Friday, October 19, 2012

Oil and Gas Platform calls for probe into Ghana Gas Company's operations

Dr. Steve Manteaw (4th from left), Chair, Steering Committee of the
Civil Society Oil & GAs Platform addressing the press 
The Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas, has called for a high level forensic probe into the operations of the Ghana National Gas Company (GNGC), because its establishment and operations have not followed due process.
Among other things, the Platform has cited the registration of GNGC as a limited liability company while funding it 100 percent with money from the state, as incongruous.
At a heavily attended press conference addressed yesterday, October 18, 2012 in Accra, by Dr. Steve Manteaw, the Platform’s Chair, the group stated; “The registration of GNGC as a limited liability company, while funding it 100% with public money, is in our view an anomaly that makes it difficult for the exercise for the kind of public oversight that are the norm with public companies such as the Volta River Authority, the Ghana National Petroleum Company, Electricity Company of Ghana etc.”
In a seven point concern tabled in a statement issued at the Press meet, the Platform also expressed worry that the gas infrastructure project currently underway has not been approved by Parliament, while an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment required for projects of this nature is yet to be complied with.
Other concerns conveyed were that because the company was established by the presidency without recourse to the sector ministry, it undermines the authority of the ministry, adding that they view it as improper for Dr. Kwesi Botchwey and Dr. Sipa Yankey, who worked on the feasibility and road map to developing Ghana’s gas resource, to have benefited from their report to the President, by their appointment to the company that emerged as part of the implementation of their recommendations.
Also of utmost concern to the Civil Society Platform is the fact that although the 2012 budget and economic policy statement of the Republic of Ghana estimates that the country loses about $36 million annually through transfer pricing, for which reason Ghana with support from the EU has developed new rules, SINOPEC, a Chinese company working on Ghana’s gas infrastructure has been able to inflate its purchases from a related company.
“We are concerned about the relatively high cost and low liquid recovery of the gas plant being procured for the project,” the Platform capped its list of concerns.
According to them, the Sinopec International Petroleum Services Corporation (SIPSC) is delivering a processing plant that will cost $40 million more than another plant which is considered superior by virtue of having five additional features, including specifications that are favourable to the Volta River Authority (VRA).
“Various simulations indicate, for instance, that the ‘superior’ plant would yield additional revenues in excess of $100 million every year, translating to about $360,000 per day,” the Platform disclosed, saying “In addition, the 45-kilometre shallow water pipelines to be installed by SIPSC will cost about $1.6 million more per kilometre than the deep water pipeline installed by the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) despite the shallow water pipelines not meeting the technical requirement of having internal coating.”
In view of the forgone, the Platform has placed a five-point demand on government, starting with the forensic investigation into the GNGC’s operations. “We make this demand because of the huge costs being recorded relative to the gas project and their ramifications for gas pricing when the project is completed,” the group advanced.
Ghana’s  projected price of delivered gas to Takoradi is put at $5.9 per MBtu according to a study by the African Centre for Energy Policy (ACEP), while it is estimated that per SINOPEC’s operations the price of delivered gas will be raised higher, thereby “making Ghana’s Jubilee gas not only uncompetitive, but also uneconomical to industrial consumers who will be unjustifiably denied cheaper source of energy than what the West Africa Gas Pipeline Company offers – currently at $6 per MBtu.”
The Platform also demands that the President gathers the political courage to deal with those that may be found culpable of any impropriety at Ghana Gas and that the company be restricted as a subsidiary of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation under the Ministry of Energy’s oversight.
It also insists that Parliament takes immediate steps to call for the GNGC-SINOPEC deal to be laid before it for debate and possible ratification in order to streamline the GNGC’s activities, while the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), must take steps to make Ghana Gas comply with its regulations on Environmental and Social Impact Assessment.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cholera outbreak plagues 5,800 Ghanaians, kills 50 in 9 months

