest source of environmentally sustainable natural tropical hardwood in the world." The Ghanaian-owned company Underwater Forest Resources has committed itself to making said lumber available in the global market, while Flooring Solutions Ghana have become the suppliers of hardwood floors, using the rare wood from the Lake. In addition to generating foreign currency for the region and reducing the dependence of locals on fishing as a primary economic activity, the removal of submerged trees is improving navigation on the lake and increasing safety.
There are an estimated 7,000 - 10,000 child slaves working in the fishing industry on Lake Volta.
Lake Bosumtwi (also spelled Bosomtwe) is the only natural lake in Ashanti and Ghana. It is situated within an ancient impact crater that is about 10.5 kilometres (6.5 mi) in diameter. It is about 30 km south-east of Kumasi the capital of Ashanti and is a popular recreational area. There are about 30 villages near crater lake Lake Bosumtwi, with a combined population of about 70,000 Ashanti people.
The Ashanti consider Bosumtwi a sacred lake. According to traditional belief, the souls of the dead come here to bid farewell to the god Asase Ya. Because of this, it is considered permissible to fish in the lake only from wooden planks. Among the fish species in the lake is the endemic cichlid Hemichromis frempongi, and the near-endemic cichlids Tilapia busumana and T. discolor.
The Lake Bosumtwi impact crater is 10.5 km in diameter, slightly larger than the present lake which is approximately 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) across, and is estimated to be 1.07 million years old (Pleistocene period).There is a highly speculative theory that connects this event to the short-term Jaramillo geomagnetic reversal.
Depth of crater is approximately 380 m, but, if counted together with the depth of lake sediments - 750 m.
The crater has been partly eroded, and is situated in dense rainforest, making it difficult to study and confirm its origin by meteorite impact. Shock features such as shatter cones are largely overgrown by vegetation or covered by the lake. However, drilling of the crater's central uplift beneath the lake floor has recently provided an abundance of shocked materials for scientific study. Tektites, believed to be from this impact, are found in the neighbouring country of Ivory Coast, and related microtektites have been found in deep sea sediments west of the African continent.
Before the asteroid hit, there was a lush rainforest filled with animals. The crater from the asteroid's impact filled with rainwater, so now there is a lake.
Periods of heavy rainfall filled the crater with water, causing the lake level to rise above the lowest points of the rim. Such periods are evidenced from fossils of fish found on hilltops. Water even flowed from the basin through an overflow channel. However, there were also times when the water level was so low that the rainforest entered the basin rendering the lake only a small pond. Such a period, according to legend and now proved by paleoclimate records, lasted until about 300 years ago (Shanahan et al. 2009).
The legends say that in 1648 an Ashanti hunter named Akora Bompe from the city of Asaman was chasing an injured antelope through the rainforest. Suddenly, the animal disappeared in a small pond. It was as if this body of water wanted to save the animal's life. The hunter never got the antelope, though he settled close to the water and started catching fish. This place he named “Bosomtwe”, meaning “antelope god”. This story suggests that at that time the lake level was very low. The large dead trees standing offshore in the lake also evidence this, for they are over 300 years old.
The following centuries saw several wars about the lake as both the Ashanti and the Akim clashed, each claiming the area. The Ashanti prevailed. Each village in the lake area has its own shrine or fetish grove. With the arrival of Christianity, some of people gave up former beliefs, though many continue to seek traditional help in bad times or against diseases.
The Abrodwum Stone is held to be the spiritual centre of the lake. Here, when there is such poor fishing it is considered a bad omen, the lake people sacrifice a cow. This act is celebrated in the presence of his majesty, the Ashanti king, the Asantehene himself. In the ceremony, the cow's innards are given to the stone and the rest is thrown into the lake. The crowd rushes into the water with cutlasses and axes to take their share of the meat. This is an event very much worth seeing. However, as such an omen depends on various factors, it is hardly predictable.
There is a traditional taboo against touching the water with iron and modern boats are not considered appropriate. The padua, a wooden plank requiring considerable skill to maneuver, is the legitimate method.
There are current environmental concerns, including overfishing and inadequate farming methods. The growing population increased demand for fish. Excessive fishing led to steadily decreasing catches, forcing increased reliance on agriculture. As more and more of the hills are converted into farmland, exposing the surface to the heavy rainfalls, soil erosion becomes an ever greater problem. In addition there is the changing lake level. Many villages have been submerged several times forcing the people to move up the slopes or outside the basin. That is the origin of such double names as Pipie No.1 and Pipie No.2.
The lake is a popular resort area with local people for swimming, fishing and boat trips. The lakeside village of Amakom has a small hospital with a doctor residing on premise, called Lake Bosumtwi Methodist Clinic, providing emergency services by boat and 4x4 ambulance.