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Tuesday, 1 April 2014


The electronic waste (e-waste) menace around the world has been a major environmental and health concern to Governments. In many developing countries, balancing between the need to bridge the so-called ‘digital divide’ and curbing technology dumping has often put Governments, manufactures and importers on a collision course.

The latest place in the developing world that has gained notoriety as the world’s biggest e-waste dump-site is Agbobloshie in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Analysis of samples taken from this e-waste scrap yard in Ghana by Greenpeace International
 (a global campaigning organization) revealed severe 
contamination with hazardous chemicals.

Ghana has witnessed a rapid growth in the inflow of mobile phones and computers and their peripherals and television sets, thanks to a flourishing Communications sector that has allowed in multiple telcos. Multi-simming, the ownership of more than one active mobile phone lines by one person is commonplace in Ghana, and that accounts for the high mobile phone penetration. The total number of active mobile phone lines in Ghana as at November, 2012 stood at 25,344,745, which is marginally higher than the estimated population of Ghana, which stood at 25,241,998. Mobile penetration in Ghana therefore stands at 100.41%. Official data released by the Ghana Shippers Authority indicates that the country imported 31,400 metric tons of used Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) in 2010, 75% more than what was imported into the country in 2009.According to UNEP’s recent statistics an estimated 20 to 50 million tons of electronics waste is generated annually which, according to one estimate, if loaded on railway trucks would produce a train that would stretch once around the world.

E-waste contains hazardous constituents that may negatively impact the environment and affect human health if not properly managed. E-waste is more hazardous than many other municipal wastes because EEE contain components made of deadly chemicals and heavy metals which can potentially damage the nervous system, the kidneys, bones, and the reproductive and the endocrine systems. Many of the chemicals present in the e-wastes are persisting in the environment, which means their effecting will be abiding for many centuries.

Ghana is rapidly becoming one of the most favorite destinations for obsolete computers and other e-wastes from the developed world, mainly Europe and America. There is incessant inflow of hundreds of containers filled with used EEE at the port. Most of the electronic gadgets arriving in Ghana are labeled as second-hands goods but in reality majority of them are e-waste, ostensibly creating an electronic waste dump. E-waste dumping has become a major problem due to the fact that there are no formidable laws to deal with e-waste trade and recycling in Ghana and in many developing countries.

There are no laws to regulate e-waste trade and recycling in Ghana and in many developing countries. Presently, dumping of hazardous waste from advanced countries in developing countries is prohibited by the Basel Convention, an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and to specifically prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries. EU laws also prohibit the export of e-waste to countries like Ghana.

While African governments are gradually becoming aware of the problems of e-waste, few are taking steps in drawing up policies. Some countries are focusing on the age of imported EEE while others are considering a complete ban of second-hand EEE from entering their territories. Ghana and Uganda are respectively two examples of the two foci above. These notwithstanding, it is worth mentioning that policies and regulations focusing on regulating imports and banning have faced numerous setbacks in their enforcement in some jurisdictions.

Most developed countries have in place legislation mandating electronic manufacturers and importers to take-back used Electrical and Electronic Equipment at their end-of-life (EoL) based on the principle of extended producer responsibility (EPR). It is worth advocating that the frontiers of EPR must be extended to developing countries for e-waste take-back. Adoption and implementation of EPR in the developing countries has become necessary in the light of the present high level of trans-boundary movement of e-waste into the developing countries and the lack of basic or state-of-the-art recycling and waste disposal facilities. Electronic producers should take up the responsibility of taking-back their products to recycle them in an acceptable way when they become waste.

In conclusion, it becomes obvious that adoption and implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in developing countries may not be the only silver bullet that may nib the present and impending dangers of e-waste in the bud. A Change in attitude by governments, appropriate legislation dealing specifically with e-waste, control of electronic waste dumping coupled with implementation of EPR and transfer of technology on sound recycling of e-waste are the key issues in effective management of e-waste in developing countries.

