Civil Society activists have met to validate the new Environmental Management Policy for the Oil and Gas Industry (EMPOGI) currently in the offing, intended to ensure sound environmental management.
The drafting of the Policy, which is being led by the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), is being prepared and considered within the context of sustainable development priorities, including achieving the objectives of the anticipated long-term development plan, the National 40-year Development Plan 2017-2057.
The EMPOGI is being designed to fulfill Ghana’s obligations under international agreements.
Already, the EMPOGI has been prepared with the active involvement and assistance of a wide range of stakeholders who have contributed immensely to ensure its finalisation.
Often the exploitation of oil and gas reserves is accompanied by some ecological side effects such as oil spills, contaminated land, accidents and fires, and incidents of air and water pollution, experts have indicated.
Whereas in developed countries, monitoring, evaluation and surveillance systems are more advanced and resilient, the same cannot be said of developing countries particularly those in Africa, including Ghana.
In such contexts, it is generally the poor and marginalised who are typically affected by the adverse environmental impacts of oil and gas activities. In recent times the social impacts of operations, especially in remote communities, have also attracted attention.
The EMPOGI is, therefore, being prepared to address the environmental challenges associated with the nascent oil and gas industry.
Mrs Levina Owusu, the Chief Director of the MESTI, said Ghana’s experience with the exploitation of natural resources like gold, diamond and bauxite had not been the best, but fortunately, “oil has come quite late and that has given us the opportunity to learn from our past mistakes and exploit it whilst maintaining the environment”.
She said Ghanaians needed to link their fortunes to the fortunes of the environment because “when the environment is impoverished, then the people are also impoverished”.
Mrs Owusu said the MESTI was poised to ensuring that all activities done within the environment did not impact negatively on it because “our very livelihood and survival is based on the environment”.
She said the Policy would be sent for further validation by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Environment later in the year, and expressed optimism that the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) activists would help fine-tune the policy, “which will guide the exploitation of oil and gas without depleting the environment”.
I hope they would bring their experiences and a different background to bear on the validation of the policy, she added.
Mr Samuel Dotse, the Chief Executive Officer of HATOF Foundation, an environmental and sustainable development Non-Governmental Organisation, who took the participants through the draft EMPOGI, said every country faced a different set of constraints and challenges in environmental management.
“That is why effective national planning is the starting point for governance reform and for the development of national strategies to accelerate progress towards sustainable use of its natural resources”.
He said MESTI, therefore, collaborated with HATOF Foundation, to engage representatives of the CSOs to review and to add up to the draft National Policy.
He said the Policy would ensure better coordination and collaboration among the implementation agencies and would be promoted with MESTI as the lead organization, and by establishing a multi-stakeholder platform through its Oil and Gas Unit.
Mr Dotse explained that the Policy had identified a number of policy focus areas for addressing environmental impacts of the oil and gas sector with each having specific strategies and actions for addressing the challenges to achieve the desired objectives.
As a next step towards the implementation of this Policy, an implementation plan had been developed to further elaborate in detail the policy focus areas, with specific tasks, estimated budgets and timelines for implementation.
A Communication Strategy would also be developed for intensive educational programmes to be carried out to help relevant sectors and MMDAs to implement the policy and undertake environmental education to inform the public and manage their expectations.
On the basis of the possible loss and damage to the environment and national development, the Policy recommends that funding for the implementation plan for the Environmental Management Policy for Oil and Gas must come petroleum revenues.
This could be supplemented by private industry and development partners, he said.