GOVT LAUNCHES ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION PROJECT
GOVERNMENT has signed on to the Africa Environmental Health and Pollution Management Programme (AEHPMP) with the view to combat the adverse effects of electronic waste (e-waste) among other environmental challenges in the country.
The project is primarily aimed at reducing the environmental health risks emanating from chemicals, including mercury and other harmful liquids as well as e-waste by strengthening institutional partnerships and building capacities in pollution management.
Ghana becomes the fifth country on the continent currently involved in the project after Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia.
Speaking at the launch of the project in Accra, the Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Dr. Kwaku Afriyie said that “the application of chemicals including mercury and other harmful liquids in our mining operations, especially small scale mining sites, and the subsequent disposal of the harmful effluents, call for urgent but comprehensive management of the waste.”
“The other focus of the project is to ensure the environmentally sound management of electronic waste. This is because e-waste management is another significant environmental challenge that is gaining prominence in the national discourse,” he stated.
According to the minister, while Ghana has overtaken South Africa to emerge as the top gold producing country on the continent, Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is estimated to be responsible for over 700 tons per year of mercury emissions to the atmosphere and an additional 800 tons per year of mercury released to land and water, making it the largest man-made or anthropogenic source of mercury.
“The use of mercury in the AGSM is legal in Ghana. However, the improper handling and disposal of mercury has resulted in some documented cases of mercury intoxication among miners and non-miners in ASGM communities – a situation which if not checked, could lead to high mercury-related problems in such communities,” the minister pointed out.
“The inhalation of mercury can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems as well as the lungs and kidneys,” the minister, who is a medical doctor, added.
The project is therefore expected to contribute to improving artisanal practices of small-scale miners, improving competitiveness through increased adoption of new mining technologies, and enhance land and water management practices through safer and environmentally sound techniques.
The Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Henry Kwabena Kokofu, said that the launch of the project is “timely” as “from all indications, the project gives us hope” to further increase efforts in managing the use of mercury in ASGM and e-waste in Ghana.