Oil companies urged to conduct health impact assessment in catchment areas

Firms operating in the oil and gas sector have been called upon to, as a matter of urgency, conduct health impact assessment (HIA) in their catchment areas.

That exercise will provide the companies with an overall understanding of the wider public health and related impact that their activities are likely to have on their immediate communities and staff.

The Programme Manager for Occupational and Environmental Health of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Edith Clarke, made the call at a day’s stakeholder consultation on monitoring of health in oil and gas development organised by the GHS and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Accra.

The HIA involves carrying out analysis on the industry and how it is likely to impact on the health, as well as conduct health baseline to determine the health status of inhabitants in the catchment areas.

It will also entail implementing mitigating measures to address the negative and positive impacts observed and put in place a health monitoring plan to monitor activities of their commitment.

The programme sought to explain to key collaborators the rationale for the health sector’s initiative and the benefit to be derived from the proposed arrangement, seek support and identify the roles of various stakeholders, as well as brainstorm on possible sources of funding for the initiative.

While emphasising the need to take issues of health in oil and gas catchment areas seriously, Dr Clarke said  development in those areas did rake in revenue but also came with several  attendant problems.

‘This can have implications for income earning potential and result in competition for limited resources, including health and social services,’ she said.

‘Rapid demographic change can affect communicable disease patterns such as sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and AIDS and can increase social stressors and tension which could result in mental health problems, increased violence and alcohol consumption,’ she added.

The Deputy Director of Oil and Gas at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr Kojo Efunam, said there were about 12 impact assessment programmes covering the extractive industry and suggested the integration of the various impact assessments to enhance coherence and avoid duplication.

The day’s consultation brought together representatives from the Petroleum Commission, the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, the Energy Commission, the EPA, WHO, the GHS, the Minerals Commission and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Health.

By Fred Dzakpata & Rosina Blankson/Daily Graphic/Ghana

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