In addition, government should put in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure coastal communities were not marginalised in the benefits from the petroleum resources.
The call was made in a communiqué issued at the end of a two-day workshop for Community Environmental Monitoring and Advocacy Groups (CEMAGs) on Oil and Gas Industry at Takoradi.
It was organised by Friends of the Nation (FoN) in partnership with Kumasi Institute of Technology and Environment (KITE), Skyy Media with support from Ghana Research and Advocacy Programme (G-RAP).
The workshop was attended by representatives of traditional rulers, civil society organisations and Community Based Organisations (CBSs) in the six oil districts of the Western Region.
It was under the theme “Zero Tolerance Against Resource Curse in Ghana’s Emerging Petroleum Industry – The Role of Coastal Communities”.
The workshop was organised as part of civil society efforts to educate and sensitise citizenry of Western Region on the likely impact of the emerging petroleum industry so as to effectively manage their/emerging high expectations, as well as, equipping them to push for better accountability from managers of petroleum revenues.
It was also to recognise the role of the coastal communities in ensuring transparency and accountability of petroleum revenues and protection of livelihoods and environment to ensure that oil find becomes a blessing but not a curse as well as the immense contributions that the petroleum industry can bring to bear on national and coastal community’s developments.
The workshop was to express concern about the present and future predicaments of coastal communities with respect to, livelihood insecurity; lost of income; inadequate engagement on oil and gas related issues, environmental protection in the event of mud and/or oil spillage, increase in commercial sex and it health implications and rising cost of living as well as inhuman treatment of fisher folks by the oil companies and security agencies such as the Navy.
The participants called for the inclusion and participation of coastal communities in all oil and gas dialogues by the government and oil companies to ensure that they were not short-changed.
The 500 metres ban of fishing around the oil rigs should be clearly-marked with visible indicators such that it can be noticed by fisher folks, and the Ghana Navy put immediate stop to the inhuman treatment of the fisher folks, for example confiscating outboard motors, fishing gears of the fisher folks and unlawful detention.
The communiqué said an Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) that disaggregated the risks according to men, women, children and the elderly should be conducted for the petroleum exploitation.
“ESIA should contain various development scenarios based on social and environmental costs and the least-cost option chosen,” it added.
It said the Environmental Social Management Plan (ESMP) should make provisions for regular health screening in communities, a zero-tolerance policy and provision for gas flaring in the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Bill 2010.
“Where gas flaring is inevitable for technical and operational purposes, allowable flaring limits must be stated and the penalty for violations clearly spelt out in the bill and must be punitive enough to encourage compliance, “the communiqué added.
The participants said government’s benchmarked compensation levels in the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Bill 2010 should be in line with that of the United States of America (USA).
In addition, the Bill should provide further protection for communities apart from the compensation, where compulsory acquisition was applied, these should define the interest of communities and property owners where
the acquired property is not being utilised, the plan for utilisation of the property changed from the originally intended use, and the number of years a property remained compulsorily acquired when not utilised.
The communiqué said where payment of royalty was made to oil host communities, such payment should be channelled through the District Assemblies to help compensate and develop the communities.
Public announcement and publication of the list of institutions accredited to run oil and gas training courses in the country to enable Ghanaians particularly coastal communities get the right certification to meet the oil and gas industry employment requirements.
The communiqué called for the immediate interventions from the government to protect the fishing industry from the “Dutch Disease”, to avert the current situation where the fishing industry was already experiencing declining fish catch and destruction of fishing gears by supply vessels as a result of the oil and gas industry.