In the Western region of Ghana, ongoing community mobilisation against the first two proposed coal fired power plants is producing positive results. During the months of June and July, 350G-ROC has continued with intense community engagement activities aimed at elevating levels of awareness on the contentious energy plants planned for Ekumfi District.
The team at Ekumfi Aboano at the Chief’s palace
350G-ROC team spent three days with frontline communities that would be adversely impacted by this project to help raise awareness and create a safe space for dialogue. From chiefs, activists and youth, the teams organising efforts have been driven by the need to realising the vision – to inform, enlighten and engage communities against ‘development’ projects which would have negative consequences on their livelihoods.
350G-ROC’s community engagement plan in Ekumfi region has been warmly received and has organized around strong alliances and partnerships oriented towards Non-violent Direct Action and Renewable Energy advocacy in the region.
350 G-ROC team engaging community leaders of Ekumfi Immuna
Pertinent questions posed to community include:How prepared are they for the proposed coal plan, and if they are aware of the negative impacts that come with this project?
Communities indicated they already had exposure in some way or another to dangers of extractive industries. The queen mother at Kokodo community, Oheemah Nana Fosuaa, shared her experiences from the Obuasi region on how harvested rainwater, is no longer safe. People have been affected with strange skin diseases believed to be a direct result of toxic emissions affecting rain water.
The team and residents visiting the site of the coal-fired power plant in Ekumfi
Since the community engagement activity, Traditional Chiefs and Queen mothers in Ekumfi have started speaking out against the plan to establish the first coal plant in Ghana.
The message is clear: Ghana must refrain from the coal agenda, pursue a people’s centred, community based, energy system and future built on renewables. Ghana cannot violate the country’s Sustainable Development goals in line with the Paris Agreement that declares that “all Parties should strive to formulate and communicate long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies.”
Community leaders acknowledge that the welfare of the youth and unborn generations must be protected and taken into consideration when severe long term decisions and agreements are being outlined.
Volta River Authority (VRA) has promised the youth jobs from the project but no indication on the type of employment or whether these will be temporary or permanent assignments. One thing for sure, company owners and government officials are not around decades later when the destruction commences. Coal mining’s social, economic, health, and environmental impacts are always most felt by local communities.
What 350 G-ROC is taking away from this exercise is the value in engaging with affected communities. Information sharing, educating, and actively engaging with communities is a crucial tool in providing a safe space for people to have their voices heard.
Meeting at Donpehene Ekumfi Etubedu Community Centre with Chief Nana Koji Mensa II