The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has allayed fears of displacement of people in the Keta Basin in the Volta Region in the wake of onshore exploration.
According to the EPA, the anxiety is premature as studies to identify potential oil find areas is ongoing and there will be broader consultations and impact mitigation measures for people likely to be affected subsequently.
The Deputy Director, Petroleum Department at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr Kojo Agbenor-Efunam told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS that the government would ensure that all issues were addressed and onshore exploration would rather inure to the benefit of residents.
Already, the partners - Swiss Africa Oil Company, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and Pet Volta Limited- have submitted a scoping report which covers activities it intends to carry out in the basin and the impact after which it would proceed to do a seismic study to identify the potential areas of oil find.
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“After the seismic study, the company has a year to do a thorough assessment and determine the possible areas of oil find before we go into exploration. We do not even need to talk about figures now. We can only talk about the figures when we are at the development stage, that is when the company has found oil and they are sure they are going to start development.”
“The displacement will come when large areas are going to be taken by the company and in those areas we already have some people living there,” he said.
Environmental Impact Assessment
The company is expected to conduct an environmental impact statement to the EPA after its seismic study for discussions to start on how it intends to mitigate the negative impacts and that would set the tone for discussions.
Subsequently, a team from the petroleum department of the EPA, the Petroleum Commission and all relevant agencies would review the Environmental Impact statement and the public would also have the opportunity to make inputs into the document as it would be deposited at various places to discuss the issues.
Mr Agebnor- Affunam said people who are identified to be affected by exploration would be duly briefed and compensation packages available would be made known to them.
“If the company should come up and say that by putting up this facility here and there, they would have to displace this number of people, we would take a look at it and document whatever package is made available by the company for the people.”
“The next thing is to go to the people and let them know the issue. They are coming to develop this area but then you are going to be affected but this is what the company has provided for them and if they agree, we go along,” he explained.
We are about 12 years away from that if you start counting today. All these issues would be addressed by then," he said.
ACEP urges caution
The Executive Director of energy think tank,the Africa Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), Mr Benjamin Boakye in a separate interview said although onshore exploration was expected to affect people, the environmental impact assessment should be a guide on how to mitigate the impact.
He said a clearer picture of the impact would be known after the EIA had been carried out, although the implications of onshore exploration was higher than offshore.
“For onshore exploration, it affects many people because lands are affected. Definitely, some farm lands would be affected in laying the pipelines and getting the infrastructure so impact tends to be greater than onshore,” he said.
Mr Boakye said once the assessment had been done, “then you can map out the impact and if the impact outweighs the benefits, then you would not have to go ahead but the study has to be done to get the picture.” — GB