In March 2001 the government of Ghana banned my research in Bui National Park. The area is due to be flooded by a hydroelectric dam in 2002.
Other than the late Paul Choribe, my teams and I are the only scientists to have conducted biological research at Bui in all 29 years of the park's existence.
In the past I have maintained a neutral stance on the Bui Dam Project because I have no wish to interfere with Ghana's development plans and hoped that my research might facilitate them. But Bui National Park has very few friends and I feel obliged to speak because I believe that it is the last fragment of pristine wilderness in the entire Volta system and harbours an exceptionally rich fauna and flora that is in imminent danger of being destroyed without ever being documented. The site is much too important to be ignored. Furthermore, the villages that are condemned by the dam have requested that I maintain my interest in the area. They report that they have never been consulted about the dam and the effect it will have on their lives.
Our work has been outlawed because of the comments I made about the effect of the dam on food availability for the hippopotamus population in the park. Only about 400 hippos survive in Ghana, over 80% of which live at Bui. Our previous research shows very clearly that all the traditional feeding grounds of the hippos would be destroyed during the early flooding stages of the dam, with the effect that many hundreds of hungry hippopotamus would be forced to move north of the park into inhabited areas. Our planned research was to determine the exact size of the population at Bui and determine its foraging requirements in order to investigate the prospects of creating new foraging grounds for the animals during and subsequent to dam construction. If a way cannot be found to keep the Bui Hippos within the national park, there may be no choice but to destroy the vast majority of them in the interests of people's safety. Claims that the Bui hippos can be moved to Ghana's other hippo sanctuary at Wichau are completely devoid of reality, and I can only presume they have been made to mislead the public.
I hope that conservation organisations active in Ghana, who have so far remained entirely silent on the issue, will make the effort to conduct research at Bui before it is too late. I suspect Bui harbours the only pristine habitat left in the entire Volta system and that destruction of the area without sufficient research might be carried out with the silent approval of some of Ghana's leading "conservationists".
I am very proud of my work at Bui and believe it is not only unfair, but sinister, to forbid me from conducting research there. The intention seems to be to ensure that nothing challenges the results of the recently commissioned Environmental Impact Assessment of the Bui Dam Project, to be conducted by a Canadian company Acres under contract from the Volta River Authority. An assessment paid for by the organisation constructing the dam does not constitute an acceptable level of research if the area is to be destroyed.
Please write to
President Mr J. Kufour, The State House, Accra, Ghana.
Volta River Authority, Electro-Volta House, 28th February Road, P.O.Box MB77 Accra, Ghana
Bui Development Consortium. C/O Brown and Root PLC, Unit A and B Bilton Centre Cleeve Road Leatherhead,Surrey,KT22 7NF United Kingdom
Daniel Bennett, April 2001