The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) as part of its Anti-Corruption, Rule of Law and Accountability Programme (ARAP), organized a 3rd ARAP Dialogue on “Environmental Governance” with support from the European Union (EU), and in collaboration with the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP) at Miklin Hotel, Kumasi. The Dialogue sought to create a platform for participants to exchange ideas and discuss the actions and inactions of citizens that affect the environment as well as find solutions to the myriad of environmental Governance challenges in Ghana.
Chairman of the NCCE, Ms. Josephine Nkrumah in her welcome address said climate-related issues have become very critical across the globe. She said the world is currently meeting at the UN General Assembly to discuss climate issues among others. Ms. Nkrumah in quoting Mr. António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, said “we are losing the race against climate change; it is time we took the necessary steps towards change.”
She said there is therefore the need to tackle environmental governance in Ghana and put in place policies that preserve our climate for today and tomorrow’s generation. Ms. Nkrumah reiterated that the rising climate change must be tackled through robust environmental governance including policy formulation and legal framework. Ms. Nkrumah admonished participants and institutions to help set policies and legislation that will help fight against abuse of the environment. The NCCE Chairman cited activities such as galamsey, bad sanitation practices, destruction of water bodies, and deforestation as some actions that deplete the environment and charged all citizens and institutions including the State, to fulfill their Constitutional duty to preserve and safeguard the environment for posterity.
Ms. Anna Sanchez, Head of the ARAP Coordinating Unit, highlighted the research “Public Perception on the State of Corruption, Public Accountability and Environmental Governance in Ghana.” Ms. Sanchez said the dialogue was to engage citizens to create an opportunity to address environmental challenges. She called on all policymakers, international organisations, and civil societies to come together to improve accountability in environmental governance and the fight against corruption. Ms. Sanchez indicated that Ghana has made many commitments ranging from legal to constitutional provisions, sanitation policies and programmes, however, she was of the view that progress could only be made through effective implementation of these commitments.
Discussants at the 3 rd dialogue were: Mr. Kenneth Ashigbey, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications and the Convener for the Media Coalition against Galamsey; Dr. Kwakye Ameyaw, Technical Advisor, Forestry Commission and Mr. John Pwamang, Acting Executive Officer, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lawyer Samson Lardy Aynenini, a private legal practitioner served as the moderator of the programme.
Speaking during the panel discussion, Mr. Kenneth Ashigbey in response to a question, if the fight against illegal mining (galamsey) had been won, said, progress had been made but more needs to be done in the fight against illegal mining.
He addressed the need for the government to increase the staff strength of the EPA so they can monitor and punish culprits. He was also of the view that to win the fight, Ghanaians need to be transparent, recognize the Constitutional bodies responsible for protecting the environment and them to do their work. Mr. Ashigbey said attention must not be on Ghanaians alone but rather on foreigners as well as financiers involved in the destruction of the environment. “All must be arrested and prosecuted without fear or favour,” he said. He added that when foreigners are arrested, they should be treated as criminals and handed over to the Ghana Police Service, not to the Ghana Immigration Service which is not the authority to prosecute offenders in Ghana.
Dr. Ameyaw spoke on the harvest of rosewood which has been banned in Ghana, stating that about three hundred million Ghana cedis (GH¢ 300,000,000.00) worth of its lumber was exported to China. Dr. Ameyaw explained that the Forestry Commission Manual prohibits logging in endemic ecologically fragile forests. “Social responsibilities provided by timber contractors to the local communities opened up the flood gate for illegal logging in the rosewood endemic fragile forest,” he said.
“Communities in forest fringe areas must be educated to assist the Forestry Commission to fight the illegal logging in the forest,” he added. He revealed that the Forestry Commission will collaborate with all institutions to protect forest resources.
On sanitation, the EPA representative, Mr. Pwamang educated participants on the EPA’s regulatory function when it comes to waste management. He said the EPA is not in charge of the actual collection of refuse but rather, they sanction institutions such as the Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and the waste management companies. Mr. Pwamang added that the EPA will continue to issue environmental notices to the waste management companies and the MMDAs to curb insanitary conditions in the country. He counseled citizens and the MMDAs to be up and doing to ensure that the sanitation situation in the country is improved to reduce the spread of diseases such as cholera among others.
Mr. Pwamang mentioned that the EPA has environmental clubs to create awareness on the negative effects of environmental degradation and this is implemented by the District and Regional Offices of the EPA and asked that special units from Operation Vanguard be made available to the EPA so that they can protect the EPA staff when on their monitoring activities.
During the open forum, noise pollution was discussed and it was brought to the attention of participants that the EPA has set up a task force to help reduce the noise level in the country. At night, the noise level should be 48 decibels (dB) and 55 decibels (dB) during the day, and an EPA hotline is available for people to lodge complaints. Mr. Pwamang also disclosed that the EPA will not tolerate any person building on water bodies; the structure will be demolished immediately the EPA’s attention is drawn to it. Transparency and accountability in the use of forest resources will help reduce corruption in the country and all professional bodies must hold their people accountable for their actions.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Samuel Asare Akuamoah, Deputy Chairman (Operations) of the NCCE, expressed the Commission’s profound appreciation and gratitude to all participants for honouring its invitation and contributing effectively to make the programme successful.
Mr. Akuamoah said the erosion of Ghanaian values is one of the factors driving the vices of degrading the environment and called on citizens to go back to their values of integrity. “Ghanaians should participate in every decision-making process and uphold their values,” he added.
The Dialogue drew a wide array of participants from Decentralized Ministries, Departments and Agencies in the Ashanti Region, Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs), Traditional Rulers, Women and Youth Groups, Media practitioners, Persons with Disabilities, Representatives of Development partners, the media, and civil society organisations among others.