Lake Volta was created very recently in 1965 after the Akosombo dam was built. Dams are like walls. They block and redirect water from rivers. However, they also have a small gap to let water through, like a waterfall. The water goes through very energetically, and this energy generates electricity. The Akosombo dam is huge- it generates most of Ghana’s electricity. Lots of water needed to be stopped for the dam to work. The water behind the dam makes up Lake Volta.
Lake Volta is the largest man-made Lake in the world by surface area. The water flooded over 8,500 kilometres of grassland and forest. It is now used for fishing, navigation and provides water to nearby farms. However, sailing on this lake is very difficult. The forests the lake had flooded are still underwater, and can destroy any boats which run into them. However, problems like this can be solved.
The ‘Bog Oak’ of Lake Volta
These underwater trees have extremely special properties. It is called ‘bog oak,’ and is made by minerals in the water soaking into the wood, and slowly replacing the ‘woody’ parts inside. This makes the tree fossilise and petrify (turn to stone.) This type of wood is extremely rare, and is so strong that it needs to be carved with special tools. Timber like this is very useful, and is highly sought after.
The fishermen of Lake Volta were worried that the extraction of the timber was ruining the fishing grounds in the lake. Uprooting trees from the lake destroyed the natural habitats of fish. This way of extracting timber also dirtied the water, killing even more fish. The fishermen were hostile because they thought the fuel used by the company could poison the lake.
With the help of the UN, the Timber Salvage Company and the fishermen talked about these worries. Both sides found out something new and benefited from these talks. The company found out why the fishermen were angry. The fishermen got information about the company, and found out some of their beliefs weren’t true. The company cut the trees from the stem, not violently uprooting them, and the fuel the company used did not pollute the water. The fishermen and the company now both live in harmony, something that would not be possible if they didn’t listen to each other’s issues.
Lake Volta could also help a global issue. In France, a famous cathedral called the Notre Dame burnt down. The French government does not have enough wood to rebuild it itself, and is looking for other ways to repair something of huge cultural and historical importance.
The wood Lake Volta makes is perfect for restoration, and it is possible this wood will rebuild the cathedral over 4,500 kilometres away. The money for the wood could boost the local Ghanaian economy, and the bog oak given would put Ghana in the centre of the rebuilding effort.
Cooperation Makes a Better Future
Places like Lake Volta shows the positive impact cooperation can have. Working together, talking and listening creates new solutions to problems which looked unsolvable. If there was no cooperation, then the fishermen and loggers would be fighting for no reason, and the cathedral would be rebuilt less traditionally. Places like Lake Volta show that cooperation makes a better future.