Dutch - Ghanaian student team jointly worked on complex challenges of the Ghana Volta Delta

A group of students and teachers from Delft University of Technology, faculties of Architecture and the Built Environment, Civil Engineering and Geosciences and Technology, Policy and Management worked with Ghanaian students of KNUST, Central University and University of Ghana to develop integrated solutions for the complex challenges of the Volta Delta in Ghana during a full week of workshops and site visits which was hosted and facilitated by the Delta Alliance-Ghana Wing.

The Volta Delta is experiencing interacting problems due to a combination of climate change, coastal erosion, intensive urbanization and poor land use planning. One of the major problems is severe coastal erosion that affects coastal communities. Engineering solutions, such as the construction of groins and revetments have stabilized parts of the coast, but also blocked access to the beach, which is affecting traditional marine fishing activities, and have led to increased erosion of neighbouring areas. In the lagoons, industrialization of salt mining and the development of intensive agriculture and unplanned urbanization put pressure on the delta’s ecosystem. This competes with the traditional way of living of coastal communities and exaggerates the already poor livelihood of communities as a result of low fishing and agriculture harvests.

The workshop funded by the Delft Deltas, Infrastructure and Mobility Initiative (DIMI) and Delta Alliance sought to improve the understanding of the complex challenges of the Volta delta and to develop guiding principles to support an integrated development that balances needs of local communities and economic development. During a workshop in the Volta Delta, the Delft – Ghanaian student group developed long-term strategies based on the option of a managed retreat and relocation of the most vulnerable communities, a hold the line strategy by improved coastal protection, and a dynamic coast strategy, in which the sandy coast is maintained according to its natural dynamics.    

Although the workshop did not aim to develop a comprehensive master plan, it helped to better understand the complexities of a delta that is urbanizing rapidly and that is threatened by climate change. One of the key findings of the workshop is that it is absolutely necessary to better understand the natural dynamics of the delta and to better understand how the coastal system reacts to climate change. Additionally, there is a strong need for both strategic long-term planning and new governance structures on the level of the delta to manage urbanization, coastal protection and other economic developments and the development of new economic activities to support a sustainable livelihood of the coastal communities. Lastly, the lack of spatial planning and the community-focused culture brings in an element of complexity. During the workshop, it was discussed whether coastal protection and infrastructure development could serve as a mechanism to steer urbanization to more preferred locations. While at the same time, setting up a network of local chiefs within the delta to guide long-term and integrated development.  

The students will continue working on the challenges of the Volta Delta within their individual MSc projects both at TU Delft and Ghanaian universities. A follow-up meeting will be held in Delft in April 2018. During this workshop the Dutch –Ghanaian student teams will present their findings and continue work on integrated solutions and designs for earlier identified problems.  

Dr. Ir. Peter van Veelen - Coordinator Urban Deltas DIMI