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Thursday, 27 February 2014


Picture Taken in Tessanor -Accrs
Even as shortage of water supply is getting severe by the day in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA), the threat of cholera outbreak has a potential of worsening the woes of residents.

Unplanned visits to many of the suburbs in the metropolis have revealed a spectacle that foretells that the annual threshold of cholera may be exceeded if concrete measures are not pursued. Some residents (as depicted in the pictures) are seen fetching water from open drains and other unhygienic sources. They claim they have no  alternative sources of water supply.

Picture taken in Tessanor- Accra
Management of the Ghana Water Company has announced a planned shutdown of the Kpong Water Works. This will commence on Thursday, the 27th of February 2014. The implication is that 40 million gallons of potable water are going to be lost to the daily water supply, a situation that will significantly worsen the already existing demand - supply gap of 57 million gallons per day.

The city has not yet recovered from the week long water crises that have plagued residents. Accra and its environs have been without water for almost one week following the breakdown of the Weija Treatment Plant which contributes 53 million gallons to the city’s demand daily. Residents were assured the crises would end on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 however a communications manager at the GWCL revealed to a local radio station that…. "It will take a bit of time, between 24 and 48 hours for the situation to stabilize...Consumers should appreciate what we are doing".

A man fetching water near a pile of refuse : Picture taken in Nima
Despite all the widely available cholera awareness information many Ghanaians die of cholera annually. According to WHO Cholera report in 2012, Ghana is among five countries in Africa with worst cholera cases and case fatality ratio. Between January and May 2012, a total of 3,216 cases and 28 deaths were reported from 20 districts. (WHO, 26 May 2012). The cholera cases and deaths increased steadily with the rainfall pattern, resulting in 6,000 cholera cases with 69 deaths by the end of August (IFRC, 4 Jan 2013)

As the rainfall season draws nearer the inhabitants of the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area face a high risk of cholera as most turn to unsafe sources for their water needs.


Thursday, 20 February 2014

Climate Change Adaptation in Practice- Adoptable technology from Ethiopia

Climate change adaptation in the city of Addis Ababa- Ethiopia. An adoptable technique to establish urban forestry.

You can grow that tree on that compound with this efficient irrigation technique.


Friday, 1 November 2013


As oil and gas companies extend their tentacles into the oceans, exploring the depths for untapped hoards of fossil fuel, many marine creatures have come under lethal threat.  The Environmental Impact Assessment of the Jubilee field predicted minor residual impacts on marine mammals and proposed some measures to counter the effect. The situation at hand far exceeds the predictions of the impact assessment. The recent surge in the death of marine mammals, particularly whales is overwhelming and hence requires urgent attention to avoid any impending effect on livelihoods and food security in the West African coast.

Whales and other marine mammals rely on their hearing for life's most basic functions, such as orientation and communication. They rely on sound to navigate and to find food, friends and mating partners. When a sound, thousands of times more powerful than a jet engine fills their ears, the results is fatal. This is the reality that whales and other marine mammals in the Gulf of Guinea are facing because of airguns used for oil and gas exploration. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a New York City-based non-profit international environmental advocacy group, there is no question that sonar injures and kills whales. The case of oil and gas exploration leading to overwhelming whale deaths is not endemic to the Gulf of Guinea. Similar cases have occurred in the Canary Islands, Greece, Madeira, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii and other sites around the globe. Like their counterparts in many countries that have experienced this negative phenomenon, the Ghanaian government agencies responsible for curtailing this ongoing disaster has claimed there are no empirical basis to establish a link between the death of the whales and oil production.

It has become obvious that the mitigation measures proposed by the impact assessment can no longer be relied upon. There is therefore the urgent need for stakeholders to go back to the drawing board in order to formulate better guidelines. Of course, it is impossible to wake up to this reality with the current posture of the agencies responsible for curtailing this disaster. The government agency must come out of this insincere ignorance and join the growing international consensus that ocean noise presents a significant threat to marine mammals and other marine species.

