Perception of Human-Induced Environmental Challenges in the Birim Central Municipality, Ghana

Master's Thesis, 2015

110 Pages




Background to the Study
Statement of the Problem
Research Questions
Objectives of the Study
Significance of the Study
Delimitation of the Study
Organization of the Study


Natural and Human-Induced Environmental Challenges
Natural Environmental Challenges
Human-Induced Environmental Challenges
Land Degradation
Water Pollution
Air Pollution
Noise Pollution
Social System Responses to Human-Induced Environmental Challenges
Public Participation in Environmental Protection
Cultural Responses to Environmental Protection
The Role of Environmental Education in Environmental Protection
The Role of Environmental Policy Institutions in Environmental Protection
The Role of Environmental Protection Agency in Environmental Protection
District Assemblies Role in Protecting the Environment
The Role of Non Governmental Organizations in Protecting the Environment
The Concept of Environmental Perception
Knowledge or Awareness of Environmental Issues
Theories of Attitudes and Behaviour Linkages
Psychological Model Linking Attitude and Behaviour
Perceived State-Pressure-Response Conceptual Framework for the Study


Research Design
Study Area
Sample Population
Sampling Procedure
Sample Size
Data Collection Instruments
Pre-Testing of Questionnaire
Data Collection Procedures
Reliability and Validity
Data Processing and Analysis


Respondents’ Socio-demographic Characteristics and Environmental Concerns
Respondents’ Knowledge of the Environmental Problems in the Municipality
Respondents’ Perceived Major Environmental Problems in the Communities
Respondents’ Perceived Land Degradation in the Communities
Respondents’ Perceived Poor Sanitation in the Communities
Respondents’ Perceived Deforestation in the Communities
Respondents’ Perceived Water Pollution in the Communities
Respondents’ Perceived Air Pollution in the Communities
Respondents’ Perceived Flooding in the Communities
Respondents’ Views on Improving the Quality of the Environment


Limitations to the study
Suggestions for further research








Background to the Study

From the beginning of the twentieth century environmental issues, problems and challenges have been at the centre of people's daily life in such a way that in mid 1920's worrying consequences of environmental pollution attracted more attention every day (Lorey & Kemp, 2007; Salehi, 2009). The past two decades have witnessed increasing scholarly attention to human dimensions of environmental challenge as well as public concern with environmental issues. However, majority of work on public environmental perception explored these issues within the context of developed economies (Curran, Kumar, Lurtz, & Meryl, 2002; Mertig, Dunlap, & Morrison, 2002). Nevertheless, the developing regions mostly depend on the natural resources for social and economic development (High & Shackleton, 2000; Twine, Moshe, Netshiluvhi, & Siphugu, 2003). It is therefore necessary to increase environmental consciousness among the developing regions for sustainable development.

In spite of the indispensable role of the natural environment in supporting life on earth and providing a multitude of valuable service to mankind such as habitable climate, provision of clean air and water; man’s use of the natural resources often leads to the degradation of the natural environment (Myers & Patz, 2009). For instance Boafo (2012) noted that man’s bid to make a reasonable living through economic activities such as mining, logging and agricultural expansion often results in human-induced environmental challenges (as cited Boafo, 2013). The International Council for Science [ICUS] (2007) defined human-induced environmental challenges as environmental hazards or disasters (challenges) that are caused and/or accelerated by human activities. The human-induced environmental challenges include land degradation, deforestation, insanitary environmental conditions, water, air and noise pollution.

Land degradation is an issue of worldwide concern which threatens global food security and environmental quality. It is an acute problem in Africa where deforestation, mining, overgrazing and mismanagement of land resources have rendered about 320 million hectares of land unsuitable for any meaningful agriculture (Sant ‘Anna, 2001). The annual rate of global deforestation is around 13 million hectares, most of which occur in developing world (Food and Agricultural Organization [FAO], 2004). Deforestation in Africa is particularly serious because two-thirds of its population derives their source of livelihood from forest resources and about 90% of Africans use fuel wood and charcoal as source of energy (ICSU, 2007). Ghana has about 3% rate of deforestation per annum which is one of the highest in Africa and the world (FAO, 2010).