Hon. Enoch Teye Mensah

From January 2012 to September 2012 alone, 50 Ghanaians have died from cholera, while 5,800 cases have been reported at the country’s hospitals and health centres.
These figures from the Ghana Health Service (GHS), were relayed by Hon. Enoch T. Mensah, Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing, when he delivered a statement Monday, October 15, 2012 in Accra, at a national durbar to mark five years of Global Handwashing Day celebration.
Speaking at the durbar organised by the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) under the theme; “5 Years of Global Handwashing Day Celebration: Going Beyond the Fifth Birthday of Children”, Hon. E. T. Mensah described the situation as heart-rending.
“This is sad, because these are people who should not have been ill at all in the first place. Cholera can easily be avoided by keeping our environment clean and by simply washing our hands with soap after using the toilet before handling food – That is before cooking or selling or eating food,” he stated.
The Minister, who is also the Member of Parliament for Ningo-Prampram, expressed dismay that while it is simple and handwashing with soap as a habit is critical to avoid the scourge of diseases, “it is common to find people using their hands unhygienically, who will go ahead to use soap after they have eaten.”
“When you go to the chop bars, you see people – as soon as they are served there is some water there, they put their hands in and then they jump on to eating – this is something which is unacceptable and we’ve got to do something about it,” he charged.
According to the MP, the situation as it stands now in the country, goes to demonstrate that while the adoption of specific hygiene behaviour has proved useful in controlling outbreak of infectious diseases, it is also true that the adoption of such behaviour can be difficult.
“For lack of knowledge, many people will continue to ignore the role that hygiene plays in reducing the incidence of diseases and this has to be stopped,” he demanded, stressing, “Handwashing with soap should become one of the cherished hygienic practices in Ghana.”
He entreated all stakeholders to join in championing ‘this worthy cause’ to improve upon the lives of Ghanaians and to provide a better future for the present and the next generations at totally no cost whatsoever.
Hon. E. T. Mensah specifically appealed to the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and the Environmental Health and Sanitation Directorate (EHSD) of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, to make sure that they put up pragmatic plans towards the promotion of ‘this important national programme’.
“In our various clinics, hospitals and health centres for example, the message of handwashing with soap should be part of the daily talks given to the patients,” he urged.
“Let us all join hands in the global effort to enhance the awareness and practice of washing our hands with soap at the critical times, especially after visiting the toilet and before we handle food. Let us teach our children several times every day, that prevention is better than cure, that hygiene is health and that healthy people make a healthy nation,” he enjoined all Ghanaians.
Despite the gloomy state of handwashing with soap in Ghana, Mr. Rene Van Dongen, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Ghana opined; “We have something to celebrate today because 2012 marks the 5th anniversary of the Global Handwashing Day celebration.”
Delivering a statement on behalf of the United Nations, he said each year more than 121 million children turn five worldwide so “in addition to celebrating our fifth anniversary we want to celebrate the fifth birthday of millions of children around the world this year.”
Mr. Van Dongen however lamented that the celebration notwithstanding, a lot of children die annually from hygiene-related diseases.
“Unfortunately, too many children in Ghana and too many children in the world die and do not live to celebrate their birthdays due to diarrhoea, pneumonia and other diseases. Together, pneumonia and diarrhoea are responsible for an estimated 40% of all child deaths around the world each year and in this they kill more young children than AIDS, malaria and measles combined,” he stated.
The UNICEF deputy representative in Ghana disclosed that although every day, 19,000 children worldwide die before reaching their fifth birthday, handwashing with soap has an important role to play in their survival and development.
“One of the cost effective interventions, which means it is cheap, handwashing can reduce the incidence of diarrhoea among children by almost 50% and respiratory infections by almost 25%. In other words and put succinctly, handwashing saves lives,” he emphasised.
Van Dongen said the focus of the theme for this year’s celebration is to foster global and local culture of handwashing with soap, to shine the spotlight on handwashing and to centre and raise awareness on the benefits of handwashing with soap.
He teased the key messages from the theme as the transfer of the knowledge of handwashing with soap into practice in homes, schools, at health centres, at markets, communities and everywhere in Ghana.
Also, he stated that as handwashing with soap saves lives, it will contribute to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reducing death among children under the age of five, by two thirds in 2015 and that mothers and care givers have an extreme role to play in preventing under five deaths, by simply washing their hands with soap before feeding their babies.
Van Dongen emphasised that health personnel can also play a major role by instituting handwashing with soap among nursing mothers, urging, “We need to make handwashing with soap a part of everybody’s life.”
Saying children play an extremely important role in ensuring that happens, he told the hundreds of school children gathered at the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park where the durbar was held; “You are agents of change – as they say, each one teach one and that is how the world becomes a better place.”   
Hon. Sherry Ayittey demonstrating
proper washing of hands
In her closing remarks, Hon. Sherry Ayittey, Minister for Environment, Science and Technology, who was Chair for the function,  mentioned three things that came out strongly from the theme, listing them as the reduction of child mortality rate, reduction of the death of children under five years and prevention.
She appealed to teachers to provide handwashing bowls and position them at vantage points within the various schools, so that children can wash their hands regularly after playing during break.
The Environment  Minister also appealed to traditional authorities to use their platform to educate their communities about sanitary and environmental conditions and mentioned awareness creation as very critical.
She thus tasked the school pupils gathered to tell their peers that handwashing saves lives, saying government will save a lot of funds if child mortality were reduced, put such money into education and provide better health facilities for the citizenry.
Hon. Sherry Ayittey also asked CWSA to include groupings that handle food for education on handwashing.
The theme address was delivered by Dr. Gloria Quansah-Asare, Director, Family Health, GHS, while the keynote address was read by H.E. Matilda Amissah-Arthur, Second Lady, Ghana.
The national durbar, which was organised with support from WaterAid in Ghana, UNICEF, Unilever, Plan Ghana, World Vision, EHSD, GHS, Ghana Education Service (GES), Coalition of NGOs in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS), included poetry recitals, cultural displays, and a sketch by pupils of the Ledzokuku Krowor Municipal Assembly (LEKMA) South Cluster of Schools.
The combined schools cadet corps thrilling the audience
 There was as well the cutting of a fifth anniversary cake donated by Unilever, by Mrs. Matilda Amissah-Arthur, Second Lady of the Republic of Ghana, who was assisted by Hon. E. T. Mensah and selected children.
A combined schools cadet corps from the Legon Basic School, Holy Trinity Cathedral Secondary School and Odorgonno Secondary School, also provided a thrilling performance and a handwashing demonstration by all dignitaries present, led by the Second Lady, as well as the school children.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Handwashing is crucial to enable Ghana attain sanitation MDG – Matilda Amissah-Arthur

