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Ghana: Ghana Environment Profile


Red-throated bee-eater perched on branch, Murops belocki, Mole National Park, Ghana

The task of environmental protection in Ghana has not been easy, but for the completed four decades, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made tremendous strides in the discharge of that responsibility. And on the occasion of its 40th anniversary in February, it is worth celebrating, the modest achievements of the EPA even in the face of human resource, financial and logistical constraints. But beyond the celebration of EPA @ 40, there is a job to be done for next celebrations; it may seem daunting, but with a collective responsibility and better consciousness by everyone about the need to protect the environment, that task will be surmounted.

The history

Former President KufourPrior to the 1970s, there had been growing concern globally about the dangers human activities posed to the environment. That concern prompted the United Nations (UN) to organise the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment in June 1972, and according to the leader of Ghana's delegation to the conference, Mr K. B. Asante, Ghana made a strong impression at that event which was very significant, given the decisions taken.

Based on the recommendations of the Stockholm Conference, Ghana established the Environmental Protection Council (EPC) in 1974 with the view of addressing emerging environmental challenges. Former President J. A. Kufuor, who once had oversight responsibility of the EPC as Deputy Secretary of Local Government and Rural Development, thought the decision to set the agency was very appropriate.

"We need to think ahead, perhaps two to three decades ahead and formulate policies so we are not overtaken by people explosion and its impact on the environment," he pointed out. Even before the Stockholm Conference, several bodies in Ghana had by presently taken significant initiatives in various aspects of the environment. The majority prominent of these bodies were:

1. National Committee on the Human Environment formed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1971 as a result of concern expressed by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU)) regarding the need to conserve and protect Africa's natural resources

2. The Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences;

3. The Conservation of Nature Committee of the CSIR under the chairmanship of Pro. E. A Boateng;

4. The Ghana Working Group on the Environment led by Dr. Leticia Obeng;

5. The Man and Biosphere Programme.

Other bodies involved with environmental works before Stockholm Conference were the Ministries of Health, Industries, Agriculture, Education, Game and Wildlife Division, Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation and the Tourist Corporation.

Law establishing the EPC

The EPC was established by the Environmental Protection Council Decree, 1974 (NRCD 239), next the Chief of National and Chairman of the National Redemption Council (NRC) General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong had given his assent to the law on January 23, 1974 as a matter of urgency an Environmental Protection Commission was established. However, in approving the Commission's draft Instrument of Incorporation, General Kutu Acheampong decided that the word commission should be changed to Council.

But it was not until June 4, 1974 that the council was inaugurated by the Attorney-General, Mr Nathaniel Moore, acting on behalf of the Commissioner for Economic Planning, Mr Amon Nikoi. It was charged with the responsibility of coordinating all environmental matters in the country and advising the government on all matters relating to the environment. However, with the creation of the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, it became increasingly necessary to redefine the role of the EPC.

Subsequently, the Environmental Protection Council Decree, 1974 (NRCD 239) was amended by the EPC (Amendment) Decree, 1976 (SMCD 58).

Despite the fact that Ghana was part the initial nations in the world to implement the decision of the Stockholm Conference with the establishment of the EPC, Prof Kwamena Ahwoi, a former Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, who had oversight responsibility of the EPC, was not happy about the fact that the EPC was not (and is still not) a decentralised institution.

"If we are to act locally and think globally, we need to decentralise so that officials of the EPA at the district level will be responsible to the DCEs," he remarked.


A major landmark in the history of the institution was the transition from the old order to the new era with the establishment of the EPA on December 31, 1994 by the Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1994 (Act 490). The act mandates the EPA to regulate the environment and ensure the implementation of government policies on the environment. In addition, the EPA seeks, under the law, to dedicate itself to continuously improve and preserve the country's environment, while seeking solutions to world environmental issues.

Having been appointed as Minister of Environment, Science and Technology at the embryonic stage of the transition, Mr Lee Ocran recalls that "the challenges were a lot of so we had to work as a team to meet the expectations of the general public."

Structure of EPC

The 40-year journey of the EPC/EPA has been torturous administratively, as it was tossed from one sector ministry to an extra. Prior to its establishment, there were plans, in the administrative structure, to place the council due under the Office of the Chief of National, but it was later placed under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. That was the beginning of the 'EPC chess game' as far as its administrative structure was concerned, as it was transferred to the Ministry of Health in 1981 and again to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development in 1982.