There have been serious concerns on the rapid degradation of the environment due to human activities and the need to conserve the environment for sustainable economic development to ensure the survival of mankind in the biosphere (Attuquayefio & Fobil, 2005). The conservation of the natural resources for sustainable economic development however could only be achieved if there is a change in human behaviour towards the environment in an ecological dimension (Attuquayefio & Fobil, 2005). Any significant voluntary behavioural change cannot be achieved without people’s understanding, acceptance, and willingness to do so (Semenza, Hall, Wilson, & Bontempo, 2008). Individuals’ perception of environmental conditions and environmental challenges differs. Such diversity of perceptions is reflected in the complexity inherent in the environmental issues themselves. Individual expressions of environmental concern may relate to countless physical qualities associated with the air, water, and land upon which humans and all other species depend (Faulkner, Green, Pellaumail, & Weaver, 2001).

After the United Nations Conference on Human Environment (UNCHE) held in Stockholm in 1972, countries started putting in policies to ameliorate the environment (as cited Boon, 1998). For instance, the Government of Ghana established environmental policy and the Environmental Protection Council (EPC) by NRC decree 239 in 1974 (Boon, 1998). The EPC was primarily an advisory and research organization and it was expected to co-ordinate the activities of other bodies concerned with environmental matters. However, it had no power to enforce measures for improving the environment or preventing damage to it. In 1994, the Environmental Protection Agency Act (Act 490) transformed the Environmental Protection Council into an Agency having, inter alia, regulatory and enforcement roles.

The success of environmental protection programmes however depends largely upon attitudinal and behavioural change by all individuals, households, private as well as public sector institutions (Semenza et al., 2008). This is because people’s attitudes and behaviours towards the environment are influenced by their perception of the environment. Gibson (1992) noted that perception guides our behaviour because what we perceive determine what we do next. Stakeholders’ perceptions should therefore be of major concern to both researchers and policymakers because environmental policies must be made with reference to individuals and generality of the people’s perception of the environment. It is in line with this conclusion, that the residents’ perception of the human-induced environmental challenges in Birim Central Municipality is being understudied.

Statement of the Problem

The effects of human activities on the environment are evident in the changes to the functioning of the ecosystems, earth’s oceans, atmosphere, freshwater systems, and land surfaces resulting in environmental challenges including freshwater shortages, climate change, lost of biodiversity and exhaustion of fisheries (McMichael, Nyong, & Corvalan, 2008).

Birim Central Municipality is endowed with abundant natural resources such as diamond and gold deposits, forest, fertile soil and many water bodies, which contribute to the socio-economic development of the municipality and the country as a whole (Birim Central Municipal Assembly, 2012). In spite of the continuous exploitation of these natural resources to meet the legitimate socio-economic aspirations of the people, adequate care has not often been taken to guard against the depletion and mismanagement of the resources in the municipality. This attitude has led to increase in human-induced environmental challenges such as land degradation, water and air pollution in the municipality. Moreover, there seem to be little or no effort by the residents in addressing the overexploitation of such resources and its impacts on the environment as well as on the people.

The issue of deforestation in Birim Central Municipality has become a serious concern for the Municipal Assembly. However, efforts by the Assembly to clump down on indiscriminate activities of the sawmill industries, charcoal burners, farmers and mining companies on the forest have not recorded much success. For example, the Forestry Commission Division of the Assembly made an attempt to register and to be able to monitor and control the activities of the chainsaw operators but only few were registered (Birim Central Municipal Assembly, 2006). In addition to the depletion of the forest, the future source of livelihood of many of the people which depends upon the natural environment will be severely affected.

The activities of small scale miners especially the illegal miners commonly known as ‘galamsey’ (meaning gather and sell) is severely degrading the natural environment in the form of decline in soil fertility, loss of top soil, water logging, deforestation, loss of biodiversity and destruction of fresh water bodies in the municipality. This could affect the socio-economic development of the people (Birim Central Municipal Assembly, 2006). Again, the contamination of the freshwater bodies by illegal mining activities is predisposing the residents to various forms of waterborne diseases and possible water shortages (Birim Central Municipal Assembly, 2006). Figures 1 and 2 depict some of the environmental problems in the municipality as a result of illegal mining activities.

