Ms Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, on Monday called for new and innovative approaches to address coastal and marine environment challenges in a more comprehensive manner.
She said the continued degradation of the coastal and marine environment, in spite of education and other interventions introduced over the years to mitigate their impacts, made it imperative to come up with new approaches.
“If we allow the current trend of degradation to continue, it will lead to likely depletion of the coastal and marine environment resources and pose major threats to our ecosystems with devastating economic and social consequences to our Exclusive Economic Zones,” she said.
Ms Ayittey was speaking, in Accra, at a three-day final negotiations meeting on the Abidjan Convention Draft Protocol, which involves cooperation in the protection of marine and coastal environment from Land-Based Sources and Activities (LBSA) in Western, Central and Southern African Regions.
The draft text of the LBSA protocol was developed through a consultative process which involved the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Interim Guinea Current Commission of the Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem (GCLME), UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO, among others.
The Minister said the meeting was taking place in the wake of re-formation of the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, which had the statutory mandate, among other functions, to provide policy guidance and direction required for the sustainable exploitation and utilization of resources within the coastal and marine environment.
She said the main challenges facing the sustainable use of coastal and marine resources were the loss of natural habitat and biodiversity due to land-based economic activities affecting the coastal and marine ecosystems and the consequent loss of any opportunity of exploiting renewable living resources.
“Experts are warning that precious estuaries may become even more polluted than they already are, as less freshwater flows to the coast from rivers and groundwater sources. There is the need to acknowledge these dangers now and take remedial measures so that our coasts may be able to cope with the challenges anticipated,” she added.
Ms Ayittey therefore called on governments to publish their national policies for sustainable coastal development and a broad plan of action to achieve a balance between material prosperity and the integrity of the coastal and marine environment.
Mr Dixon Waruinge, UNEP Representative, said the LBSA Protocol under negotiations, once incorporated into national laws, would be an important regional instrument for preventing, reducing, mitigating and controlling pollution emanating from land-based sources and activities in the Abidjan Convention areas.
He announced that the likely impacts, from the melting of glaciers and the threats to perhaps up to one-third of Africa's coastal infrastructure, had been brought into sharp focus by the 4th Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report of 2007.
Mr Waruinge said in Africa, the increased stress from the impacts of climate change, would compound the already existing problems associated with increasing severe droughts and floods.
“Besides the climate change impacts, the marine ecosystem is further stressed by pollution from land-based sources and activities. Land-based sources account for over 80 per cent of all pollution,” he said.
Mr Waruinge said the oceans needed to be protected because they provided a number of valuable services to coastal communities, including physical coastal protection, recreational and economic opportunities in the form of renewable living marine resources as a source of nutrition and revenue from exports, oil, gas, minerals and potential biomedical resources.