11 April 2017

Ghana: Resource Extraction, Water Security and Inclusive Development

Inscribed on the wings of the "future we want," the United Nations (UN) conference on sustainable development in Rio 2010, among others, bolstered the concept of Inclusive Development (ID).

Since then, the concept has gained increased attention in recent development thinking, and action. Inclusive development essentially inspire us to adopt policies, institutions and processes capable of maintaining a balance between social, economic and environmental interests.

From this standpoint, placing our water resource security in the scheme of our mining history raises more questions than answers. In spite of the continual threat and damage posed by mining to Ghana's water security, we are still busy counting the mining benefit without recourse to the cost implications for water resources and security.

Certainly, this way of benefit calculation is problematic, even as in most rudimentary traditional societies, the rules and values governing profit and benefit calculation is firmly informed by subtracting transactional costs of business and other loses imposed by the business from the final outcome.

But thanks to the modern day neo-liberalists and associate protagonists of capitalism, all that matters in natural resources benefit calculation is to bequeath the externalities to the resource host communities and country. So, it is fair to conclude that communities and ordinary citizens subsidise the extractive sector in lieu of the benefits.

In all spheres, water remains an underpinning factor in development, and this was recognised by the framers of the "future we want" refrain, which heralded the 2010 UN sustainable Development conference. Indeed, its relevance is captured in the 2010 Sustainable Development Framework (SDF) with particular reference to goal six of the SDF.

Seven years after the Rio conference, there is enough reason to ask for a stock taking of our water resources in general; raising questions about our commitment to safeguard this important natural resource from the claws of the extractive sector, particularly gold mining. More compelling today is the wakeup call of each year's world water day commemoration - 22 March represents a global day set aside in full recognition of water.

Both in quality and quantity, fresh water sources like River Ankobra, River Birim, etc., are fast diminishing; threatening their value and role in poverty reduction, growth and development. Estimates from the Water Resources Commission indicate that Ghana will become a significant water stress country by 2030. This calls on us to take domestic action to confrontationally deal with the looming crisis.

Additionally, the ecosystem services and values as well as the International Public Good (IPG) provisioning of water stand in jeopardy. Water is a special natural resource with no substitute. Allowing mining and related activities to out stage this special resource will be a grim failure and an attestation of the ineffectiveness of governance on our part.

While we stand vigilant, espousing parameters for transparency and accountability in our natural resource sector governance, we may as well have to consolidate this posture by up scaling accountability standards to take account of the damages caused by one natural resource sub-sector's activity to the other.

Lesson for Oil

Any meaningful action to deal with the mining sector's influence over our water presents a lesson or guide for what lies in wait when onshore oil production commences in Ghana, particularly in the Voltaic Basin, which holds significant volumes of fresh water resources.

The water crisis can be likened to the damaging impact of climate change globally. Solution has been professed by ingenious communities, civil society actors and allies, but this has often been sidestepped by intransigent duty bearers and corporate cronies. It is within this context that Nnimmo Bassey, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Nigeria's foremost environmental and human rights activist, has advised that we must assail the "hard of hearing ears of mainstream duty bearers who wield the power to reverse the global climate crisis. To get them listening require of us to take action capable of waking them from their position of slumber. Therefore we should" climb atop the roofs, remove the ceilings and dowse everyone with cold water."

It is within this setting that Oilwatch Ghana desire that we do the dowsing, but this time around with chilled water instead of the cold water offered by Mr. Bassey

According Noble Wadzah, Oilwatch Ghana coordinator, the central role of water in shaping human development and progress is widely acclaimed. But the rate of degradation of our fresh water sources is staggering and criminal, requiring urgent and increased political will and action more than ever.

Therefore, Oilwatch Ghana and its allies call on the current political administration to upscale efforts from where the previous regime left off since inaction today will not only erode whatever gains that may have accrued but has the potential for unacceptable future development cost.

Whilst the "dowsing" theory may hold promise, we are more encouraged that, sector minister for mines and forestry, John-Peter Amewo, and the nominee for deputy minister of Energy, Dr Mohamed Amin Adam, may not need any stoking of chilled water to reel into action nor have difficulties in marshalling the required political strength in this pursuit.

We have such confidence because prior to their ministerial appointments, not only did both gentleman become staunch apostles in the crusade against the "resource curse phenomena," but also contributed tremendously to a series of national policy advice and legislative formulations. For this reason, our hearts are gladdened that with personalities like these in political the boat, the job pertaining to marrying water security with extractives will be done and done well. We are convinced about the strong convergence between mining and water security as well as hydrocarbon (particularly onshore) exploitation and water security. In this regard, we stand more than hopeful to benefit from the strengthened coordination of the ministries represented by these honourable gentlemen.


The focus of this year's World Water Day - water and waste water - should serve as the basis for rethinking how far we have come in efforts towards our water security rights and livelihoods. Thus, we, as matter of urgency, call for a halt to all mining practices threatening our water security and safety.

Secondly, as matter of urgency, government should take steps to provide a legislative backing to the Buffer Zone Policy (Water) in order to secure our water sources from destruction with particular regards to gold mining.

Furthermore, the values inherent in some citizen's initiatives and projects such as shared Resources Joint Solutions (a joint initiative of the IUCN-Netherlands and the Development Institute in Ghana and partners, must remain a useful reference for adaption or adoption.

Lastly, as matter of urgency, relevant authorities and institutions must take steps to zone and declare all fresh water sources corridors and estuaries as protected areas and place them under strict management and governance rules.

Oilwatch Ghana is a body of development groups focused on environmental and social/human rights and security. It is at odds with the socially and environmentally destructive tendencies of mining, oil and gas and proffers solutions for community and citizens protection from business and profit interests.


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