Stakeholders here in Accra Tuesday urged the Ghana government to invest in health impact assessment in the resource extraction industry to ensure the West African country improves the living conditions of the people.
At a day’s 1st Stakeholder Meeting on Health Impact Assessment for Engaging Resource Extraction Projects in Sustainable Development (HIA4SD), participants bemoaned the practice where little or no health assessment were carried out leaving resource-rich communities in deplorable conditions.
The absence of coherent and systematic health impact assessment in the country has resulted in exploitation of natural resource making residents vulnerable to various health conditions.
Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Health and Allied Sciences, Ho, Volta Region, Prof. Fred Newton Binka expressed worry about the manner the derivatives have been exploited in Ghana and other African countries and called on government to invest in health impact assessment to derive much from the industry.
“Government must make an investment, yes we must extract the derivatives, but we must do it properly. We just can’t be doing it like how we farm; cut and slash, no, technology is there now, and we must invest in that and we must look at the effects that it will have on the human being. If we put an emphasis on that, we will definitely achieve the same goal. We will extract the derivatives and our people will also benefit from it.”
Deputy Ranking Member on Health in Ghana’s Parliament, and Member of Parliament for Binduri in the Upper East Region, Hon. Dr. Robert Baba Kuganab-Lem emphasized the need for good governance in the extractive sector.
He said, “When we have poor governance, they cannot remedy whatever effects that the extractive industry brings unto the people. Good sector governance is critical. When it comes to this, we have not done well as a country.”
Engineer Michael Sandow Ali, Head of Mining for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urged Ghanaians not to be worried over the absence of a legal framework on health impact assessment. He observed the stakeholder meeting was going to guide the agency in developing a workable guideline on health impact assessment in the country.
“This stakeholder meeting is going to really develop a guideline that will help in the health impact assessment in this country so that it is systematized and we will all do it in the same way like we have it for the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) itself; we have a guideline so people do it systematically and this one there is no guideline for now and so depending on who the consultant is, he will bring the report based on what he knows,” Engineer Ali said.
He assured residents in resource-rich communities that the government was thinking about them and that was the reason why health impact assessment was becoming a crucial thing for them to understand that if there was any impact on their lives in terms of health, they will be taken care of.
Dr. Mirko Winkler of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and Consultant for the Project emphasized health has become a cross-cutting issue of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda and urged the need to incorporate health impact assessment in minimizing the negatives and improving the positives associated with resource extraction.
Dr. Belinda Afriyie Nimako, one of the researchers explained the rationale for the project. “This research is a research for development project so if we were considering issues that can be associated with development, issues that will ensure that we also meet our SDGs and we realized that one of the big gaps when it comes to Ghana and the other project countries i.e.
Burkina Faso, Mozambique and Tanzania is that we are resource rich countries but people are exploiting these resources sometimes irresponsibly and so if you want to ensure that these resources are explored and explored properly, one of the tools that globally has been adapted to ensure that these resource extraction is undertaken responsibly to ensure sustainable development is the use of health impact assessment and that is why we are doing this to fill that gap to create the capacity in-country.
First, we are generating the evidence, two years on we hope to create the capacity so that we can undertake this and then hopefully influence the regulatory and policy environment such that it can be made the requirement as EIA is.”
The HIA4SD project analyses the conditions under which impact assessments are an effective regulatory mechanism is to mitigate negative externalities from natural resource extraction and contribute to the health-related targets of the SDGs 2030 Agenda.
The aim of the project is to generate a sound evidence-base at the national and local level on strengths and limitations of current impact assessment practice in engaging these projects to work towards health-related targets of the SDGs. Enditem