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General News of Monday, 18 January 1999

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Marine experts discuss protection of Gulf of Guinea

Accra (Greater Accra) 18 Jan. '99 -

Ghana has proposed the establishment of a protocol on off-shore pollution to ensure that West and Central African countries bordering on the Gulf of Guinea do not discharge untreated domestic and industrial wastes into coastal waters. Mr Cletus Avoka, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, opening a four-day conference of marine experts from six countries, noted that though the gulf can renew its waters only once in about 80 years, several tons of untreated domestic and industrial waste are discharged into it daily. "It has been estimated that over 60 per cent of the existing industries in the region are in the coastal cities and towns. ''The resultant waste discharges from both industrial and human activities into the environment are to a large extent untreated and unregulated thus increasing the risk of polluting the marine environment". Marine experts from Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon and Togo are discussing setting up common guidelines and standards for industrial effluent discharge into coastal waters to minimise pollution and preserve bio-diversity. The conference is jointly organised by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the Gulf of Guinea Large Marines Eco system Project which involves the six countries. Ten other countries including Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Sao Tome and Principe are to be incorporated. Mr Avoka noted that the protocol would complement efforts being made under the project initiated four years ago with the support of Global Environmental Facility and other organisations to address the pollution of the gulf and reounted efforts being made by Ghana to strengthen its industrial and regulatory mechanisms and setting effluent standards to control industrial pollution. Mr Avoka announced that with the support of UNIDO, a Cleaner Production Centre would be set up to give appropriate training and advice to industries on the choice of least cost production methods. "The government is committed to making the cleaner Production Centre a reality. The centre should help in changing the attitude of entrepreneurs so that environmental concerns become an integral part of all activities related to industry to ensure that pollution is prevented instead of being treated end -of - pipe". Mr Avoka expressed regret that some coastal lagoons which supported economic and social activities have either ceased to maintain any life forms or are on the verge of becoming biologically dead and called for urgent action to save the rest. He emphasised the need for the private sector to be actively involved and explore the commercial viability of resource conservation and recycling of waste. "Studies done by United Nations Environment Programme have revealed that some firms, by introducing resource conservation, recycling and re-use programmes into their plant development, have boosted profits, sometimes by as much as 30 per cent. ''Ghana and other countries in the sub-region should be able to benefit from this trend". Mr Massimo Garzelli, Representative of UNIDO in Ghana, noted that regulations alone cannot reduce pollution unless there is a change in attitude and patterns of production and consumption. He said there is the need for training and incentives for the adoption of new technologies which have little or minimal effect on the environment to save it for future generations. Mr Edwin Barnes, acting Chief Director of the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, who gave the background of the conference said the first phase of the Gulf of Guinea Project would soon end, adding that discussions were going on about the component of the second phase.