H.E. Matilda Amissah-Arthur delivering the keynote address

The effectiveness of sanitation facilities will only be multiplied if it is complimented by a crucial handwashing component, says Her Excellency, Matilda Amissah-Arthur, Second Lady of the Republic of Ghana.

Delivering the keynote address at a national durbar to commemorate five years of Global Handwashing Day celebration in Accra at her first public appearance since becoming second lady of Ghana, she stated; “By adding a crucial handwashing component to existing and ongoing sanitation activities, the critical health benefits necessary for countries including Ghana to achieve the MDGs can be realised.”

The Second Lady explained that promotion of handwashing with soap, which is the focus of Global Handwashing Day, is to help maximise the effect of sanitation and hygiene programmes.

She however lamented that in Ghana people wash their hands with soap for other reasons rather than for hygiene purposes and neglect the use of soap at critical times such as after using the toilet, after cleaning a child’s bottom and before handling food; especially before eating.

“Washing our hands before eating is often a perfunctory practice for most of us – we just dip our hands into water and look for soap with the best perfume to wash our hands after eating,” she challenged, adding, “In Ghana we wash our hands with soap for other reasons than hygiene: to get the smell of food off our hands and to prevent the pepper from the food from getting into our eyes.”

On the contrary, Mrs. Amissah-Arthur, said the main reason hands should be washed with soap at critical times, is so that the high incidence of diarrhoea diseases in the country, caused largely by ingesting of excreta, will be prevented.

“We should note that faeces contaminate our food through fluids, water bodies, our environment and surroundings, flies and our fingers. Diarrhoea can thus be prevented by stopping excreta from reaching the environment through proper sanitation and handwashing with soap,” she stressed.

Yesterday marked the fifth anniversary of the commemoration of Global Handwashing Day which had as its global theme, “Help more children reach their fifth birthday”, while the national celebration had for its theme; “Five Years of Global Handwashing Day Celebration: Going Beyond the Fifth Birthday of Children”.

Her Excellency, Matilda Amissah-Arthur, admonished all Ghanaians to put sanitation and hygiene in their proper perspective because sanitation is dignifying, while good hygiene behaviour promotes health.
She said although the focus of the celebration is on school children, everyone is a target and so handwashing with soap must be a way of life for all.

“As we commemorate the Global Handwashing Day to promote and give visibility to handwashing with soap in Ghana, let me say that promoting health and dignity are the first steps towards development and a better quality life,” she said.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Handwashing most critical in Ghana


As Ghana joins the global community to mark five years of Global Handwashing Day (GHD) commemoration on Monday, October 15, 2012, Mrs. Theodora Adomako-Adjei, Extension Services Coordinator of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA), has stated that hand washing is very critical and relevant in the country because of the kind of dishes Ghanaians like to cook and eat.

Since 2007, Global Handwashing Day, which focuses on the use of soap to wash hands in order to prevent diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and other hygiene-related diseases, has been marked by many countries including Ghana.

