Developments in the oil and mining industries are changing the environmental landscape of Ghana. Coastal cities, towns, and rural areas from the Eastern to the Western regions face serious environmental threats.
Historically, the coastal region’s economy has depended on fishing, which benefits about 10% percent of Ghana’s population, but it is predicted that they will suffer unduly from various forms of pollution generated by offshore and onshore oil and gas operations. The Western region is negatively affected by illegal gold mining (also known as galamsey) activities and findings estimate $250 million is required to reclaim lands and water bodies there.
The environmental policy of Ghana, formulated in the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) of 1993, hinges strongly on ‘prevention’ as the most effective tool for environmental protection. The policy aims at effective and efficient management of resources and the environment, and the reconciliation between economic planning and environmental resources utilization for sustainable national development. It also seeks to institute environmental quality control and sustainable development programs by requiring prior Environmental Assessment (EA) of all development projects, and to take appropriate measures to protect critical ecosystems.
The adoption of the NEAP led to the enactment of the EPA Act 1994 (Act 490); and subsequent passing of the Ghana EIA Procedures into the EA Regulations, 1999 (LI 1652). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for enforcing the regulations and raising awareness of environmental issues and securing the commitment of individuals, communities, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to initiate sound measures to protect and enhance the environment.
Despite various interventions by the Agency, Ghana is still confronted by environmental challenges which are recognized by large segments of the population to be addressed as a critical priority. These include waste management, illegal mining, logging, and deforestation. The negative impacts of climate change, including noise, water and air pollution, coastal and marine resource degradation, the destruction of biodiversity, desertification, climate variability and change, pollution of all forms, the proliferation and mismanagement of chemicals, among others add to increasing pressure on Ghana’s environmental management capacity.