The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has assured residents around the Voltaian Basin of a comprehensive integration of environmental policies, to preserve cultural heritage as the government opens up the basin for onshore oil and gas exploration.
The Voltaian Basin is a large sedimentary onshore basin of approximately 106,000 kilometres that cuts across 24 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) in the Northern, Brong-Ahafo, Ashanti and Eastern Regions and has the potential for oil and gas exploration activities.
According to the Agency, all the water resources, natural reserves, wildlife and the other diverse socio-cultural and economic attributes around the basin would be preserved to enhance eco-tourism and facilitate sustainable development.
Mr Kwabena Badu-Yeboah, the Acting Director at the Environmental Assessment Division of the EPA, gave the assurance when he addressed the opening session of a stakeholders workshop on the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on the exploration in Sunyani.
Organised by the EPA, the workshop attended by representatives of MMDAs, civil society organisations, and some media organisations aimed at sensitising participants and to collect views and inputs on the SEA.
Mr Badu-Yeboah emphasised the importance to engage stakeholders and factor and integrate environmental issues at all phases in the exploration exercise, which is being funded by the Norwegian government, so that environmental risks that threatens the lives of the local people and the natural habitat could be addressed.
Dr Francis Nyagbenu, the Brong-Ahafo Regional Director of the EPA explained that the government had tasked the Ministry of Petroleum and Ghana National Petroleum Corporation to undertake the SEA to get a solid basis for exploration of oil and gas at the basin.
The EPA is responsible in coordinating the practical undertaking of the SEA, which among others is aimed at outlining mitigation and monitoring requirement that establishes best practice and ensures effective impact management for oil and gas.
Dr Nyagbenu said the SEA which is in accordance with existing legislation (Act 490 and LI 1652) would also help to identify potential sensitive environmental areas and provide guidance for the protection of such areas.