A Study by The Centre for Environmental Research and Policy Analysis (CERPA)
The Ghana Environmental Concern Meter (GECM) is a scientific and objective assessment of public concerns on various environmental issues and challenges affecting the lives of the Ghanaian people. It is also a detective and reporting tool for environmental problems in communities in Ghana. Further, the GECM seeks to bring these environmental problems to the knowledge of the public to encourage self-help, responsibility, and environmental ownership among the Ghanaian people.
Central Focus of the GECM
- Aggregate public concerns about the environment and its related challenges
- Inform and guide public environmental policies by the state and other non-state actors in their actions to promote environmental welfare
- Accumulate and provide reliable environmental data source to needed and appropriate institution and individuals
Methodologically, this study relied on quantitative approach with the use of standardized questionnaire. A total of 837 respondents were sampled from six regions (Ashanti, Eastern, Greater Accra, Northern, Upper West, and Western). Trained field enumerators were used to assist respondents to respond to the survey throughout the data collection stage.
GECM Significant Findings
Overall public environmental concerns
It appears from the GECM study that greater proportion of respondents are highly concerned about the state and conditions of their environment. This is evident in the fact that as many as 85% of all the respondents considered themselves to be at least ‘concerned’ about the environment. In addition, as many as 77% of all respondents claimed that Ghana is not doing enough to protect the environment for present and future generations. These concerns expressed by the Ghanaian public means that government policies and programs which is targeted at improving conditions of the environment are likely to receive positive approval from the public. Any such public approval is expected to be significantly high, when these policies and programs are opened to the involvement and inclusion of the public. This will ensure that outcomes of these projects reflect the interest and concerns of the public.
Environmental problems affecting the public
The GECM study found that Ghanaians are in various ways affected by many environmental problems. Poor Sanitation, Forest Degradation, Water and River Body Pollutions, and Land Degradation are the top four threatening environmental problems. In addition, the study recorded other environmental problems including climate change, flooding, bush fire, extreme drought, as well as air and noise pollutions, though these were recorded relatively at a minimal level. Significantly, the study found that the intensity of these environmental problems are not equally distributed among the regions in Ghana.
In general, poor sanitation emerged as the most threatening environmental problem in the Ghanaian society’. Again, poor sanitation was found by this study to be the environmental problem which directly affects the highest proportion of Ghanaians (68%). When disaggregated into regional level, the effect of poor sanitation was seen to be highest in the Greater Accra region, where over 90% of residents indicated to be affected by this problem. Apart from the Eastern region, where less than 50% of respondents reported to be directly affected by poor sanitation, more than 50% of respondents in other regions were affected by the poor sanitation.
On water and river body pollution, the study found that over 40% of the general public are directly affected. The concerns on the negative effects from river body contamination were expressed highest among respondents in the Eastern region, Ashanti region, and the Western region. Respondents expressed deep concerns over continuous intensification of river body contamination which they largely attribute to uncontrolled illegal mining activities.
In relation to forest degradation, this study found that it is one of the main environmental problems which negatively affect the Ghanaian people. Its effects, according to the recorded statistics, directly affect approximately 20% of the general public. Northern region, Upper West region and the Eastern region recorded higher effect at the regional level than the national average. Respondents in the Upper West and also in the Northern region commonly attribute forest degradation to seasonal bush fire initiated by hunters and cattle headsmen as well as over dependent on the insufficient forest for supply of household energy. In the Eastern and Ashanti regions, respondents commonly attributed forest lost to commercial logging and illegal mining activities.
Finally, land degradation was also found to be affecting some 20% of the general public. The Eastern region, where illegal and surface mining activities have become rampant, and the Upper West region where desertification and bush fire have become common were the regions mostly affected by this problem.
This GECM study based on the findings proffers some recommendations. First, we recommend the adoption of decentralized policy frameworks which allow environmental policies to be designed at the local or regional levels. Unlike centralized policy initiatives which presently dominate the development of environmental policies in Ghana, a decentralized policy will ensure that the most threatening environmental problems at the local level become policy priorities and hence gain local support. Decentralized policies will bring on board local expertise by welcoming contributions from the local people, traditional authorities, youth and religious associations, environmentally concerned non-governmental organizations, and civil society organizations. This will ensure that such policies or programs become part and is owned by the local people.
Second, an investment in green businesses will create jobs for the youth who otherwise will resort to activities such as “galamsey”, sand winning, and chain saw operations. This will help reduce the incidence of potential environmental damaging activities, thereby promoting environmental welfare. Investment in green businesses in itself will be a vehicle to encourage environmental consciousness in the citizens.
Third, considering the extent and the danger associated with contaminated rivers across Ghana, there is the need for urgent actions to reclaim these river bodies. Presently, these rivers are contaminated and may have lost many aquatic lives and biodiversity. However, they can be reclaimed and redeveloped to bring them back to usable states to support humans and other aquatic lives that depend on them. The danger is that if effective measures to reclaim these rivers are not put in place immediately, there is a high likelihood that they will die off, making it impossible to apply any reclamation approach.
Photo by Ronny Agyei Yeboah: Anyinam Birim River in Ghana’s Eastern region.
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