Notwithstanding the negative press the oil and gas industry has made on countless occasions; it is one industry that has spearheaded breakthroughs in technology and research. It has created wealth in many countries and improved the lives of many, especially in those nations where the oil and gas wealth is well managed. Talk about research and technology; it is one industry that invests billions of dollars in that area. Nevertheless the industry has to take responsibility for the harm being caused to the environment, it is a fact that some of these environmental issues are inevitable but the industry has to do its best to manage and bring down these disasters to a minimum. One fact worth noting is that these companies are also interested in the welfare of the nations in which they operate

There are numerous relevant international regulations that relate to the growing international consensus that ocean noise presents a significant threat to marine mammals and other marine species and must be addressed. The 1982 United Nations convention of the law of the sea establishes a globally recognized regime dealing with all matters relating to the use of the oceans and seas and their resources. The UNCLOS assigns the fundamental obligation and responsibility for protecting and preserving the marine environment to States, and requires them to adopt and enforce national laws and international standards to prevent, reduce and control ocean pollution from any source. The UNCLOS defines Pollution to include harmful energy, and thus encompasses noise pollution within its mandates.

Also in November 2004, the IUCN-World Conservation Union adopted a comprehensive resolution calling for action by states to reduce the impacts of ocean noise on marine life, which was adopted by consensus. The IUCN is the world’s leading body for conservation policy, consisting of over 70 national governments and more than 400 non-governmental organizations, and the decisions it takes at its quadrennial meetings set the global agenda for conservation over the next four years. The 2004 Resolution recognizes undersea noise as a form of pollution; calls on states to avoid the use of intense noise sources in the habitat of vulnerable species or where marine mammals and endangered species may be concentrated; and urges states to work through the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to develop mechanisms for the control of this emergent problem.

Expects have found three main methods in comparative review of Marine mammals mitigation guidelines in oil and gas industry seismic surveys internationally. The three main methods currently used to mitigate the potential impacts on marine mammals during seismic surveys are:
 (1) Implementation of operational procedures (e.g., ‘soft start’—where sound levels are gradually increased over time);
 (2) Detection of animals close to airguns and implementation of real-time mitigation measures (e.g., shut-down),
 (3) Time/area planning of surveys to avoid marine mammals. Detection of animals via real-time monitoring which is not a mitigation measure per se, but an essential component of marine mammal mitigation during seismic surveys (Weir and Dolman 2007).

Many mitigating guidelines propose stringent procedures within sensitive areas and suggest planning surveys to avoid sensitive times/areas. In practical terms, regulatory approaches in line with oil and gas industry procedures may include complete closure of some areas, seasonal restrictions on operations, or limiting operations to daylight hours with visibility suitable for spotting marine mammals. In addition, the services of professional marine mammal specialists may be required and passive acoustic monitoring techniques may be needed to replace what is currently in use (Weir and Dolman 2007).

Brazil is a typical example among many regions where seismic survey closed seasons is clearly deļ¬ned and implemented. Prohibited areas exist for breeding (July–November) and nesting areas for marine turtles (October–February). Some areas are permanently closed due to their highly sensitive nature. This is reported in Brazilian Environmental Licensing Guide.

In proffering a realistic antidote to the deaths of the marine mammals the Fisheries Commission, Environmental Protection Agency and other regulatory agencies should join the growing international consensus that ocean noise presents a significant threat to marine mammals and other marine species and hence accept that there are enough evidence to the fact that the surge in whale deaths in Ghanaian waters is as a result of oil and gas exploration. This is a sine qua non to any attempt of mitigation.


Spence, J. 2007. A Summary of Existing and Future Potential Treatments for Reducing Underwater Sounds from Oil and Gas Industry Activities. Proceedings OCEANS 2007 MTS/IEEE Vancouver Conference & Exhibition, 2–4 October 2007.

