Oil spillage requires robust system – EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Western Region on Friday declared that it required a robust system to forestall any spillage from the oil and gas activities along Ghana’scoast.

The EPA assured the public that it was developing an Environmental Management Policy to guide new developments in the oil and gas sector, especially with increase in exploration activities.

Deputy Director of the Western Regional office of the EPA, Mr Kwadwo Opoku-Mensah, said this at a roundtable meeting on environmental governance in the oil and gas sector organised by the Friends of the Nation, Centre for Public Interest Law (CEPIL) and OXFAM in Ghana, with support from Norwegian Agency for Development in Takoradi.

Participants, including governance, fisheries and environmental experts; fisher folks, chiefs and journalists, discussed the legal regime for environmental governance, institutional arrangements for improved performance, challenges arising from expansion of oil blocks and opportunities of civil society collaboration to co-manage the environment.

“There is an oil spillage contingency plan. Currently, we are working with individual institutions to make it more robust. The Navy will be the lead group and we are holding simulation exercises in collaboration with other groups on the processes of an oil spill and also our responses during such situations,” Mr Opoku-Mensah said.

He explained that although fisher folks and their communities might be affected in such situations since operations were specialised areas, they would not be directly involved, but, he, however, added that clear directions would be given in case of any eventuality.

The EPA official said good governance practices were critical in the new partnership and that continuous engagement with all stakeholders was key to information sharing and education that would help to address environmental issues and their impact.

Mr Opoku-Mensah expressed the belief that the polluter-pay principle would also be key to addressing incidence of  oil spillages, explaining that sustainability was essential to environmental policies.

He repeatedly said, “We need to have a more robust system in place. It means EPA might need more technology and build its capacity and logistics. Resources are key to coping with the expansion and management of the oil and gas sector.”

Meanwhile, participants have called for more education on existing laws, harmonisation of laws in the sector, institutional arrangement for improved management, a liability regime, establishment of a contingency fund and addressing challenges and opportunities for civil societies for improved compliance.

Calling for the strengthening of scientific data in the oil and gas sector, they also advocated that focus should not be on the oil side alone, but also urgent attention should be given to upstream gas activities.

FROM CLEMENT ADZEI BOYE, TAKORADI

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