Tag Archives: Oil

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.

Oil exploration causes problems for local fisherman

“I’m not aware there is a rig around Shama waters,” says one fisherman at the Sekondi harbor.

[pullquote]It isn’t appropriate. It’s something that’s come to stay with the development of Africa where some of these developments take place without proper consultation with the people.[/pullquote]

He is not alone. Most fishermen we’ve talked to at the seaport this afternoon are surprised to hear a new restricted zone has been put in place around Olympia rig, the fourth rig to go up in the waters of Ghana’s Western Region and the first off the coast of Shama, a strong traditional fishing area.
Earlier this month, the Ghana National Petroleum Company, or GNPC, announced they were launching a campaign to let fishermen know to keep a three mile radius distance away from the newest rig, but in a press conference last week officials with the Fisheries Commission, a government agency, said they didn’t know anything about this restriction. Normally, boats are asked to keep a five hundred metre distance away from the drilling and exploration activities. The Regional Director of the Fisheries Commission, Alex Sabah, says if more areas are restricted to fishermen then proper compensation needs to be given.

“Naturally, a lot more rigs means a lot more people are going to get out of business and there’s a need …for those who will be kept out of business to get involved in some other income-generating adventures to sustain their livelihood,” he says.

A Fisherman tending his net at Sekondi harbor

Some are concerned GNPC and Vanco oil, operators of the rig, are not following the proper procedures. “It isn’t appropriate. It’s something that’s come to stay with the development of Africa where some of these developments take place without proper consultation with the people. I think in the extractive industry, not only in the oil exploration, but also forestry and mining especially, investors normally override the participation of the people,” says Donkris Mavuto, Executive Director of Friends of the Nation, an NGO concerned with issues along the coastal area.

At the Sekondi harbor, fishermen say restricting fishing areas is a matter of safety and more should be done to inform those out at sea.

“We should let the chief fishermen announce to their colleagues around the coastline so that everybody will be aware this is going on,” says one fisherman in the local Akan.

Isaac Taylor, a marine engineer, says markers need to be set up, so fishermen know exactly where the boundaries are. He’s also concerned that an awareness campaign might not reach many illiterate fishers.

“Fishermen are not people who are learned and with that some of them may be hurt. So I think it would be better if authorities have pictures of these things and place them around, that will help to make people aware of it,” he says.

After all, being made aware shouldn’t be too much to ask.