At a time the other regions of Ghana already have airports and are clamouring on government for upgrade, a longstanding search for a suitable site for the first ever airport in the Upper East Region since independence has hit a setback again.
This is because, after government had settled on a proposed area in the regional capital for the airport project, a new site has emerged from the same regional capital on the list of the proposed locations.
Government had mapped out a decision to pitch the airfield at Anateem, an area to the west of Sumbrungu, a community in Bolgatanga. But the Minister for Aviation and Member of Parliament for Bantama, Cecelia Abena Dapaah, issued a fresh directive to the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) last Friday to conduct a feasibility assessment on the newly recommended site- Bolga Sherigu.
The latest admission of the newly recommended site, coming at the time the region had been made to settle on the initial one, suggests the list of the proposed locations may wax longer and it thus leaves the region in a state of uncertainty as to where the eventual site would be.
Pointing at the leader of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority team during her visit to Bolga Sherigu, which was part of her tour of the region last Friday, the minister said: “All the agencies involved would be marshalled. He would coordinate and give a report. You will come with the Air Force so that they have an aerial view of the whole land. We have able technical people.”
She added: “You know we are in a hurry [as] the president has told us. This thing [setting up an airport] should have been done like 40 years ago. President Akufo-Addo will do it to the glory of God and Ghana.”
The Misplaced Promise
The region, long ago, was making do with an airstrip at Paga for commercial flights until Burkina Faso complained in the 1990s that airliners using the Ghanaian airfield, situated close to the border, were interfering with its airspace.
The complaints discouraged attempts to upgrade that facility to an airport.
Years later, government adopted a land at Anateem with former President John Dramani Mahama, pleased with the expanse of the land he saw when he toured the site in 2013, giving an assurance at a durbar that a contract would be awarded the following year for the execution of the airport project. The assurance looks to be a ‘misplaced promise’ as the site faces a new challenge today from Bolga Sherigu for the project.
Friday’s visit by the Aviation Minister to the newly added site was greeted with so much joy by the chief and natives of Bolga Sherigu as though the much-deprived community had been chosen as the final location for the project. But experts say Paga and Anateem have not been ruled out yet, in what could also mean that more areas could join the race if the options identified so far do not meet the required conditions.
Anateem still in contention for air project – GCAA
The exact reasons why government is looking beyond the one-time ‘final destination’ site at Anateem have remained patchy.
But officials of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority have emphasised that the area is still in contention for the establishment of the airdrome.
“The proposed site at Anateem has not been ruled out. A technical team for airport site selection- which involves Civil Aviation, Ghana Airport, Ghana Air Force, Lands Commission, Town and Country Planning and the Site Advisory Committee for the region- will come to investigate the candidate sites.
“Then, the final one, which is most suitable for the project, will be made known. No site has been ruled out yet. Environmental conditions change. There are a lot more being done than previously for modern airport development,” a senior official of the GCAA, who did not want his name mentioned, told Starr News.
The Aviation Minister also interacted with the Paramount Chief of the Talensi Traditional Area, Tong-Rana Kubilsong Nalbegtang, as well as the security agencies stationed on both sides of the Paga Border that links Ghana and Burkina Faso together.