The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun a series of public hearing to clear misconceptions and receive feedback from various districts to be affected by onshore exploration in the Volta Region.
The week-long activity, which will provide the platform for relevant stakeholders and the public to present their concerns about the project, is in accordance with the Environmental Assessment Regulations 1999, LI 1652 ( Regulation 17).
The decision to hold the public hearing is to elicit concerns and expectations from communities about the proposed 2D Seismic Survey by Swiss African Oil Company in the Keta Delta Block as the country prepares to venture into onshore exploration. Participants will also get the opportunity to propose mitigation measures and to address key public concerns.
The Deputy Director, Petroleum Department at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr Kojo Agbenor-Efunam told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS on May 30 ahead of the hearing that “any time there is a project coming up and there is agitation in the community in which the project is to be located, the law requires that we do a public hearing.”
He said another reason given by the law for public hearing is that if in the opinion of the EPA, the project will have a far reaching effects of environmental issues, then the agency can hold a public hearing on the project.
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“Again, at the public hearing, the proponent of the project will present what they want to do and also highlight any likely environmental impact, as well as the mitigation measures and the public will also get the opportunity to ask questions and answers would be provided,” he said.
Agitations and misconceptions
Mr Agbenor-Efunam told the paper that the forum was also to get the public, especially the agitators about the project to understand exactly what the project is all about.
“There is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that is peddling misinformation among the people about the project and with the public hearing, all the misinformation in the public will be cleared and doubts and questions will be answered,” he said.
According to him, the NGO, which he did not name, had managed to convince the people that they would not be able to farm again as their lands will be taken from them and they will be relocated.
He said they were also told the Keta Lagoon will be heavily polluted like the Niger Delta, hence they cannot use the lagoon again and also the company will use dynamite in the exploration and this will damage their buildings.
Presumptions too early
He said the partners in the Keta Basin - Swiss Africa Oil Company, the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) and Pet Volta Limited- were yet to do the environmental impact assessment (EIA).
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.
“It is after the EIA that we can know for certain the impacts and how to mitigate them. It is too early for anyone to be making those allegations. The company is in the exploration phase. They don't even know yet whether there is oil to drill,” he explained.
The company has , however, 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.