Overexploitation of mangroves threatening coastal ecosystems – EPA boss

BY: Zadok Kwame Gyesi
Participants at the National Consultations on Action Plans for Additional Protocols to the Abidjan Convention
Participants at the National Consultations on Action Plans for Additional Protocols to the Abidjan Convention

The Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr Kwabena Henry Kokofu, has noted with concern that the overexploitation of mangroves for fuelwood and settlement development along coastal communities in the country is rapidly altering the habitat and reducing the resilience of coastal ecosystem.

For him, due to the rapid destruction of mangroves, coastal ecosystem can no longer provide environmental services, including erosion control and habitat for spawning and nursery of juvenile fishes.

He explained that anthropogenic activities such as illicit dumping of solid and liquid waste, reclamation of wetlands for development projects, shoreline erosion as well as climate change have all contributed to the degradation of coastal resources.

National consultations

Dr Kokofu made the remarks at the opening of a three-day national consultations for the review of   action plans for the additional protocol to the Abidjan Convention on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 in Accra.

Dubbed: “National Consultations on Action Plans for Additional Protocols to the Abidjan Convention,” the three-day meeting would enable stakeholders from academia, department and agencies, research institutions, ministries, civil society, among others to discuss the Action Plans of six additional Protocols that had been adopted in recent times.

The Abidjan Convention is a legal tool for cooperation in the protection and development of the marine environment and coastal region of the West, Central, and Southern Africa.

The six additional protocol instruments developed are the Protocol on Pollution from Land Sources and Activities (LBSA), Protocol on Environmental Standards Associated with Offshore Oil and Gas Activities, Protocol on Integrated Coastal Management (GIZC), Protocol on Sustainable Mangrove Management (Mangrove), and Regional Integrated Ocean Management Policy (IOM).

The Convention within its framework, coordinated the development of additional protocols for the region, which was adopted in 2019, and further developed action plans to operationalise the protocols by respective countries.

Concern

Dr Kokofu further expressed worry that shoreline erosion, for instance, had impacted on habitats for marine turtles and tourism while a number of coastal habitats “have been eroded by invasive species, particularly sargassum species which is plaguing most West African countries.”

For him, it was necessary that immediate actions are taken to halt the rapid destruction of coastal ecosystems in the country and other West African countries in order to help sustain the livelihoods of the several coastal dwellers.  

“…these happenings in our coastal environment are of great concern and it is important we all contribute to ensuring that the coastal and marine resources are sustainably managed,” he said, adding “We are all aware of the importance of the coastal zone to the socio-economic development of human kind and the ecological and environmental services it provides.”

Dr Kokofu said mangroves, marshy areas, estuaries, and the beach front, for instance, provided valuable services such as water purification, flood regulation, carbon dioxide sequestration and shoreline stabilisation.”

Touching on the three-day National Consultations on Action Plans for Additional Protocols to the Abidjan Convention, he expressed the hope that “the action plans will engender coordination and synergise policies, regulations and initiatives in member states and strengthen governance in the management of shared resources.”

Cooperation

The Chief Director of the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation (MESTI), Mrs Cynthia Asare Bediako, said the country had benefited considerably from signing onto the convention, particularly in the areas of capacity building, strengthening in coastal zone management, and the development of Ghana’s Oil Spill Contingency and Coastal Sensitivity Atlas, management of invasive weeds.

For her, “the Abidjan Convention Region is among one of the highly productive and diverse ecosystems that support fisheries, coastal tourism, industries, minerals, ports, oil extraction” and needed the cooperation of all the member states.

She has, therefore, pledged Ghana’s commitment to the course of the Abijan Convention, saying Ghana remains committed to the course of cooperating in protecting and managing our collective shared marine and coastal resources within the region.”

Mrs Asare Bediako added, “We welcome the action plans developed to support the implementation of the Abijan Protocol.”