Residents close to mining and petroleum production activities complain of loss of access to agricultural land and restricted access to fishing grounds.
The reality of the situation came to light in a study conducted by SEND-Ghana, an international non-governmental organisation, in the Tarkwa and the Jomoro District Assembly, both in the Western Region, and in the Tolon-Kumbugu District Assembly in the Northern Region.
Citizens expressed worry about environmental effects relating to pollution of water bodies, land degradation in the case of sand winning and livelihood losses resulting from the conversion of large tracks of arable land for non agricultural purposes and restrictions on fishing activities.
In the Jomoro District for instance, farmers and fishermen have complained of the loss of access to agricultural land and restriction of fishing activities around petroleum exploration and production areas.
The effect of sand winning on the livelihood of the citizens of Tolon-Kumbugu and Tarkwa-Nsuaem was another starling finding of the study. It emerged that large tracks of arable lands have been converted for non agricultural purposes while residents of Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal Assembly complain of polluted water bodies.
Another worrying issue captured in the study, which assessed the extent to which transparency, accountability and equity exist in the use of internally generated funds by the three assemblies, was the low benefits that citizens derive from the mineral and petroleum activities.
For instance, the report said nothwithstanding the increase in local revenue generated by the Tolon Kumbugu Distric Assembly due to sand winning in Dalun, the area was not receiving the necessary infrastructural development required to compensate for the environmental degradation caused by the sand winning activity.
It indicated that national provisions only allowed royalty payments to districts playing host to mining activities but not oil and gas.
“The argument that coastal communities in the Western Region must be provided for was not sustained during the development of Ghana’s Petroleum Management Act. This is because oil and gas production is located 60 kilometres offshore and thus presumed not to have direct impact on any community. For this reason, the Jomoro District Assembly unlike Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal Assembly is not in receipt of royalties from the petroleum production,” according to the report of the study titled: “Our Money, Our Share, Our Say: The Extractive Industry in Perspective.”
The report, therefore, recommended that the government should establish structures and processes for the optimum use of available resources so that livelihood strategies could be well developed in order to produce beneficial outcomes that could take the affected people out of poverty.
For instance, it said, fishmongers and fishermen, among others, in the fish value chain in the Jomoro District needed livelihood assets, including capacity building, physical assets and strong social networks.
The report suggested that national level civil society organisations and other organisations working in natural resource extraction communities should improve their visibility in the communities and work to improve the capacity of local citizen groups to be part of the advocacy processes.
It called for judicious management of the oil revenue in such a way that it benefits Ghanaians in general and the coastal communities along the western coast of Ghana in particular .
It, therefore, recommended that the Petroleum Revenue Management Law be amended to make provisions for the payment of royalties to the coastal districts in the Western Region.
“Further to this and for sound fiscal management, the current practice to allocate mineral royalties to host communities should be extended to host communities of the petroleum production.
“In accordance with the practice, the stipulated proportion should be distributed among the six coastal communities in the Western Region for direct investment in community development initiatives and alternative livelihood ventures particularly for fishermen and fishmongers and all those involved in the fish value chain,” it said.
On the thorny issue of dwindling fish catch, the report suggested that the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and the Fisheries Commission should come up with a clear policy to save the fishing industry from collapse .
It again asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Minerals Commission to take urgent steps to control the indiscriminate sand winning in Dalun and other affected areas to ensure sustainable farming and other agriculture activities in the communities.
According to the report, generally citizen’s participation in local governance was low across the districts.
It emerged that men have more knowledge on local governance than women, and they consequently participated more than women in local governance.
The report, therefore, recommended that public education on local government issues should directly target women and other marginalised groups.
That move, it said, would help address the inherent knowledge gap between men and women in local governance issues.
Story: Musah Yahaya Jafaru
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