Under the slogan “Clean hands save lives”, the driving theme for Global Handwashing Day has been children and schools, with children acting as agents of change and taking the good practices of hygiene learned at school back into their homes and communities.

The active participation and involvement of children, along with culturally sensitive community-based interventions, which have been the motivating force of GHD, aim at ensuring sustained behavioural change, while handwashing with soap - particularly at critical moments, including after using the toilet and before handling food, has been proven to be a key cost effective and life-saving intervention.

Speaking in an exclusive interview Sunday, October 14, 2012 on the significance of the day to Ghana, Mrs. Theodora Adomako-Adjei said; “In Ghana it is even critical because most of us like eating with our hands, because of the type of dishes that we cook. So when it comes to handling food we use our hands a lot.”

“Secondly, surfaces [transfer] to palms a lot of germs. It can be a door knob, even our computers, the ATM cards...people use their hands a lot so there is the need to create awareness,” she stated.

“Look at the food that we eat – fufu, kenkey, banku and all those things – we don’t enjoy eating with fork and knife, so we have to eat with our hands – therefore we have to keep the hands very clean,” she added.

On why Ghana needs to mark the day with the rest of the global community,  the Extension Services Coordinator indicated that apart from interventions at the community level, the national celebration gives visibility to the Global Handwashing Day and reminds people on the need to wash their hands with soap.

Global Handwashing Day commemoration in the country is further intended to put the spotlight on the state of hand washing in Ghana, Mrs. Theodora Adomako-Adjei stated further.

“Anyone who is not washing the hand at the critical time is a carrier of disease-causing pathogens and the person is spreading these germs, so everyone must watch out,” she said.

According to the CWSA Extension Services Coordinator, marking of the day for five years in Ghana has brought about behavioural change in most Ghanaians.

She intimated that whereas hitherto there were sinks in only some few communities, now there are innovative handwashing facilities in most toilets. “People are using gallons, water bottles – it is because of the awareness that has been created, and I also [say] the fact that now you have people with sanitisers wherever they go, means that they are understanding the importance of the handwashing,” she explained.

Mrs. Adomako-Adjei also disclosed the findings of a study conducted by United Nations organisation UNICEF in nine districts of the three northern regions of Ghana in 2003, which indicated only 3 percent of mothers washed their hands before handling food, saying a recent study shows there has been a tremendous increase over that figure.

“In 2003 the study we conducted indicated that just about 3 percent of mothers washed their hands before handling food -  and there has been an increase to 57 percent,” she divulged.

In Ghana, Global Handwashing Day will be commemorated with regional durbars and a national durbar at the Efua Sutherland Park, Accra, also referred to as the Children’s Park under the theme; “Five years of Global Handwashing Day Celebration: Going Beyond the Fifth Birthday of Children”. The global theme however, is “Help More Children Reach Their 5th Birthday”.

It will be chaired by Hon. Sherry Ayitey, Minister for Environment, Science and Technology, while the keynote address will be delivered by Her Excellency Matilda Amissah-Arthur, Second Lady, Republic of Ghana.  

Handwashing with soap is one of the most cost effective ways to prevent diarrhoea disease and pneumonia, which together are responsible for approximately 3.5 million child deaths every year, says a press release issued by CWSA, the main organiser of the national durbar.

According to the agency,  more than 5,000 children under the age of five die every day as a result of diarrhoea diseases, caused in part by unsafe drinking water, lack of access to basic sanitation facilities and poor hygiene.

Meanwhile it has been established that by washing hands with soap, families and communities can help reduce child mortality rates from diarrhoea diseases by almost 50 per cent and respiratory infections by nearly 25 percent.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Burkina Faso’s Bissa Mine to Open in December

Bissa Gold's Ibrahim Ouedraogo Pit

The Bissa Gold Mine SA, which has been under construction since September 29, 2011, is scheduled for completion and opening in December 2012.