It was until the creation of the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology that the EPC found a resting place.Okyehene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin II

Prof Ahwoi says the change from one ministry to the other reflects the fact that it is not clear whether it is just an environmental issue or a policy issue at the national level. "So although it was under the Ministry of Local Government in my time, I knew it was not its place," he submits.

The Okyehene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin II, who served as Board Chairman of the EPA from 2001 to 2009, takes the argument further, saying it is even odd to put EPA under a ministry. He says in line with the best practice in other nations, the EPA should be an autonomous institution, adding, "It's a conflict of interest for the policymaker to be the regulator."

Early beginnings

Next its inauguration on June 4, 1974, the EPC started work in a temporary accommodation at the headquarters of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) at the Airport Residential Area with a complement of two senior officers and two junior staff members. The two senior officers were Prof. E. A. Boateng (Executive Chairman) and Mr F. K. A. Jiagge (Secretary)and the two junior officers were Mr. Ebenezer Gyampo Okoampa and Kwaku Asamoah..

Just a day next the inauguration, the staff hit the ground running with the celebration of the initial World Environment Day in Ghana on the theme: "Cleanliness and citizens' action," which was marked with clean-up campaigns and a panel discussion on television. Subsequently, other senior officers, inclunding Ms Joyce Aryee and Dr C. Dorm Adzobu, joined the council.

Completed heads

The story of the EPA is not complete without recounting the immense and profound contributions made by former executive chairmen/executive directors of the agency. Next the pioneering efforts of Prof. E. A. Boateng from 1974 to 1981, Dr B. W. Garbrah took over the mantle for a four-year period from 1981 to 1985.

But the top position of the institution was not a preserve of men, as women as well played very significant roles, with Lt Col Christine Debrah (Rtd.) serving as initial female Executive Chairperson for five years - from 1985 to 1990 - followed by Ms Francisca Issaka, who acted from 1990 to 1993.

Dr Farouk Briamah thenThe initial Board members of EPA 1994 next its transition from the Environmental Protection Council (EPC). The members include General Arnold Quainoo, Board Chairman (5th right) Professor George Benneh (5th left) Dr. Christiana Amoako- Nuamah, (6th left) and far right Dr. P.C. Acquah assumed office as acting Executive Chairman for one year, serving from 1993 to 1994. Perhaps, one person whose name may be indelible in the history of the EPA is Dr Peter Claver Acquah for leading the institution's transition from the old to the new order. He was at the helm for seven years, initial as the last Executive Chairman of the EPC from February 1994 to December 1994, and again as the initial Executive Director of the newly established EPA from 1995 to 2001.

At the same time as Mr Jonathan A. Allotey took over from Dr Acquah, he as well walked his way into fame as he became the longest serving Executive Director (or Executive Chairman), having been in charge for 10 years from 2001 to 2011. For Mr Daniel S. Amlalo, his own piece of fame does not lie in his relatively short tenure as acting Executive Director from December 2010 to date, but in the singular honour of superintending over the 40th anniversary celebrations.


The achievements of the EPC/EPA are enormous but suffice it to mention but a few of them such as Ghana was selected part four African nations to receive an award from UNEP for outstanding efforts in phase out of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) ; Mine Reclamation Bond which is a financial surety against mining companies defaulting in reclamation obligations has been successfully introduced and being implemented developing policies and regulations for environmenltal management like Guidelines and Standards for ambient air quality, noise levels and discharges into natural water bodies.Staff of the EPA on a field trip to the Tema Port in 1991 next participating in a workshop on oil spill contingency plan

One large succcess is the foresight and fortitude of the EPC at the same time as, in 1985, additional than two decades before Ghana discovered oil in commercial quantity and began production, it prepared a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan.

Following the drought that hit the country in the early 1980s and with the increasing threat of desertification globally, the EPC, in 1986, developed a National Plan of Action to Combat Desertification.

Beyond developing policies and regulations, the council as well provided a platform for stakeholders in environmental protection to share ideas.
One of such platforms was the National Conference on Resource Conservation for Ghana's Sustainable Development organised in 1987.

