Lake Volta (located at 6°30′N 0°0′E) is the largest reservoir by surface area in the world, and the fourth largest one by water volume. It is located completely within the country of Ghana, and it has a surface area of about 8,502 km² (3,275 square miles). Lake Volta lies along the Greenwich Meridian, and just six degrees of latitude north of the Equator. The lake’s northmost point is close to the town of Yapei, and its southmost extreme is at the Akosombo Dam, 520 kilometers 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 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, and possibly for export, perhaps 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. Naturally, since the huge lake lies in a tropical area, the water remains warm year-round, and given good management, it is the location of a vast population of fish and large fisheries.
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 could generate the largest source of environmentally sustainable natural tropical hardwood in the world, – Wayne Dunn (2007). In addition to improve navigation on the lake and increasing safety, this project is generating foreign currency for the region and reduces the dependence of locals on fishing as a primary economic activity.
The Digya National Park of Ghana lies on part of the lake’s west shore.
Many of the fishermen who ply their trade on Lake Volta are known for using child slaves trafficked from both within Ghana and surrounding countries. Challenging Heights, a Ghana-based NGO that helps rescue child slaves, estimates that over 24,000 children in Ghana fall victim to the worst forms of child labour annually, many of whom are forced into dangerous work in the fishing industry. According to the international NGO Free the Slaves, some of the reasons these activities persist despite anti-slavery and anti-trafficking laws is the lack of funding for law enforcement, the lack of a strong social stigma against the practice, and the lucrative nature of the business.