When production gets underway, the mine is expected to offer employment to between 500 and 700 of the riparian populations of Bissa, Imiougou, Bissighin and Sabce affected by the mine construction, who meet the requirements laid down for the exercise of such jobs and for which a procedure for recruitment has been developed in consultation with the Local Consultative Committee.
The new mine, which will become one of Burkina Faso’s large gold mines when completed, is 90%  owned by NORDGOLD,  a Russian company listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE:NORD) with 10.6% of its shares made floated to the public.
NORDGOLD was established in 2007 and since then has evolved into one of the main international gold producers with eight mines in operation in four countries, which are, Canada, Russia, Guinea and South Africa.
The State of Burkina Faso, which becomes the fifth country for NORDGOLD’s operations, is also a 10% shareholder without financial contribution.
From March 2007 to 2010, NORDGOLD was able to mine 1,071,000 ounces of gold in its operations worldwide and has to date produced about 3,000,000 ounces but hopes to increase this by 300% with gold from the Bissa Mine.
Even though NORDGOLD has received a permit to mine 1.5 million tons of gold from the original 5km stretch of the Bissa Mine, they hope to mine about 3 million tons per year from an additional 10km untapped stretch, once production commences, using the open cast method of mining.
Announcing these to a team of West African Journalists who paid a visit to the mine site at Bissa in the rural district of Sabce, 90 km north of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, Dr. Christian F. Oudraogo, Deputy General Director, Bissa Gold, said work is on schedule and most construction work has already been completed.
Work completed include resettlement communities comprising 350 housing units for 1,250 families, with social infrastructure such as mosques, churches and youth hall for relocated villages valued at over FCFA 2.2bn, and are expected to be fully occupied in the month of October, 2012.
Compensation covering 700 hectares of crops have also been paid to the tune of FCFA 750 million.
90% of work on the mine as well as 99% of progress on a dam on the Jamie River to retain surface water of up to 4.5 million m3 of water per year that will be used in processing the ore have also been completed.
“Safety measures have been put in place while floodable areas as a result of the dam have also been identified,” Bissa Gold’s Deputy Director General intimated to the journalists.
He however discounted assertions that the flooding of some communities recently was as a result of the dam, saying it was due to the torrential nature of the rain, which volume was unprecedented in recent times and had not been experienced in many years.
“The floods would have come all the same if there had been no dam,” he alluded, saying “Without water you cannot have any mine; that is why there are plans for the dam.”
The mine official divulged further that options they considered at the initial stages were construction of boreholes to get water for their operations or relying on an existing water source like the Volta River, from which they will pump water to store, while the last option was to build a dam, which they settled on, after much consideration and is situated about 14km east and 18km north of the mine’s processing plant from the town of Mane.
The dam’s maximum capacity is 101,000,000m3, while the length of the breakwater is about 2,148 m. When the tank is full at 300 m, it will however cover an approximate area of 2,853
According to Dr. Oudraogo, plans are also far advanced to divert the main National Highway No. 22 from the mine concession located between the provinces of Bam in Sabce and Sanmatenga in Mane, occupying an area of 130 km².
Meanwhile, having been granted a mining license on June 23, 2010, a mining convention was signed on May 29, 2012 between Bissa Gold SA and the State of Burkina Faso, to clarify the rights and obligations of the parties defined in the Mining Code and thus ensure the investor the stability terms expressly listed in the Convention.
Further, although the life span of the mine is seven years with two years of pre-production and construction, “studies are continuing on the mineral deposits in order to increase the life span of the mine,” the Deputy Director General disclosed.
It is expected that the Bissa Gold Mine will yield 4,300 tons of gold per day once production gets underway, even though the initial forecast was for 1.5 million tons per year.
Touching on steps taken for proper mine closure when all the ores have been mined, Dr. Christian Oudraogo said US$ 4.5 Million, which is 2.2% of the invested capital, has been dedicated to the closure and restoration of the industrial complex as a whole in the last year of the project and was estimated by applying a cost of US$ 0.08 for each ton of material excavated, as well as ore and waste rock.

According to Cecilia Jamasmie, a news editor at in her article “Gold mining to drive Burkina Faso’s growth but companies at risk” published on October 5, 2012, Burkina hosts over 30 exploration companies and seven functioning gold production plants, making the Bissa Mine when completed the eighth but with an added advantage of processing other minerals such as silver.
Burkina Faso, experienced an increase of 32% in Gold production  in 2011 at six gold mine sites, making the country the fourth largest gold producer in Africa, after South Africa, Ghana and Mali.
It is also the third most explored jurisdiction in Africa, and has gold as its third largest export after cotton and meat products and its most important mineral, although it has minerals such as manganese, bauxite, dolomite, copper, nickel, lead, phosphates and silver among others.

GJA 2010 Award Winners

GJA 2010 Award Winners
Dzifa, Emelia and Gertrude

GJA 2011 Award Winners

GJA 2011 Award Winners
GWJN's 2011 GJA Award-Winning Team

New WASH-JN Executives

New WASH-JN Executives
They are from left - Edmund, Ghana, Aminata: Guinea, Alain: Benin, Paule: Senegal and Ousman: Niger

Celebrating Award

Celebrating Award
The benefits of Award Winning!

Hard Work Pays!

Hard Work Pays!
In a pose with my plaque