The Chiefs and inhabitants of the communities affected by the construction of the gas infrastructure project in the Western Region, have expressed displeasure with the Ghana National Gas Company (GNGC) as the project proceeds.
The participants complained that the GNGC had not adequately engaged them to explain the social and environmental impact of the project to them.
This came to light during a public forum organized by the Environmental Protection Agency at Essiama in the Ellembelle District on Tuesday to solicit stakeholders’ inputs into the draft document of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the gas project.
The Chief of Essiama, Nana Kofi Mbo, bitterly complained about dumping of heavy rocks into the Amanzuri River in the Ellembelle District by the Sinopec International Petroleum Corporation, the Chinese contractors for the project, thereby preventing free flow of water into the ocean.
He said the blockade had resulted in flooding at the banks of the River which had affected nearby farms and destroyed food crops and property.
He said the floods had collapsed bridges in the area while road networks had been blocked thereby preventing farmers from accessing their farms while school children could not go to school.
The chief also criticized the indiscriminate destruction of food and cash crops by the Chinese contractors without proper consultation and negotiation with the affected farmers and land owners for payment of compensation describing it as unfortunate and worrying.
Nana Mbo said although the GNGC had promised to pay compensation to some farmers affected by the gas project, not all those affected had their names captured by the GNGC.
He said some drivers operating the heavy trucks and machinery of the contractors had been over speeding on the roads thereby worsening the already deteriorated road networks in the area as well as leaving dust in the air, which could cause ailments among the people.
He said the way and manner in which the contractors were undertaking the gas project without regard for the people’s concerns is really causing disaffection for the GNGC and the government.
The Chief of Lower Inchaban, Nana Akosua Afransie II, complained bitterly that the Chinese contractors were not employing the youth in the area but rather brought people outside to work on the gas pipelines.
Nana Afransie II said it is creating more dissatisfaction among the youth in the area and appealed to the GNGC to intervene before leading to social disturbances.
The chief tasked the GNGC to provide alternative livelihoods for the affected farmers as well as payment of adequate compensation to affected farmers and land owners to avoid social conflict.
The gas project would affect eight metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies in the Region with over 20 communities involved.
Some of the communities include Beyin, Atuabo, Asemda-Suazo, Essiama, Anochie, Bonyere, Inchaban, Manpong and others.
The 200km stretch of pipeline from the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah through to Atuabo in the Ellembelle District and then continue to the Aboadze Thermal Plant for generation of electricity.
The gas processing plant also has the capacity to process 150 Million Cubic Feet of natural gas into liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and other petroleum bye-products for the Tema Oil Refinery when completed.
Earlier, the Director for Intersectoral Network of the EPA, Mr Samuel Anku, said the EPA Act, Act 490 of 1994 required the Agency to ensure that, before any major project is undertaken in the country, the implementers of the project must undertake environmental and social impact assessment before the commencement of the project and explain the impact on the affected communities.
He said that the executors of the project were also required to undertake public-hearing two years before the start of the project, and as well solicit inputs from the people so that mitigation measures are put in place to avert unforeseen misfortunes.
Mr Anku, however, said though the GNGC had submitted the Scoping Report and the ESIA Statement to the EPA, there was the need for the affected communities to express their concerns and factor them into the final document.
“The public hearing is a very important platform for the people to ventilate their concerns for redress and therefore go a long way in determining whether the Agency will grant or refuse permit to the operators of the project”, he added.
The EPA Director observed that some Baseline Report does not address situation on the ground and charged the GNGC and its consultant to give detailed report on the ESIA and Scoping Studies conducted on the project sites.
Responding to some concerns raised by the affected communities, Mr Victor Kofi Sunu-Attah, Director in charge of Project Development of the GNGC, assured the chiefs and people affected by the project that everything would be done to address their grievances.
He said the project would bring a lot of development to the Region and appealed to them to cooperate with the project implementers to ensure successful completion of the project.