This is the third in a series of articles focusing on the manifestos of political parties and candidates contesting in the 2020 Presidential election in Ghana.
My focus in these articles has been to review and provide commentary on the manifesto promises and programs on Environment and Sanitation.
These articles are deliberately non-prescriptive. Here, I provide a general overview of the entire NDC manifesto and then list the key policies and programs proffered by the party on environment and sanitation.
I then provide commentary on the promises and highlight some potential challenges that are likely to crop up during its implementation.
Overview of NDC 2020 manifesto
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) launched its much-awaited manifesto for the 2020 elections on 7th September 2020.
The 143-page document has since been the topic of discussion on various political platforms. The NDC claims the manifesto contains the aspirations and desires of the Ghanaian people expressed at various fora organised by the party to solicit inputs into the writing of the document.
The manifesto has been dubbed The Peoples Manifesto to reflect this claim.
The pages of the manifesto are littered with pledges and promises of what an NDC government will do between 2021 and 2025 ranging from a $10 billion investment in infrastructure to the provision of free sanitary products to schoolgirls below 20 years of age.
The NDC’s programs and policies have been grouped under six thematic areas namely, ‘Fixing the Economy and Uniting Against Poverty’, ‘Promoting Human Development’, ‘Providing Infrastructure for Accelerated Growth’, ‘Creating Sustainable and Decent Jobs’ “Edwuma Pa”, ‘Good Governance, Anti-Corruption and Accountability’, and ‘Deepening International Relations and Foreign Affairs’.
Policies and programs on Environment and Sanitation
Environmental and Sanitation issues have been captured under three (3) of the thematic areas listed above. The programs on environment and sanitation are numerous so I focus on a few key ones in this article. The specific promises are listed below.
- equip and motivate the Ghana Meteorology Agency for climate adaptation and mitigation and sustainable development
- the NDC is committed to renewable energy as a clean, climate-friendly, electricity solution for households, remote communities and light industries. The next NDC Government will deliver a golden age of renewables.
- ensure gender mainstreaming in environmental issues and develop targeted solutions for implementation
- reintroduce ZOIL to involve the youth in planting coconut for coastal protection against climate change and job creation.
- reduce the rate of deforestation and forest degradation
- create and maintain healthy and resilient forests to support habitat for wildlife, carbon sequestration and opportunity for outdoor recreation
- create a Youth in Climate Change and Afforestation Programme (YiCCAP) in partnership with the private sector for afforestation and job creation.
- ensure the sustainability of water sources by halting reckless projects like the proposed mining of the Atewa forest that is rapidly depleting our natural water reservoirs through evapo-transpiration
- establish a Waste Management Fund by amending the Customs and Excise (Duties and Other Taxes) (Amendment) Act, 2013 (Act 863), to garner the resources needed to address waste management and create green jobs as part of our response to global climate change
- establish the Plastic Waste Recycling Fund provided for under laws already passed.
- formulate a National Sanitation Policy and strengthen the role of MMDAs in sanitation as enshrined in the Local Governance Act, 2016 (Act 936)
- improve liquid waste management working with indigenous businesses to build wastewater treatment and recycling plants first for public institutions that have common sewer systems and then for major industrial establishments, estates, and settlement areas
- transform waste into value to ensure a clean Ghana and create jobs by converting waste to energy
- empower the Sanitation Courts and enforce sanitation laws.
Comments on NDC manifesto promises and programs on environment and sanitation
The NDC has obviously taken time to consider various environmental and sanitation issues and crafted policies and programs that will help to alleviate them if not resolve them completely.
The environmental and sanitation policies in the manifesto are presented in an easy to understand language and covers most of the key problems that bedevil the country in this sector. The manifesto recognises the global ecological and climate challenges that have arisen as result of humanity’s disregard for the environment.
The framers of the manifesto are right in saying that “We are warming the climate. We are destroying forests. We are mining deep into the earth. We are melting polar ice caps. We are polluting oceans”.
Some of the promises in the manifesto stand out for me. For instance, the promise to deliver a golden age of renewables is refreshing because several countries and corporations are switching to renewables as a means of reducing their carbon footprint and mitigating against dangerous climate change.
As part of efforts to realise this goal, the NDC further promises to ensure that all new government buildings incorporate solar systems in their designs, cost and implementation while retrofitting existing government buildings with solar systems.
