|Yaw Amoyaw-Osei, IAIA President (2015-2016)|
Impact Assessment (IA) or Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as it is commonly referred to in Ghana, is a process for the systematic analysis of the likely environmental, socio-economic, and cultural and health effects of a proposed development.
EIA is also described as the process by which the anticipated effects on the environment of a proposed development or project are measured.
If the likely effects are unacceptable, design measures or other relevant mitigation measures can be taken to reduce or avoid those effects.
The EIA is also geared at indicating the measures required to mitigate and manage the effects of any development, to ensure environmentally sound and socially acceptable projects.
It is also a sustainable development tool that is applied in almost every country of the world and relied upon by international and multi-lateral financing organisations such as the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the African Development Bank and Development Partners to ensure that they are financing developments that are environmentally sound and sustainable.
At the apex of IA or EIA and other related assessment tools such as Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Social IA (SIA), Health IA (HIA) and Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA), is the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA).
IAIA is the leading global network of professionals in best practice in the use of EIA, for informed decision making on policies, plans, programmes and projects.
Its values include promoting integrated and participatory approaches to IA, contributing to sound decision making processes for equitable and sustainable development, respect for human rights, and exercising a duty of care to future generations.
The IAIA strives to advance knowledge and innovation in best practices in the diverse facets of Impact Assessment, through conferences such as pre-conference workshops and field experience, as well as symposia to build capacity within particular regions, through workshops and session events.
The global body also holds training programmes, expands professional networks and creates opportunities for intellectual dialogue on pertinent topics and the provision of special guidelines and many publications.
IAIA, which has membership from over 125 countries worldwide, with a diverse mix of professional backgrounds in the field of IA, also operates at the local country level with its affiliates and branches in various countries and regions, such as the Ghana Affiliate of IAIA (IAIA-Ghana).
Each year, somewhere in the world, IAIA holds an annual conference where experts from all fields of IA can come together, which attracts over 1000 experts. This year, the 36th Annual Conference of IAIA took place in Nagoya, Japan, from May 11 to May 14, 2016 under its Ghanaian President, Mr Yaw Amoyaw-Osei.
Opening the conference, the Mr Amoyaw-Osei said, “‘Impact Assessment: Resilience and Sustainability’ as the conference theme, takes Impact Assessment back to its roots of contributing to safeguarding environmental systems, and is most appropriate for the emerging sustainability challenges from contemporary developments.”
Presenting the 2015 Annual Report, the president catalogued landmark achievements including a new 3-year IAIA Strategic Plan (2016 - 2018); publication of the Social Impact Assessment: Guidance for assessing and managing the social impacts of projects, in both English and Spanish; partnership with the World Bank and the European Investment Bank (EIB) in facilitating review of the World Bank’s new Environment and Social Framework; and EIB’s Climate Action Policy respectively.
Ghana’s role in IAIA
Ghana has been involved in IAIA conferences and activities over the past 20 years and in 2009 hosted the IAIA Annual Conference in Accra as one of the only three African countries to host an IAIA Annual Conference. The Accra conference is reckoned as one of the most successful conferences of IAIA.
The Ghana Affiliate of IAIA was established in 1997 but Ghana’s involvement in IAIA dates back earlier in the mid-90s.
Ghana’s relationship with IAIA has been of tremendous benefit to Ghana’s EIA system which is overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
However, besides the capacity building of its IA professionals, EIA development in Ghana is intrinsically linked to its involvement in IAIA.
Power of the EPA
The EPA is empowered under section 2 (i) of the EPA Act 1994 to ensure compliance with any laid down environmental impact assessment procedures in the planning and execution of development projects, including compliance in respect of existing projects.
It is also authorised under section 2 (f) of the EPA Act 1994 to issue environmental permits and pollution abatement notices for controlling waste discharges, emissions, deposits or other sources of pollutants.
Under section 2 (h) it is the EPA’s function "to prescribe standards and guidelines relating to air, water, land and other forms of environmental pollution including the discharge of wastes and the control of toxic substances."
Under section 12 (1) "The Agency may by notice in writing require any person responsible for any undertaking, which in the opinion of the Agency has or is likely to have adverse effect on the environment to submit to the Agency in respect of the undertaking an environmental impact assessment containing such information within such period as shall be specified in the notice".
Also, under Section 15(1), The EPA working through Environment Protection Inspectors (EPIs) referred to in the Act as "Inspectors" have power to enter and inspect at any reasonable time premises for the purpose of ensuring compliance with environmental law.
EIA in Ghana
Ghana has been touted as having one of the most robust and a functional EIA system in the world and the EPA has traditionally hosted training courses and tours for several African countries to understudy the Ghana system.
For instance, in 1994, the first formal Public Hearing in Ghana (and perhaps in Africa) was on the Aboadze (VRA) Thermal Power Plant EIA held in Takoradi and the EPA demonstrated competence in the review of the country’s first major environmentally complex energy project to the admiration of the international funding Agencies, including the World Bank. The regulation of the extractive Industries (mining development) and the introduction of the Reclamation Bond in the 90s were unprecedented.
Ghana has played pioneering role also in the EIA of large-scale capital infrastructure projects, which have all been rendered environmentally sound and sustainable and approved, through the EIA system, or some declined approval, for example, for wrong siting.
Others have been required to institute relevant mitigation measures for environmental sustainability sake. For example, the siting of the Accra Airport City’s sewage treatment plant could not be allowed on the ceremonial Independence Road (opposite Opeibea House).
In more recent times, effective IA regulation of offshore hydrocarbon development, through an initial national offshore Oil and Gas SEA, has laid a solid foundation for the sustainable management of that emerging sector.
Ghana has also played a key role in supporting other African countries to build capacity for implementation of EIA systems. The country’s leadership under the Capacity Linkages for Environmental Impact Assessment in Africa project contributed immensely in providing a solid platform and network for experience sharing in the region.
There is ,however, the tendency, unfortunately to take IA for granted but every nation that disregards IA or EIA, does so at its own peril and it’s completely out of reckoning with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on June 20, 2016