Accra, April 13, GNA- Government on Tuesday launched the Africa Environmental Health and Pollution Management Programme aimed at reducing the environmental health risks from harmful chemicals and e-waste by building institutional capacities in pollution management.
The Programme is a regional approach to promote harmonization of policies and regulations across countries; disseminate state-of-the-art knowledge and best practices to reduce harmful emissions.
It is expected to contribute significantly towards the improvement of economic institutions by improving artisanal practices of small-scale miners and improving competitiveness through increased adoption of new mining technologies.
The Programme is a five-year project involving five African countries: Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia funded by the World Bank at the cost of $8.7 million.
Dr Kwaku Afriyie, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation, launching the programme, said the project would ensure environmentally sound management of electronic waste which had gained prominence in the national discourse.
The 2017 edition of the Global E-Waste Monitor, shows that only 20 per cent of the e-waste generated globally is recycled in an environmentally sound manner.
Also, gold accounts for 90 per cent of nation’s total mineral exports and Artisanal and Small–Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) contributes approximately a third to the country’s total gold production.
He said even though the use of mercury in the ASGM was legal, the improper handling and disposal of mercury had resulted in some documented cases of mercury intoxication among miners and non-miners, which needed urgent attention.
The Minister stated that the inhalation of mercury vapour could produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune system, lungs and kidneys and the disease of such strategic organs of the body.
The Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1994 (Act 490) and its attendants Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999(LI 1652) are among the main legislations that regulate the ASGM sector.
Dr Afriyie said in spite of these national interventions, the Programme was expected to enhance land and water management practices, safer and environmentally sound techniques.
He said the primary beneficiaries of the Programme would be an estimated number of one million people who were engaged in and depending on ASGM industry for a living and an estimated population of about 258,180 people in Ghana, dependent on e-waste operations.
Dr Henry Kwabena Kokofu, the Executive Director, Environmental Protection Agency, said the Agency had worked with stakeholders in the ASGM sector to ensure that the use of mercury did not affect humans and their environment.
He said the Agency had undertaken several educational programmes for ASGM operators to ensure that their operations did not jeopardize their health and the public at large.
Mr Pierre Laporte, the Country Director, World Bank, said their outfit was committed to supporting the government to address environmental challenges by investing in pro-growth, pro-poor and pro-environment policies and projects.
The Minister inaugurated a National Steering Committee to steer the programme to its successful implementation.