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Ghana: balancing economic growth and resource depletion

 Promoting sustainable growth in Ghana 

 Ghana has an impressive history of economic growth. But this is accompanied by a warning: the natural resources that underpin this success must be sustainably protected and managed. 

 In the past 30 years, the increase in the prices and production of cocoa, gold, and oil has helped Ghana achieve its transformation: real GDP growth has quadrupled, extreme poverty has been halved, and in 2011, Ghana has become a low- and middle-income country . The fundamental question is: How can this impressive development, firmly rooted in natural capital, continue to generate benefits in terms of macroeconomic growth and poverty reduction?

The World Bank's most recent Ghana National Environmental Analysis (CEA) responded by providing the scale, scope and economic impact of environmental degradation on society. Air, plastic and water pollution can affect health and hygiene; gold mines, unmanaged solid waste, and contaminated sites can release hazardous chemicals; land degradation, deforestation and overfishing seriously affect livelihoods and limit the momentum of growth. 

 According to CEA data, environmental degradation causes losses of US $ 6.3 billion each year, representing almost 11% of Ghana's GDP in 2017. With resource depletion, non-renewable resources such as gold and oil cannot sustain growth, while renewable resources such as cocoa, timber, and other trees and food crops depend on good environmental stewardship. There is clear evidence and scientific evidence that the erosion of natural capital can create risks to growth, livelihoods and human health. 

 Air pollution is the number one environmental risk to public health, causing approximately US$2 billion in losses each year and causing nearly 16,000 premature deaths each year. The elderly account for the majority of deaths, and more than half of pneumonia deaths among children under five are related to air pollution. 

 Water pollution caused a major loss equivalent to 3% of GDP. This is due to inadequate water supply, poor sanitation, and the discharge of solid and toxic industrial waste into the water system, which have health effects. 

 Plastic pollution is reaching a crisis level. More than 3,000 metric tons of plastic waste is generated every day, most of which is dumped as waste or placed in temporary landfills. This debris clogs open drainage systems and pollutes the ocean. The 

 Ewaste associated with the Agbogbloshie garbage dump is the main source of air pollution in Accra. Here, burning electronics release carcinogenic compounds into the air, while deposited toxic metals enter waterways and oceans. Each year the cost of exposure to lead and mercury-induced illness and lowering of children's IQ is US $ 440 million. 

 Poor land management leads to land degradation, causing more than $ 500 million in losses each year and $ 400 million in deforestation each year: between 2001 and 2015, 5 million hectares of forest were lost. In the last ten years, artisanal gold mining has exacerbated river degradation and rivers have been dug for gold. The health cost of miners' exposure to toxic mercury is US $ 240 million. 

 Ghana loses approximately 2.7 million square meters of shoreline each year, 80% of which is eroded. Coastal erosion and flooding are particularly severe in Greater Accra. Rising sea levels increase the intensity of erosion and increase the probability of flooding by 20%. This puts UNESCO World Heritage sites and communities (such as Cape Coast and Elmina) at risk. Overfishing caused $ 233 million in losses and could lead to the collapse of small pelagic fisheries and the loss of 500,000 jobs. 

 Climate change seriously affects climate-sensitive industries, and Ghana's agriculture, forestry and energy industries are the basis for the development of these industries. It also caused environmental disasters: in the past 40 years, floods affected 4 million people, and a flash flood in Accra in 2015 caused $ 55 million in damage. 

 Ghana is responding to the urgent need to protect natural capital through evidence-based actions and concrete steps to share the impact of growth, especially in terms of food security and human development. 

 According to this analysis, Ghana is prioritizing environmental issues in its development plan. But it is vital to take action now to prevent environmental degradation and climate change from affecting vulnerable groups in Ghana. It is also critical to understand the importance of well-informed communities and strong institutions in the pursuit of accountability and transparency. Ultimately, Ghana will benefit from the advancement of key policy reforms to allocate resources and benefits to the community.

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