International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Ghana

The basis of Environmental Policy in Ghana is grounded in Article 36(9) of the 1992 Constitution. The Direct Principles of State Policy places a responsibility on every Ghanaian and the government to protect and safeguard the environment for posterity. It explicitly requires the government to take relevant steps aimed at the protection and defence of the national environment for future generations.

Under the Directive Principles of State Policy, the Constitution reads: “The State shall take appropriate measures needed to protect and safeguard the national environment for posterity; and shall seek cooperation with other states and bodies for purposes of protecting the wider international environment for mankind.”

Article 87 outlines the Functions of the National Development Planning Commission, stating the commission must “make proposals for the protection of the natural and physical environment.”

Policy instruments such as environmental impact assessments, Parliamentary Acts and legislation, environmental guidelines, environmental taxes and environmental permitting standards aim to operationalise the broad environmental policy directives in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.

Featured Legislation

1993: The Minerals Commission Act was signed, serving as the main regulatory body in the minerals and mining sector. The legislation is responsible for “the regulation and management of the utilization of policies relating to mining.”

1994: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Act was passed. The Act subsequently established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This legislation amends and consolidates the law relating to environmental protection, pesticides control and regulation for related purposes. It also establishes the Hazardous Chemicals Committee and empowers the Board to create such departments and divisions as and when necessary. Finally, it repealed the Environmental Protection Council Decree of 1976.

1996: The Water Resources Commission was established by a Parliamentary Act (522). Its mandate includes regulating and managing Ghana’s water resources as well as streamlining government policies in the water resources industry.

1999: The Environmental Assessment Regulations (EAR) were created pursuant to the EPA Act. The EAR (amended in 2002) requires that before the commencement of any activity which relates to the environment, such an activity must be registered by the EPA and an environment permit issued. Activities which have the potential to adversely affect the environment include:

  • Mining
  • Construction
  • Logging
  • Oil marketing

2001: The Ghana Environmental Assessment Capacity Development Programme (GEACaP) was launched with support from the Netherlands government. The mandate of the program was to help all relevant institutions in achieving their respective obligations, and to promote sustainable economic development in Ghana.

2005: The Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST) called upon the Ghana Environmental Convention Coordinating Authority (GECCA) to coordinate the ratification and implementation of international conventions and treaties on the environment. Some of these Conventions and Treaties include the:

  • Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
  • Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
  • Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Conventions on Climate Change
  • Paris Agreement on Climate Change

2006: The Minerals and Mining Act was adopted. The legislation ensures that, among other things, a holder of a mining license must obtain the necessary environmental permits.

2012: The Forest and Wildlife Policy was tabled. The overall aim of the present Forest and Wildlife Policy is the conservation and sustainable development of forest and wildlife resources for the maintenance of environmental stability and continuous flow of optimum benefits from the socio-cultural and economic goods and services that the forest environment provides to the present and future generations whilst fulfilling Ghana’s commitments under international agreements and conventions. Its specific objectives are as follows: 1) to manage and enhance the ecological integrity of Ghana’s forest, savannah, wetlands and other ecosystems for the preservation of vital soil and water resources, conservation of biological diversity, and enhancing carbon stocks for sustainable production of domestic and commercial produce; 2) to promote the rehabilitation and restoration of degraded landscapes through forest plantation development, enrichment planting, and community forestry informed by appropriate land-use practices to enhance environmental quality and sustain the supply of raw materials for domestic and industrial consumption and for environmental protection; 3) to promote the development of viable forest and wildlife based industries and livelihoods, particularly in the value added processing of forest and wildlife resources that satisfy domestic and international demand for competitively-priced quality products; 4) to promote and develop mechanisms for transparent governance, equity sharing and citizens’ participation in forest and wildliferesource management; 5) Promoting training, research and technology development that supports sustainable forest management.

2020: The Ghana Vision Policy was unveiled. It is a national policy with a multi-sectoral approach and in line with the National Development Policy Framework and the Co-ordinated Programme of Economic and Social Development Policies. The timeframe of the policy is 25 years between 1996 and 2020. The overall objective of the Vision 2020 is to become a middle-income country by 2020 through human development, economic growth, rural development, urban development and an enabling environment.

  • “(1) Before undertaking an activity or operation under a mineral right, the holder of the mineral right shall obtain the necessary approvals and permits required from the Forestry Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency for the protection of natural resources, public health and the environment.
  • (2) Without limiting subsection (1), a holder of a mineral right shall comply with the applicable Regulations made under this Act and any other enactment for the protection of the environment in so far as relates to exploitation of minerals.”

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • A fishing port on the south coast of Ghana, Elmina is a hub for illegal fishing operations. In fact, the locals have a name for the systemic issue: ’saiko’. ‘Saiko’ is an informal system of trading between the industrial trawlers and the local canoe fishers; the former focus on high-value, export-oriented seafood, while the latter target small open water fish, such as anchovies and sardinella. Of late, however, trawlers have dominated the fishing industry, catching smaller species as by-catch and trading it with local canoe fishers for supplies: fresh water, fruit, even livestock. Anchovies and sardinella serve as staples for local communities but the presence of industrial trawlers has depleted small fish populations, forcing locals to purchase seafood from unscrupulous businessmen who are taking hold of the industry’s lucrative sector. The latest estimates suggest the fishing industry is worth over US$50 million annually, but Ghana’s marine ecosystems are overexploited and on the brink of collapse because of these industrial trawlers. Environmental NGOs argue that Ghana’s  fishery could collapse within five years unless interventions are made. The situation is so dire that locals are now forced to import well over half of the fish consumed. Environmental concerns are accompanied by food security issues because locals depend on fish for their livelihood and the threat of systemic Illegal fishing evades national sanctions – especially due to the fact that 90% of trawlers are owned by Chinese companies, despite legislation banning foreign ownership of vessels.

References and Further Reading


The Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation: