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The Meeting of the Regional Working Group on Pollution and Ecosystem Health

Introduction

Approximately 40% of the Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem (GCLME) region's 300 million people (more than 1/2 of the population of the African continent) live in the coastal areas of the GCLME, many of whom are dependent on the lagoons, estuaries, creeks and inshore waters surrounding them for their food security and well being. Rivers, lagoons, inshore and offshore waters of the GCLME serve as important sources of animal protein in the form of fish and shellfish, as well as provide significant income through coastal fisheries.

These marine and coastal areas, including their upstream freshwater regions, are at present affected by a number of anthropogenic activities: over-exploitation of fishery resources; impacts from the land-based settlements’ activities; industrial, agricultural and urban effluents and domestic sewage and other mining activities such as oil and gas exploration (in particular, off the coasts of Angola, Cameroon, Gabon and Nigeria), resulting in the deterioration of water quality in the GCLME. However, there are still many questions about the sources and extent of land and sea- based pollution with no historical monitoring networks in the Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem to provide data needed to answer these questions.

It is against this background that the GCLME organized the Meeting of the Regional Working Group on Pollution and Ecosystem Health, held in Accra Ghana, in the Conference Room of the Regional Coordination Unit, from 10th to 14th April 2006, which constituted a scientific and technical forum for discussions on methodologies of pollution monitoring and reduction strategies.

2. Objectives

  1. To identify and assess land and sea- based pollution and ecosystem health;\
  2. To introduce the effects of pollution in coastal ecosystem, useful approaches to problem definition, and the importance of a regional perspective in the restoration and management of ecosystem health;
  3. To contribute to the development of capabilities regarding methodologies of pollution monitoring and reduction strategies;
  4. To discuss national case studies elaborated by participants;
  5. To determine and address training needs in the region for the prevention and control of land and sea based sources of pollution;
  6. To identify, strengthen and involve stakeholders in land and sea- based pollution issues in the region, including their involvement in monitoring and evaluation, as well as development of performance indicators.

During the Workshop, participating countries were expected to evaluate, improve and validate the “Training Manual on the Development of the National Programme of Action (NPA)” (February 2006 version) and the “Marine Pollution Monitoring Manual” (March 2006 version).

3. Participants

Pollution experts from fourteen of the sixteen GCLME member countries took part in the Workshop namely: Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sao Tome & Principe, Sierra Leone and Togo (see Annex 4: List of Participants). The consultant for the Workshop was the Chairman of the GCLME Pollution and Ecosystem Health Working Group, Prof. Ayite Ajavon.

4. Opening Ceremony

The official opening for the Meeting of the Regional Working Group on Pollution and Ecosystem Health was performed on Monday, 10th April 2006 at 9:45 a.m. by the Minister for Environment and Science, Hon. Christine Churcher and chaired by the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr. Jonathan Allotey. Present at the ceremony were Prof. Alfred Oteng Yeboah, Deputy Director General for Environment and Health, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Prof. Ayite Ajavon, Chairman of the GCLME Pollution and Ecosystem Health Working Group.

The Chairperson cited pollution from land-based activities as one of the major concerns of countries in the GCLME region and emphasized efforts by the Government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Environment and Science and the EPA to combat pollution.

The Regional Director, Professor Chidi Ibe, thanked the Hon. Minister for her support and total commitment to combating pollution in the sub-region. Reiterating the mandate of the GCLME project, “Combating Living Resource Depletion and Coastal Area Degradation, through Ecosystem-based Regional Actions” he emphasized that the enormous marine resources potential and ecosystem health of the GCLME were being threatened by pollution. To the participants, he expressed gratitude for their continued support for the project and stressed that the main objective of the Workshop was to validate the two draft manuals, “Training Manual on the Development of the National Programme of Action (NPA)” and the “Marine Pollution Monitoring Manual”.

The Minister for Environment and Science underlined the importance of the trans-boundary approach in solving the problem of pollution in the region. She asked participants to take advantage of partnerships to build regional capacity to fully address transboundary environmental challenges, using appropriate techniques and strategies. She stated that this Workshop provided a platform for discussing the strengths and weaknesses in developing such sector specific policies to fully address these challenges (Annex 5).

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