Environmental Safety and Ghana's Oil City

Ghanaian fishermen repairing nets (Christiane Badgley)
Issue: Advocacy
Country: Ghana
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In 2010, Ghana joined the ranks of oil-producing nations. A short year later, fishermen making a living along the Ghanaian coast encountered an oil spill that the government neglected to clean up. A new investigative article by journalist Christiane Badgley considers the environmental risks of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Guinea.

Excerpt from "West Africa Oil Boom Overlooks Tattered Environmental Safety Net":

On November 3, 2011, fishermen working near the Jubilee oil field 60 km. off the coast of Ghana spotted a large oil slick floating towards land.

The next day a dark, syrupy ooze arrived onshore, coating beaches of several fishing communities and waterfront hotels in Ghana’s Ahanta West District, the coastal strip closest to the country’s new, deep water oil field.

The fishermen told authorities they suspected the spill came from the offshore operations, but the incident was greeted with seeming indifference. No official clean-up was launched, so the community was left to clean up the mess itself.

“The lack of any clear information about the incident has made many in the coastal communities nervous about the future,” said Kyei Kwadwo Yamoah of the Friends of the Nation, a Ghanaian community development organization.

Even as the Jubilee field was in development, environmentalists warned it was moving too fast. To activists, official silence surrounding the November incident was evidence that Ghana lacked the ability to properly oversee offshore oil operations.

Reports by non-governmental organizations show that the companies that developed the Jubilee field, and the World Bank Group officials who lent hundreds of millions of dollars to jumpstart the project, were aware of the risks from the beginning. What’s also clear is that everyone knew the Ghanaian government lacked adequate monitoring systems, regulators to police the industry and equipment needed to react to spills.

Located along Africa’s Atlantic Coast, Ghana is slipping down the same unregulated slope as other countries that hug the Gulf of Guinea: Promises of economic development along with a lure of easy money have prompted governments to encourage the rapid growth of an industry in a regulatory vacuum.

The oil industry, in effect, is left to monitor itself.

Read more ... (iWatch News)


Kathryn Joyce is RWI's web editor.

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