|Sustaining the Future. Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 p.)|
|Part 5: Environment and development in Ghana|
|Institutional issues on the environment and resource management with reference to Ghana|
The United Nations Conference on the Environment in Stockholm in 1972 created a situation where the environment emerged as a global issue, and the social and economic implications of resource use, environment, and development became a major concern for many governments.
National and global strategies have been widely discussed and formulated since 1972, as evidenced in the two landmark reports The World Conservation Strategy (IUCN 1980) and Our Common Future (WCED 1987). The United Nations Environment Programme was set up after the conference as the global environmental conscience.
These emerging concerns found clear expression in the establishment of departments and other institutions of the environment and natural resources in a number of countries. These institutions were vested with legislation to provide wide overviews and functions involving environmental impact procedures, standard setting, monitoring, and training programmes. Ghana was one of the first of the developing countries to set up an environmental institution. The Environmental Protection Council (EPC) was established in 1974 by National Redemption Council Decree 23 under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
The functions of the EPC contained in its mandate were:
· to advise the government generally on all environmental matters relating to the social and economic life of Ghana;
· to coordinate the activities of all bodies concerned with environmental matters and to serve as a channel of communication between these bodies and the government;
· to conduct and promote investigations, studies, surveys, research, analyses, including the training of personnel, relating to the improvement of Ghana's environment and the maintenance of sound ecological systems;
· to serve as the official national body for cooperating and liaising with national and international organizations on environmental matters;
· to undertake such studies and submit such reports and recommendations with respect to environmental matters as the government may request;
· to embark upon general environmental educational programmes for the purpose of creating enlightened public opinion regarding the environment;
· without prejudice to the economic and social advancement of Ghana, to ensure the observance of proper safeguards in the planning and execution of all development projects, including those already in existence, that are likely to interfere with the quality of the environment; and
· to perform functions as the government may assign to the Council of all or any of the foregoing functions.
The membership of the EPC was drawn from ministries, universities, research institutions, public boards, and the general public. The EPC was to operate through specialized committees in the exercise of its functions. It was also to seek advice and to consult any public body in the discharge of its functions. Through the supervising ministry, legislative instruments and regulations may be made for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of the decree establishing the EPC. In 1976, an amendment was made to the decree empowering the EPC to request information and enter premises to undertake inspection for the purposes of giving effect to the decree, backed by fines and imprisonment terms.
The ministerial location of the EPC varied with its perceived role. Its original location in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning was changed to that of Health in 1981, and a year later it was reassigned to the Ministry of Local Government. The roles shifted from an emphasis on planning, to health (sanitation), and to local issues. Problems still existed in developing the relevant concepts and the institutional framework to take in the functions of a single agency charged with overseeing the varied facets of the environment. Environmental management continued to be ad hoc and sectoral through the specialized committees of the EPC, e.g. natural ecosystems, human settlements, industrial pollution, water, and hazardous chemicals. The environmental problems persisted and increased in occurrence and intensity. Notable were deforestation, soil erosion, water and air pollution, and urban waste disposal. Decisions reached by the committees could not be effectively implemented, and the EPC had to rely on the goodwill and understanding of the ministries and agencies concerned.
The EPC sometimes found itself in a situation where it had to take over the responsibilities of other institutions owing to the inability of these agencies to perform their assigned roles effectively. The EPC was then accused of taking on too much. This situation arose because, as environmental problems increased, the general public tended to look to the Council to resolve these problems.
With the EPC shying away from accusations of taking over the role of others, a situation was created where some problems that did not fall within the sphere of responsibility of any one body were left unattended to. In addition, and with time, the mandate of sectoral agencies proved inadequate to cope with the increasing problems resulting from increasing development and also from inadequate personnel, equipment, and enforcement powers.