An extra significant succcess is the role the EPC played in 1988 to coordinate the drawing-up of a National Environmental Action Plan for comprehensive, consistent and coherent programme to manage the environment which was from presently on launched in 1991.

Launch of AKOBEN IN 2010 from far right Mr. D.S Amlalo. Ms Sherry Ayittey, Mr. Jonathan Allotey from far second left Mrs. Veronica Addy former member of the Council of StateIn recent years, the institutionalisation of the EPA Ghana 'AKOBEN' Programme, which rates manufacturing and mining companies against environmental best practices in a incomparable manner, with red being poor, orange (satisfactory), blue (good), green (very good) and gold (excellent), is as well an succcess worth celebrating.

The purchasing of a marine vessel to monitor activities in the oil and gas industry and the acquisition of machines to transaction with aquatic weeds at Atimpoku are as well commendable.

"I think the Environmental Protection Agency is doing a good work but people must help them. You don't have to be at the EPA before you protect the environment," Mr Asante submits.


Way forward

The way forward is for all to appreciate the fact that environmental protection is a collective responsibility, as the slogan of the 40th anniversary states and as President Kufuor notes, political leadership is very essential in this business. "If you become president and you are aware of all these things (environmental degradation) and you do not show concern for the environment, again what are you doing?" he wondered.

Prof Ahwoi seems to acknowledge with President Kufuor at the same time as he recalls that in the 1990s, the manner in which former President J. J. Rawlings was very passionate about the environment and captured it in his speeches, raised public awareness of the environment. "That passion seems to have died presently. I wish that it will come back," he remarks.

In the view of Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin II, the EPA should be given prosecutorial powers and must be adequately resourced to enable it to discharge its responsibilities additional entirely. For Mr Asante, it is time for everyone to be conscious of environmental protection since that "moves you away from the animal kingdom."

"The environment makes us different from other creatures. I think the environment should be part and parcel of our living," he added.

Ghana Environmental Protection Agency

The Ghana Environmental Protection Agency (EPA Ghana) is an agency under the Ministry of Environment, Science Technology and Innovation. The agency was set up under EPA Act 490 (1994).

It is an agency dedicated to continuously improving and conserving the country’s environment, a country in which all sections of the community price the environment and strive to attain environmentally sustainable development, with sound and efficient resource management, taking into account social and equity issues. The Agency oversees the implementation of the National Environment Policy.

the mission of the EPA is to co-manage, protect, and enhance the country’s environment in particular, inclunding seek common solutions to world environmental problems. The mission of the Agency is to be completed through an integrated environmental planning and management system established on a broad based public participation, efficient implementation of appropriate programmes and technical services; giving good advice on environmental problems inclunding effective and consistent enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. The EPA is an implementing agency, a regulatory body and catalyst for change toward sound environmental stewardship.

The history of the Agency began during the time of growing concern on the dangers posed to the environment through careless human activities. These prompted the United Nations to convene a conference in Stockholm on the human environment in June 1972. At this conference guidelines for action were adopted inclunding the establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The decision to establish the Environment Protection Council was a direct outcome of the recommendations of the Stockholm Conference. Prior to this decision, Ghana was elected by the General Assembly to serve on the Governing Council of 58 nations set up to administer the affairs of the newly created UNEP.

Even before the Stockholm Conference, several bodies in Ghana had by presently taken significant initiatives in various aspects of environmental work. The majority prominent of these bodies were:

The Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE) of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences established as the local counterpart of the international body of the same name.
The Conservation Committee of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
The Ghana Working Group on the Environment, which was an informal group of individual scientists united by common concern about environmental matters.
National committee on the Human Environment formed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1971 as a result of concern expressed by the Economic Commission for Africa and the Organization of African Unity regarding the need to conserve and protect Africa’s natural resources.

Before the Stockholm Conference, Ghana has long felt the need for environmental protection and had prepared the ground for the establishment of a body to transaction with environmental matters in the country.

