Pollution in emerging economies, the example of Ghana in West Africa

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Many emerging economies have a tremendous number of environmental problems, including, but not limited to, air pollution, drinking-water contamination, sanitation and waste management, industrial waste and depletion of natural resources. The exploitation of oil reserves and minerals remains a priority for many governments of emerging economies. The environmental consequences of such activities have significant impacts on local communities who rely upon the natural environment to sustain a traditional lifestyle. Even though the existence of national environmental laws should minimize the risks of consequences to health and environment, the laws are ineffective because they are inadequate or inadequately enforced. In relation to mining activities, there is a considerable pollution potential from certain dangerous substances, which have led to severe water pollution and direct risks to human health.

Ghana is no exception. According to Ebenezer Ampa Sarpong, the Director in charge for Programming, Planning and Monitoring Evaluation at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Ghana, water pollution causes 14,000 deaths a day in developing countries. Mainly concerned about the contamination of the water bodies as a result of the mining activities. On April 16, 2014, the Chief of the Western Nzema Traditional Area in the Western Region announced his intention to sue the EPA, because of its negligence in dealing with the excessive degradation of the environment particularly due to mining activities in the region.

What is important to consider are these very critical questions: How can Ghana and other emerging economies fight the problem of competing interests when it comes to economic development and environmental preservation? How can the enforcement of environmental laws be monitored? How do you provide legal tools to citizens fighting for clean water in their communities? How do you provide legal tools to companies to help them achieve a better practice? Most importantly, how can environmental technologies participate in the improvement of a greener economy?

According to Regency, an international development agency, it’s the duty of the industry to implement environmental improvement. However, the role of the government should not be neglected. Indeed, the government is the key player in creating the framework conditions that will accelerate the process.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) which have made available, a range of policy instruments, including legislation, to promote the use of environmentally sound technologies (ETs) advise countries to select the combination of tools they regard as most suited to their needs. The UNEP noted that western countries (United States and Western Europe) which have adopted this approach, ended up having tighter regulatory controls and adopted end-of pipe ESTs by industry. This resulted in significant improvements in pollution performance and in environmental quality in general.

As it has already been said above, the absence of regulations/or the weak enforcement of regulations in many developing countries is the main reason why we can observe a rapid deterioration of the environment. Such issues have led the UNEP to establish a few principles on how to use the regulations efficiently and encourage a regulatory system to prevent pollution, However at some point, the UNEP itself questions whether developing countries even need to introduce regulations before launching a cleaner production offensive as “developing countries may find it more feasible to depend on raising awareness of the economic benefits implicit in cleaner production”. (The role of the Government via Regency).

In my opinion, an important step to address some of these questions is to create and develop an enforcement system of existing and modified legal regulations, as well as an operational environmental adjudication system, which will help steer the emerging economies like Ghana away from pollution and toward a healthy environment.

Sandra Awovi A. Komassi
EHS content specialist


The opinions and views expressed at or through this post are the opinions of the designated author and do not reflect the opinions or views of any of their clients or the opinions or views of any other individual at Nimonik.


Chief to sue EPA for Environmental degradation

Water Pollution causes 14, 000 deaths per day

“The Role of Government” via Regency.org