|Sustaining the Future: Economic, Social, and Environmental Change in Sub-Saharan Africa (UNU, 1996, 365 pages)|
|Part 5: Environment and development in Ghana|
|Institutional issues on the environment and resource management with reference to Ghana|
Beginning in the early 1980s, especially following a severe drought in 1983 that affected the whole country and resulted in widespread bush fires, the protectionist and sector-oriented approach to environmental management with limited scope began to change as the state of the natural resource base deteriorated rapidly and began to pose a problem for the future prospects of development. The EPC initiated and led the way in the preparation of a number of plans and programmes, including the National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (1985), the National Plan of Action to Combat Desertification (1986), the Draft National Conservation Strategy (1987), and the National Environmental Protection Programme (1987). The new approach was aided by the launching of the World Conservation Strategy in 1980 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in which the term "sustainable development" was used.
One major principle of sustainable development was to provide a framework for integrating development and conservation, in terms of laws, institutions, and policies. Following on these developments, one of the specialized committees of the EPC, the Natural Ecosystems Committee, initiated moves in 1986 to prepare a National Conservation Strategy for Ghana. To do this a national conference on the theme "Resource Conservation for Ghana's Sustainable Development" was organized in 1987. The conference brought together scientists, planners, economists, and decision makers to discuss how Ghana's development could be made sustainable. After the conference, the ideas gathered were to be used for the preparation of the National Conservation Strategy.
During this period the country had embarked on its Economic Recovery Programme (ERP), beginning in 1983, to reverse the economic decline of the country. The key factors accounting for the initial achievements of the ERP included the exploitation of the natural resource systems of the country. The environmental degradation that accompanied the economic growth and exploitation of the natural resources imposed costs on the economy of the country. This led the government to direct the EPC in March 1988 to set up a "think tank" "to develop environmental issues for incorporation into the second phase of the ERP." The work of the "think tank" was followed by the setting up of sectoral working groups on land, forestry and wildlife, water management, marine and coastal ecosystems, mining, manufacturing industries, and hazardous chemicals, and human settlements to address in detail the issues identified in the think tank's report and the proceedings of the 1987 national conference. These, together with the issues identified during a series of regional and district forums on the environment in 1987, led to the preparation of an Environmental Action Plan (EAP) for Ghana (EPC 1991), which was to address the nation's environmental problems in a comprehensive and integrated manner. It was to provide a technical, institutional, and legal framework for dealing with the problems of land and water degradation, diminishing forest and wildlife resources, and problems associated with mineral extraction and other industrial activities (fig. 17.1).
The concept of sustainable development runs through the Plan, which integrates the previous ad hoc programmes, which were sectoral in nature, into a comprehensive strategy addressing all issues of concern not only to Ghanaians but also to the international environmental movement at large. The Plan seeks to redirect national development into more environmentally sustainable programmes and practices through the following:
· the protection and preservation of the resource base;
· prior assessment of the potential environmental impacts of development projects;
· alternative or multi-purpose uses of land and water resources;
· the promotion of popular participation in planning, evaluating, and implementing environmental and development strategies.
The Plan sets out an environmental policy for Ghana and makes the attainment of a high-quality environment a key element in the country's economic and social development. It also provides guidance and sets out an action-oriented strategy that specifies the role of sectoral ministries, agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and indeed of every Ghanaian in its implementation. It is recognized that the realization of the objectives in the EAP and the national environmental policy can be attained only through collaboration and cooperation among institutions with responsibility for various aspects of resource management and environmental protection.