Restoring the Korle Lagoon: A journey from pollution to preservation in the city of Accra


Stories and facts

The Korle Lagoon is a body of water in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Lying immediately to the west of the city center, it has played an important role in the city's history. In the 1990s, it became known for its high levels of pollution.

The Korle Lagoon, central to Accra's history, faced pollution in the 1990s due to industrialization and waste discharge. Efforts to restore its ecological balance include the Black Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project and the diversion of the Odaw River, highlighting the ongoing challenge of balancing conservation with development in Ghana's capital.

The Korle Lagoon, situated in the heart of Accra, Ghana, has been a significant geographical and cultural landmark throughout the city's evolution. According to local tradition, its shores were first settled by Ewe hunters, drawn by the mystical allure of its waters. The lagoon, believed to be inhabited by a spiritual presence, captivated settlers and eventually became the foundation for Jamestown, a pivotal part of Accra's heritage.

In 1961, the Government of Ghana intervened, assuming ownership of the lagoon to address flooding risks and facilitate industrial development. The dredging of the lagoon and the transformation of its surrounding areas saw the rise of industries ranging from brewing to electronic scrap processing. However, this progress came at a cost, as pollution levels soared due to the discharge of waste from nearby settlements and the Odaw River, the lagoon's primary tributary.

By the 1990s, the Korle Lagoon had garnered notoriety for its alarming pollution levels, earning it a reputation as one of the world's most contaminated water bodies. Heavy rainfall exacerbated the situation, leading to frequent flooding in adjacent areas. In response, the government initiated the Black Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project, aimed at mitigating pollution and restoring the lagoon's ecological balance.

Amidst restoration efforts, the emergence of unplanned settlements along the lagoon's banks, notably Old Fadama, presented a new set of challenges. The government viewed these settlements as contributors to pollution and announced plans for clearance. However, faced with protests and resistance from the local population, these plans were met with opposition, complicating the restoration process.

In a bid to alleviate pollution and enhance water flow, the Odaw River, the main source of contamination, was diverted in 2007. This diversion, coupled with desilting efforts, aimed to redirect the river's outflow directly into the Gulf of Guinea, bypassing the lagoon's polluted waters.

The journey to restore the Korle Lagoon to its former ecological integrity is ongoing, marked by a delicate balance between environmental preservation and urban development. As Ghana continues its efforts to safeguard its natural heritage, the story of the Korle Lagoon serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring interplay between progress and conservation.




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