Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

The day of the environment

Poku Adaa

POKU ADAA reports on activities that have taken place in Ghana in connection with the World Environment Day, and from Nairobi on the recent meeting of the governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
5th June was a day set aside to focus worldwide attention on the protection and preservation of the world's environment.

Like energy in all its forms, the institution of a clean and healthy environment, the planning that should go into urban rural settlements, the different and sensible utilisation of natural resources, are all crucial to the survival of life on this planet.

Every nation has a duty to protect and regulate her environment and to keep balance between consumption of resources and maintenance of all natural resources.

Ghana, like many developing tropical countries, is fully aware of this enormous task and saw it fit to set up a national institution the Ghana Environmental Protection Council (EPC) - in the mid seventies to be a watchdog on the nation's environment. Despite the teething and often unassailable difficulties the Council faced in its formative years, it has grown to be a responsible, self-sustaining body under the Ministry of Science and Technology.

On this year's World Environment Day, the EPC organised an exhibition to mark the occasion with the theme: A HERITAGE TO CHERISH which is meant to caution the nation against unwarranted abuse and degradation of the environment, a most precious and national asset and heritage. The EPC exhibition has been described as the beginning of a nationwide travelling tour which has the aim to focus public attention on the various components of the environment and to let the public know the role that it has been playing in the nation's life.

The exhibition included very beautiful posters which were meant to highlight the use and planning of land, the vulnerability of our forest resources, the problems created by urbanisation, the utilisation of various forms of energy and the conservation of wildlife and other resources. There were film shows around the country on industrial pollution by emerging and existing industries especially in the mining areas where toxic fumes are being released into the atmosphere day in and day out. There were slide shows depicting the Council's efforts to ensure constant purification of the country's water ways, most importantly the attempts by the Council to regulate the activities of the textile and other industries scattered around Akosombo who dump their effluents untreated into the Volta.

"Despite the fury and ravages of drought", said Mr Tolba, "the World still has a capacity and goodwill to halt the devastation of desert spreading and artificial creation of dry arid lands."

Through the exhibition, the Council has brought to public attention, its six year efforts to dredge the Odaw River in Accra and eliminate its pervading stench and skim away this eye-sore of the capital city. The EPC is hopeful now more than ever before that within the next year or two much progress will have been achieved on this particular project.

On the international scene, the council has actively participated in worldwide efforts to stop the spread of the world's deserts. The EPC's Executive Chairman, G. K. Garbrah, until recently the Scientific Co-ordinator of the EPC, contributed to the just ended UNEP Conference on desertification held in Nairobi, Kenya, attended by the Agency's annual governing council. Mr Garbrah commented after the meeting that Ghana and other West African countries are due to receive UNEP's assistance on the efforts to combat desertification.

On a global scale, this year's World Environment Day has focussed on the spread of the world's deserts and on the effects of drought on the environment. In 1977, UNEP set a target that by the year 2000, mankind will have halted the slowly creeping frontiers of the world's deserts. However, at this year's meeting in Nairobi, UNEP's Executive Director, Egyptian-born Moustapha Tolba was less optimistic about the target being achieved and hoped that despite the $4,500 million set aside in 1977 to combat desertification, World Governments would extend the target date by at least a decade.

At a press conference after the Nairobi meeting, Mr Tolba lamented that "in Africa, for instance, not more than one or two percent of development aid gets channelled into environmental programmes such as anti desertification measures".

The World Environment Day, apart from the attention it has sought to focus on drought and desertification, has also pin-pointed the other problems of the Environment such as oil pollution, wildlife and forest degradation and urban deprivation. It is the hope of UNEP and all environmental agencies all over the world that these and similar aspects of the issue of global environment will be taken seriously by nations and peoples all over the world.



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