Oil find impact agriculture, health and environment

The Ghana Science Association held its 13th Biennial Workshop at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) at Akim Tafo. The workshop was under the theme ‘Towards the sustainability of Agriculture in the light of the oil find in Ghana: the way forward’.

Mr. Daniel S Amlalo the Acting Executive Director of the Agency was invited to speak on the topic ‘Impact of the Oil find on Agriculture, Health and the Environment’.

Speaking on his behalf Mr. Emmanuel Salu Deputy Director and Head of Environmental Education Department recalled that since the start of production at the Jubilee field many new oil discoveries were made. This shows that Ghana is on the way of becoming a huge oil producer. However some skeptics think Ghana will suffer from the Dutch disease. There is also a concern for civil unrest because of likely agitation by segments of society for the control of oil resources.

The Agency is of the view that ‘Ghana’s oil economy presents an unparallel opportunity for the agricultural sector and for poverty reduction. Increased revenue leads to high demand for food especially horticulture and livestock products. Secondly urbanization and urban consumer preferences will lead to increased demand for processed foods’.

The potential negative effects of oil production on the environment can be immense leading to destruction of fishes and plankton in the sea. When oil is being drilled there will be noise pollution, strong vibration from seismic shooting and displacement of flora and fauna is bound to occur. Others are oil pollution of the sea, beaches and destruction of breading and spawning grounds for some marine organisms may also occur.

Mr Salu stated that ‘the situation is different in Ghana. The EPA has developed guidelines to regulate the oil and gas activities as part of government’s policy to guide the petroleum operations for sustainable development. The purpose of these guidelines it to mainstream environmental health and safety and community issues into the offshore oil and gas operations’.
The   Agency produced Coastal Sensitivity maps for the coastal areas of Ghana to be used in   emergency work to identify sensitive flora, fauna and fish species. In case of any oil spill emergencies the Agency is collaborating with  the Ghana Navy, the Ghana Maritime Authority and the Ghana National Petroleum Authority have put together the oil spill contingency plan which has been rehearsed several time so that it can be deployed in case of any emergency.

Oil drilling can lead to the sea pollution  but one of the conditions in the EIA permits is that there should be no pollution of the environment. The government has stated there should be no flaring of natural gas but should be pumped back into the drilling hole.
The Agency sought assistance from the Norwegian Government and the World Bank to ensure environmental governance of the oil and gas development in Ghana.

The EPA is building capacity for some  staff to handle the environmental issues related to the oil and gas sector. Field vehicles, computers and laboratory equipment are being procured   for use in the Western Region office.

Mr. Salu believes ‘the exploration of oil and gas will have positive and negative effects on the country as has been with gold mining. However with increasing revenue from oil, Government should   use the revenue to solve the problems. Policy makers need to pay attention to the agriculture to ensure that its competitiveness. The environment must be safeguarded by sustainable environmental practices and promote good health programmes for the benefit of all’.

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