Streever, Bill. 2007. Green Seduction: Money, Business, and the Environment. Jackson, Mississippi: University of Mississippi Press, 210pp.

Weir, C.R. and Dolman,  S. J.  2007. Comparative Review of the Regional Marine Mammal Mitigation Guidelines Implemented during Industrial Seismic Surveys, and Guidance towards a Worldwide Standard. Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy 10: 1–27.

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Saturday, 19 October 2013


In times when the timber industry is plagued with unsteady prices and the challenges of dwindling forest resources is exacerbated by the woes of climate change, the value of a suitable alternative has come to light: logs inundated through reservoirs creation for decades and long presumed to have been lost.
Underwater logging is the process of harvesting tree crop submerged due to activities such as artificial impoundment of water. When artificial reservoirs and dams are built, large forests are often inundated. Although the tress die the wood is often preserved. The trees can then be felled using special underwater machinery and floated up to the surface. This activity can be quite profitable, since the prime "targets" are decades-old trees of a size and species difficult or impossible to find in their natural habitat. Underwater logging has been introduced in selected locations around the world, including Ghana’s Volta Lake, the largest reservoir by surface area in the world.
Volta Lake Tree
While no exact count of these resources seems to exists globally, one estimate puts it at about 200 million trees, a global supply worth about $40 billion. According to a 2004 figures, some 35,000 square kilometers (13,500 square miles) of forest worldwide have already been submerged by dams. These inundated resources have been preserved by water and protected from rot and insect infestation. The resulting high-quality timber is highly sought after the world over. It is estimated that timber resources worth 2.8 billion dollars are locked up under the Volta Lake.

The Volta Basin
Since the creation of the Volta Lake in 1964, the 8,515 hectare reservoir has remained a major water transport system. Linking the country’s relatively more developed south to it’s largely subsistence agrarian north. Submerged tree stumps have over the years posed a serious threat to transportation on the lake as several fatal boat disasters have been recorded.

Ghana has lost more than 33.7% of forest cover since 1990 and has a rate of deforestation of 1.68% per annum according to the Forest Resources Assessment conducted by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO, 2010). The forestry sector contributes 6% to national GDP, and wood exports are the fourth highest foreign exchange source for the country. The Forestry Commission of Ghana (2010) claims that drivers of deforestation can be mainly attributed to agricultural expansion (which contributes to 50%), harvesting of wood (35%), population and development pressure (10%) and mining (5%).
Illegal Lumbering : Picture by TBI Ghana
Falling volumes in timber in Ghana, coupled with rise in illegal lumbering, has compelled the former net timber exporter to import to augment demand of the industry. The tropical forests of Ghana contain a wide range of timber species suitable for the construction industry, decking, flooring, panels and builder's woodwork. The country brings to the market place legal timber species that have such attributes of intriguing grain structures, broad color palette and natural durability fit for all architectural designs.

Inventory conducted using high resolution sonar -- a technology used to locate objects underwater -- has identified some 100 species of trees, including sought-after hardwoods buried in the lake bed. Logging of rot-resistant hardwoods such as Ebony, Odum, Sapele, Mahogany, and Wawa among others will reduce pressure on Ghana’s forest. 

Deforestation of tropical forests accounts for about 17% of global carbon dioxide emission. A failure to address this source of emission will significantly compromise global efforts to tackle climate change. Ghana’s forests contain 381 million metric tons of carbon in living forest biomass.

 This harvesting of submerged timber is the first of its kind in Africa. The venture which is being executed by Vancouver-based experts, Clark Sustainable Resource Developments (CSRD) is expected to help fight global climate change by sparing the living trees that are needed to absorb carbon. In addition to adding to global efforts in mitigation climate change by retaining forest cover that serves as carbon sink, the initiative will enhance river transport; reduce accidents, and frequent loss of life on the lake while creating employment opportunities for the youth. The venture should rake in some 100 million dollars yearly in foreign exchange and create 1,400 new jobs in the country.