This paper seeks to examine the environmental impacts of major road projects in Ghana and the mitigation measures being laid in place. The key research questions that this research proposal seeks to answer is the gap between the environmental impacts and the mitigation efforts being put in place both in the short term and in the long run. The second important question that this research proposal seeks to answer is the ways in which the mitigation measures already in place can be improved in terms of the outcome and durability.
II. Overview of Research
Environmentalists have often conflicted on the idea of sustainability. One side of the dive argues that a conservationist approach to the environment is the best way to use the resources that are available in nature. Conservationists like, Gifford Pinchot, believed in the idea that man can extract multiple uses in the environment that he interact while at the same time leaving enough resources for future generations. On the contrary, sections of environmentalists disagree with the conservation ideal in turn supporting preservationist school of thought. Unlike the conservationists, the preservationists believe that nature should not be exploited by man. Nature should be allowed to blossom in its natural state. Though both schools of thought all seek to promote a healthy relation between man and the environment the fact remains that the modern man has found it difficult to survive without modern development. The development of land is an important facet in today’s world. Development had often conflicted with the interests of many preservationists in that the short term gains earned through the development of land tend to overshadow the long time harm that is likely to face future generation due to increased consumption of resources that are all directed towards development projects. Therefore, the idea of the land ethics by Aldo Leopold remains a challenge in today’s economic structure. Biodiversity has become secondary to the benefits reaped from development projects. This paper intends to examine three environmental impact assessments that have been completed in Ghana for major road projects. These projects include the Sofo-line interchange road project, the Nsawam- Apedwa road project, and the Achimota-Ofankor road project.
III. Positioning Of Research
The Sofo-line interchange is a thoughtful development project in that it will ease congestion of traffic within the road users within this road. Though the reduction of traffic is a great idea in terms of saving the time that people take to travel and attend to urgent businesses, the fact remains that this project is a threat to diversity. One thing that is important is that Sofo is a region that is rich in migratory birds (Armstrong, 2007, p.71).The construction of fly overs may be a hindrance to the migration of these birds. One of the reasons why this project might be a hinder the migration of these bird species is that bird s and other species are used to the use of certain routes. Therefore, before these bird species adjust to the artificial alterations that have been introduced within their migratory route a reasonable of birds will have died by being run over by vehicles. It is also important to note that some of the constructions sites on which the Sofo-line interchange is being build are rich in indigenous trees (Ham, 2006, p.29). These tree species have to be cleared in order to give room to the construction of this road project.
Both the Nsawam- Apedwa and Achimota-Ofankor road projects are also a threat to bio-diversity. One of the things that are important to understand is that the areas under which these two projects are being built are rich in wild-life. One of the most abundant species is the deer species (Prentice, 2003, p. 41). The completion of these two road projects is a threat to the survival of this species. Deer are known to prefer edge habitats. These roads provide these edge habitats. The danger that exists is that the edge habitats for deer species are not protected (Listorti, 2001, p.78). Deer are under the risk by run over by fast moving vehicles. Though the death of a couple of deer may appear as something that is normal, every member within any ecosystem has a role. Therefore, the continued death of deer due to road kills may adversely affect these eco-zones.
IV. Research Design and Methodology
Some of the mitigation efforts that are prescribe in order to deal with the alterations created by these development projects includes the fencing of areas that surround national parks and other bio-diversity hotspots. In this way wildlife that would have been lost as a result of road kills will reduce. The other important mitigation efforts that is taking place within the areas served by these roads is that the government of Ghana through the ministry of transport is trying to enforce speed limits within areas that are consider to be bio-diversity hotspots(Leite, 2000, p.25). In this way, the number of wildlife species lost through roads can be reduced.
Comparing the impacts of the loss in both plant and animal species through these projects within a long time, it is clear that these species are going to take a long time to replace. In fact, some of the species may never be recovered. However, efforts to prevent more loss of bio-diversity are worthwhile in that it is our responsibility to make sure that the eco-system bounces back to its original state.
The mitigation efforts that are proposed in the assessments of the three road projects have worked to a large extent. However, the question of maintain these mitigation efforts becomes a problem over time. The government has priorities for other sectors of the economy (Kapur, 2010, p.53). Therefore, at a time when the economy of Ghana is experiencing difficulties, we would expect that more budgetary allocations are directed to other sectors of the economy that are considered to be sensitive at the moment(Harrison, 2004, p.37). Therefore, the mitigation efforts have worked as proposed but it is important to rethink of the idea of maintaining the infrastructure that is put in place as part of the mitigation efforts.
One of the gaps that are identifiable between the mitigation measures and the environmental impacts caused by the construction of these road projects is the fact that the plant and wildlife species lost may not be necessarily restored using the mitigation efforts that have been in place. In addition, the infrastructure that is laid in place as part of the mitigation efforts cannot be in position to be able to protect all species (Harrigan, 2010, p.45). For example, birds will always fly above fences and head for the dangerous roads. This means flying mammals like bats are not spared either. Therefore, these road project in long run create more loses than benefits from an ecological stand point.
The environmental impact process and mitigation measures can be improved by seeking for grants and other sources of funds in order to maintain the current mitigation measures already in place as well as introduce new mitigation measures that are not in existence. Educating the public is also another way that can be used to improve environmental impact (Belda, 2004, p. 49).Drivers and motorists using roads have to educate on the importance of being vigilant when using these roads so as to minimize the number of wildlife species lost through road kills.
These findings might shape policy in Ghana so that the Ghanaian government can avoid the construction of development projects through areas with rich bio-diversity. In addition, these findings can help the policy makers in terms of the money that they allocate to different sectors of the economy. It is important for them to remember that bio-diversity protection is an important facet of the Ghanaian society.
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