Ghana has an advantage in the area of solar power generation because of its location near the equator. There is about 11 hours of sunlight in almost every part of Ghana which means that there is potential to generate high amounts of solar power anywhere in the country.
Another promise that I find interesting is the decision to halt bauxite mining in the Atewa forest as part of efforts to ensure sustainability of water sources.
The Atewa Forest contains the headwaters of three important rivers—the Densu, Birim and Ayensu Rivers—that provide water to more than 5 million Ghanaians, including those living in the capital city, Accra. It is also home to hundreds of butterfly species and several endangered wildlife species.
These are the reasons why campaign groups like Ghana Youth Environmental Movement and individuals like Leonardo DiCaprio have been calling on the government of Ghana to stop mining activities in this particular forest. The NDC manifesto is silent on what will happen to the supply of bauxite/alumna to the Chinese as part of the $2 billion loan agreement after mining is halted in Atewa.
As someone who has worked with the Ghana Meteorological Agency for several years and who appreciates the challenges the organisation faces, it is refreshing to see that the NDC plans to retool the agency to play its rightful role in national climate change policy.
However, I read this promise with some degree of skepticism because successive governments have promised to retool the agency and ended up doing very little when it mattered most. Again, this pledge is lacking in specific details about what exactly equipping and motivating the agency entails.
Converting waste to energy has the potential to provide access to a cheaper source energy and simultaneously solve two of the biggest problems that Ghanaian governments have had to deal with; unemployment and filth.
When a party promises to convert waste into value as the NDC has done, it is good news. However, the manifesto doesn’t provide details as to whether this will be a publicly funded venture, public-private partnership or private enterprise. The mode of financing of such a policy could determine its success or otherwise.
Indeed, the most obvious problem with the NDCs manifesto pledges on environment is the lack of costing and funding sources from which these projects will be funded. The lack of costing makes it difficult to assess the feasibility or otherwise of these pledges.
The party seems to be banking its hopes on the private sector to provide the necessary investments needed to deal with the sanitation problems facing the country.
Successive governments have failed in their attempts to regularize or streamline galamsey activities. Such efforts often end with the galamsey operators going back to continue their destructive activities on our water bodies and forests.
Therefore, the promise by the NDC to allow galamsey operators to return to their mining activities albeit in a streamlined manner is likely to face a similar fate.
This policy seems to be at variance with the party’s promises on environmental protection and sustainability and appears to be contradictory to the pledge to “establish a National Mining and Forestry Initiative to help tackle illegal logging and illegal mining (Galamsey)”. Does tackling illegal mining here mean regularisation and if so, how will things be done differently to ensure prevent the destruction associated with galamsey? Answers to these questions are missing from the manifesto.
Some of the policies are vague while others seem to be an attempt to duplicate already existing programs. Though the promise to “reduce the rate of deforestation and forest degradation” is very important towards achieving the countries pledges under the Paris Climate Agreement, it lacks clarity that will enable independent observers to track its progress.
What will be the rate of reduction in deforestation in the next four years? What specific measure will be deployed to stop or slow the rate of deforestation? Answers to these questions are lacking from the manifesto but are crucial for assessing progress on this promise.
The Forestry Commission of Ghana already has an afforestation program which is restoring degraded forests and planting new ones.
Most of those engaged by the forestry commission in this program are youthful. Creating a new organisation,Youth in Climate Change and Afforestation Programme (YiCCAP),to deal with climate change and afforestation will be a duplication of roles.
It is obvious from reading the manifesto that the NDC carefully thought about the challenges within the environment and sanitation sector in drafting this document.
Through the Peoples manifesto, the NDC has made it clear what they intend to do about these challenges if it forms the next government of Ghana.
The solutions proposed are doable, but the lack of costing makes it difficult to comment on the feasibility or otherwise of these programs and policies. The NDC plans to create a Plastic Waste Recycling and Waste Management Fund to provide financing for its sanitation related programs.
However, considering the enormity of the sanitation challenge in Ghana, the proposed funds are unlikely to be adequate. Additional resources will be required if these pledges are to become a reality. Overall, the Peoples Manifesto proposes bold initiatives that could go a long way to improve environmental and sanitation conditions within Ghana.
By: Frederick Otu-Larbi │ PhD Researcher, Lancaster University, UK │ Email: [email protected]