Cost of environmental degradation is 3.7 per cent of GDP – President Mahama

The current cost of environmental degradation through forestry depletion, agricultural soil degradation and environmental health damage in Ghana by 2010 was 3.7 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Pesident John Dramani Mahama said this in an address read on his behalf by Ms Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST), at the opening of the Fifth Annual Environmental and Natural Resources Summit in Sunyani on Monday. It is being organised by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Forestry Commission (FC) and Minerals Commission under the auspices of MEST and Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources on the theme: “Illegal Mining and Our Environment”. The summit is sponsored by the European Union (EU), the Royal Netherlands Embassy and the World Bank under their budgetary support for the Natural Resources and Environmental Governance programme in Ghana. The five-day summit, being attended by 185 participants from stakeholder ministries and their sector commissions, agencies and departments, is to identify effective ways of managing the country’s natural resources for sustainable development. Other participants include civil society groups such as WACAM, Forest Forum and Civic Response, environmental and human rights advocacy organisations. The summit is a platform to discuss pertinent environmental issues, especially cross-cutting ones for common targets on how to resolve environmental and natural resource problems in Ghana. President Mahama pointed out that the cost was a constraint to the potentials of Ghana to achieve sustainable development, saying the country’s ability to mitigate that cost would improve the living standards of Ghanaians. He noted that the cost of environmental degradation and its effects on climate change had had an exacerbating poverty in the country. “Combined with the rapid depletion of mineral resources, these could undermine Ghana’s prospects of sustainable development unless the country manages to better protect her environment and convert the remaining part of her depleted natural resources into social, human and infrastructure capital, converting adversity to opportunities for sustained growth,” President Mahama said. Mr Mike Hammah, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, said the Ministry had established a task force to complement efforts by national security to deal with illegal mining in the country. He said they were currently operating in Eastern, Greater Accra, Ashanti, Western and Central regions. Mr Hammah said the Ministry was also collaborating with the Ministry of the Interior and the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to deal with foreigners in illegal mining. He said an educational workshop had been organised for some members of the judiciary to sensitise them on the effect of illegal mining on the environment and the need to give deterrent sentences on culprits. Mr Claude Maerten, Head of European Union (EU) Delegation in Ghana, in an address read on his behalf, said the world’s poorest were those that mostly depended directly on natural resources for their daily survival and therefore most vulnerable to environmental hazards including the effect of climate change. He said the European Commission had made the protection and sustainable management of natural resources a key priority in its poverty reduction policies.