The Environmental Protection Council (EPC) was set up by the Government of the National Redemption Council[3] led by Col. Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.[4] On 23 May 1973, the Government of the National Redemption Council announced the establishment of an Environmental Protection Council under Chairmanship of Professor E.A Boateng, initial Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast.[5] On 23 January 1974 the Chief of National[6] signed the NRC Decree 239 which established the Environmental Protection Council and later on 4 June 1974 the Environmental Protection Council was inaugurated by the Attorney General, Edward Nathaniel Moore on behalf of the Commissioner of Economic Planning at the National Home.

Leadership of Professor E. A. Boateng

Professor Easmon A Boateng, the initial Executive Chairman,started work of the Council in a temporary accommodation in the headquarters of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in the Airport Residential Area, Accra. Mr. F. K. A. Jiagge was his Secretary. There were ten junior staff inclunding a stenographer secretary, two clerks, three drivers, a receptionist, a messenger and a night watchman. Two senior staff later joined the EPC include Ms Joyce Aryee and Dr. Clement Dorme –Adzobu.The Council had a membership of 16 eminent people from government, organizations and universities. These include Mr E. Lartey (Council for Science and Industrial Research), Mr D. M. Mills (Attorney-General's Department), Dr. E. G. Beausoleil (Ministry of Health), Mr S. K. P. Kanda (Ministry of Industries), Mr B. K. Nketsia (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Mr M. Nicholas (Ministry of Agriculture), Mr J. W. Boateng, (Ghana Water and Sewerage Corporation), Major A. Odjidja (Ghana Tourist Control Board), Mr F. A. A. Acquaah (Meteorological Services Department), Mr J. Bentum-Williams (Ministry of Land and Mineral Resources), Mr P. N. K. Turkson (Ministry of Works and Housing), Mrs S. Al-Hassan and Mr M. K. Adu Badu Government Representatives with F. K. Jiagge as Secretary.

From the beginning the EPC was placed under the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning. The EPC temporary accommodation was moved from Council for Science and Industrial Research headquarters to Ministry of Works and Housing and later to the Old Parliament Home where it operated until 1978 at the same time as it was relocated to the building housing Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation. The building of a permanent headquarters for the Council was started at the Ministries area in 1979 and completed in 1994.
Leadership of Dr B. W. Garbrah

Dr B. W. Garbrah was appointed the Acting Executive Chairman of the EPC in 1981 and in the same year the Council was placed under the Ministry of Health. It was thought that the Council would work better if it is aligned with the Health Sector.

There was dry weather conditions in the country in 1982 so the Council embarked on sensitization on tree planting. There was a national launch for massive afforestation particularly at the same time as a lot of deforestation has occurred between 1972 into the 1980s.[13] With this focus the EPC was relocated to the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to work with the district assemblies to ensure environmental sustainability. As a result in 1983 the government launched the National Bushfire Campaign to minimize bushfires which occurred all over the country. The Council did sensitization programmes to create awareness. Officers traveled all over the country to minimise bush fire occurrence in collaboration with district assemblies and the Ghana National Fire Service.

Leadership of Christine Debrah

Lt Col (rtd) Christine Debrah was appointed as the Executive Chairperson of the EPC in 1985. She undertook to open regional offices to bring environmental protection closer to the people particularly in the northern part of the country. In 1988 the Northern Regional Office was opened in Tamale headed by Edward M. Telly and work began to open additional offices. She placed additional emphases on environmental education. She contributed to the climate change debateStaff attended a lot of international conferences to deliberate on world and national environmental problems and find solutions to these challenges. For her immense contributions Ms. Debrah was given the UNEP World 500 Award and a member of Board of Directors of Climate Institute.

Leadership of Franciska Issaka

In 1990, Ms Franciska Issaka was appointed Acting Executive Chairperson of the EPC. She continued the expansion of the Council by employing additional staff and in 1991 opened the Upper West Regional Office in Wa headed by John Pwamang.[18] She ensured that all the regional offices acquired land for permanent office location.

The Council brought together environmentalists and academicians from the Universities to document the 1991 National Environmental Action Plan,[19] which was later adopted by Government. The same year a lot of of the international environmental protocols were ratified. These include Convention on Biological Diversity[20] signed in 1992 and ratified in 1994, United Nations Framework on Climate Change,signed in 1992. The National Ozone Office was set up in EPC in 1991 to stop the importation of ozone depleting substances into the country next Ghana ratified the Montreal Protocol in 1989.