Tag Archives: Oil Industry

One little voice – a journalist defends the environment, champions human rights

The result of coastal erosion – this tree has been uprooted.

Christian Baidoo was still a student when villagers from his community, Assorku Essaman, decided to chop down an ancient Brokofi tree, believing it harboured witches, incarnate in owls that were bringing misfortune to the village.

“Such trees actually need to be protected. I see people in this community don’t give such relevance to trees. They don’t see the importance of trees,” says Baidoo, noting the Brokofi tree can grow for hundreds of years and its trunk can be as wide as five feet.

“I think trees also have a legacy and we need to protect them,” he says.

Twenty years after the historic tree was felled, Baidoo, now a reporter and presenter at Skyy Power FM in Takoradi, has made it his personal mission to make people aware about the environmental impacts of their actions.

“It’s all about education,” he says.

Since becoming a journalist, Baidoo has always focussed on human rights and social justice issues, knowing he was “saving lives with those stories.” But it hasn’t always been easy when media houses lack the resources needed to pursue the stories that count. Baidoo has had to sacrifice his own time and money, devoting his weekends to bringing stories from his home community and other rural villages to public attention.

“If we are able to highlight some of these things and people are aware that when they do this, they are going to be showcased in the public, it’s going to be brought into the limelight what they are doing, it will be some sort of disgrace to them and they will rescind their decision.”

That’s even more important now than ever before in the “Oil City” where the environment has long been left out of the discussion about oil development.

Along the shores of Shama, Baidoo points out large rifts of sand several feet deep that reveal Western Region’s changing coastline. Human activities, like sand winning and construction of sea walls have hastened the erosion of a beach line that today is several hundred metres from where it was only several decades ago. Adding to the problem is climate change, which is causing sea levels to rise.

“Even last year, the river came into people’s houses and some of their houses are broken down, some are collapsed and they’re now building new ones,” says Patience Amusa from Shama Beach.

Kennedy Amegah, a fisherman, is concerned about the environmental degradation he’s witnessed on the coast, but when Baidoo asks him, he says he has never heard of climate change.

“A lot of these fishermen are losing their livelihoods because a lot of them have their businesses located right at the shoreline where people smoke fish, where people mend their canoes. All these places are being overtaken by the sea,” says Baidoo. By some estimates, the whole village may have to re-locate in less than five years.

Ghana’s emerging oil industry comes complete with a whole new set of environmental concerns that could affect the natural ecology and life on the coast. Baidoo says the country is not prepared to deal with the environmental impacts of developing the industry.

“The government has been convinced to believe that soon crude prices are going to fall very, very low and that even if you have crude it’s not going to be of any importance, so even if we are not ready with the institutions to check pollution or have structures put in place to be sure we are getting the desired benefits we should just go ahead for it because of the fact crude oil prices could fall in the near future,” says Baidoo.

Christian Baidoo was still a student when villagers from his community, Assorku Essaman, decided to chop down an ancient Brokofi tree, believing it harboured witches.

“And I think it’s a very bad decision,” he adds. “Ghana’s is also striving to develop industrially. There’s no rush. I believe we could have waited until we put all the necessary structures in place.”

Baidoo will continue to write stories about the environment on the coast and oil’s impact. He also has plans to adopt three daughter Brokofi trees, so that he can protect them from the same fate as their mother.

“I think that with my little voice I can make some impact,” he says.

Ghana oil industry impacts environment and tourism at Axim Beach Resort

[pullquote]“We are removing all the buildings, making them more attractive, building new ones. This is the future plan. We believe we can also catch the eye of investors,”[/pullquote]

Axim Beach Resort hasn’t seen an increase in tourists yet, but like many resorts along the coast of Western Region, they are preparing to draw in more visitors, as oil is drawing more people to the region.

“We’re expecting that people will be coming more, since people will be exploring,” says Solomon Alloteuy, the assistant manager of the resort.

The emerging oil sector is creating many opportunities for the region’s entrepreneurs. He says they have already started expanding to accommodate more guests.

“We are removing all the buildings, making them more attractive, building new ones. This is the future plan. We believe we can also catch the eye of investors,” he says.

This new development, however, comes after an oil spill in February, which threatened the coastline, as well as marine life. Alloteuy says the resort is still facing a number of environmental problems he fears may be associated with the offshore activities.

“There’s this oil residue and then some rubbish that comes, some weeds we have been experiencing that people are saying is because of the thing – it floats around the coast and becomes a heap rubbish.”

Paramount Chief of Western Nzema, Awulae Annor-Adjeye the third is one person who has been speaking out about environmental issues affecting the coast since oil was discovered three years ago.

[pullquote]“If for instance, a fisherman went to see and just by his simple knowledge he found some oil spill, where is he going to communicate this information to?”[/pullquote]

“We are not only looking at what happens downstream. We are looking at the environment within which the activity is taking place, where the exploration is taking place and that is offshore. What happens with the drill mud? What happens with the ballast water?”

Annor-Adjeye is launching a forum called the Platform for Coastal Communities of Western Region, to address environmental concerns of people living on the coast. The biggest problem, he says, is not having a place to report incidents when they occur.

“If for instance, a fisherman went to see and just by his simple knowledge he found some oil spill, where is he going to communicate this information to?”

Ballast water, which ships carry and often discharge at ports contain many biological organisms, some of them harmful to the local ecosystems. Programs co-ordinator Kyei Kwaco Yamoah of Friends of the Nation, a local NGO, says ballast water is also one of his concerns about the environmental impact of the emerging oil industry.

“The issue of ballast water has come up and ballast water has the potential to pollute marine waters to the extent that fisheries will be affected. It could even affect the whole extent of the coastal environment – all of these, we think there are not adequate measures as we speak to deal with them,” says Yamoah.

Developers and entrepreneurs want to make the coastline appealing to an influx of visitors to the area, but are worried about the environmental impact of offshore oil activities.

He says right now the focus is on revenue when it should be on the environment and Ghana needs to toughen its laws when it comes to conservation.

He says, “For now, we are concerned with the kind of loose laws we have relative to the oil and gas. The industry has started, but the laws we have are inadequate to handle the various challenges the oil and gas sector presents.”

That’s a problem Western Region can’t afford to ignore.