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Figure 1: A Picture of Illegal Mining Activity Polluting River Birim

Source: Field survey, 2013

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Figure 2: A Picture of a Degraded Land by Mining Activity in Oda

Source: Field survey, 2013

Last but not the least; the municipality is also confronted with poor sanitation as well as poor waste management (Birim Central Municipal Assembly, 2006). For example, most drains in the municipality are unclean and are defective coupled with inhabitants crudely dumping refuse into them. According to the Assembly (2006) these insanitary conditions predispose the residents to environmental related diseases such as malaria, typhoid and cholera. In addition to the health implications of the insanitary conditions, large quantities of plastics are found in refuse making decomposition difficult and posing serious aesthetic problems (Birim Central Municipal Assembly, 2006). Considering the environmental issues enumerated and others in the municipality mainly due to human activities, there is the need to assess the residents’ perception of human-induced environmental challenges in the municipality in order to help to find a lasting solution to the phenomenon.

Research Questions

The study sought to respond to the following research questions:

1. Do the socio-demographic characteristics of the residents influence their environmental perception or concerns?
2. What is the knowledge of the residents about the environmental problems in the municipality?
3. What are the causes of environmental problems in the municipality?
4. What is the people’s position on improving the quality of their environment?

Objectives of the Study

The overall objective of the study was to assess the respondents’ perception of human-induced environmental challenges in the municipality.

The specific objectives of the study were to:

1. Determine the association between respondents’ socio-demographic characteristics and their environmental perceptions or concerns
2. Assess the respondents’ knowledge of environmental problems in the municipality.
3. Examine the respondents’ perception on the causes of the environmental problems.
4. Examine the respondents’ views on improving upon the quality of their environment.

Significance of the Study

The selection of Birim Central Municipality was motivated by the continuous exploitation, depletion and mismanagement of the rich natural resources in the municipality (Birim Central Municipal Assembly, 2006). This is seriously threatening the residents’ source of livelihood which depends on the natural environment which is degrading rapidly. Forest lands are threatened by mining activities, encroachment by farmers and indiscriminate felling of trees for firewood and charcoal. Soil fertility is threatened by erosion as a result of deforestation and bad agricultural practices; wetlands are threatened by deforestation; fresh water resources are threatened by land degradation and deforestation (Birim Central Municipal, 2006).

It is therefore important to assess residents’ perception of human-induced environmental challenges to facilitate the development of effective instructional methods for the education of people on environmental issues. This will help to bring about positive change in attitudes of the people towards the environment in the municipality. This study is also significant because it will help to create or rekindle environmental protection awareness or consciousness within the study area. Again, through this study, it is hoped that the municipality might achieve the development of an informed population who will respect the values of sustainable development. The study will also add to existing knowledge about people’s perception of human-induced environmental problems as well as create the platform for further research in the area.

Delimitation of the Study

The study was delimited to assessing respondents’ perception of human-induced environmental challenges in Birim Central Municipality. It determined the correlation between the respondents’ socio-demographic characteristics and the respondents’ environmental perception or concerns. The study also assessed the respondents’ knowledge of environmental problems in the area, examined respondents’ perception on the causes of the environmental problems and last but not the least, examined their views on improving on the quality of the environment.

Organization of the Study

The study is divided into five chapters. Chapter one presents the background to the study, the statement of the problem, the objectives of the study, research questions, the significance of the study, delimitation of the study and organization of the study. The second chapter reviews the relevant related literature and conceptual framework for the study. Chapter three covers the study area, research methodology and it addresses issues such as the source of data, target population, sample size, sampling procedure, methods of data collection and analysis. Chapter four discusses the data collected from the field. Finally, chapter five presents the summary, conclusions and recommendations.




This chapter reviews the relevant literature for the study. The chapter covers sub-headings such as natural and human-induced environmental challenges, social system responses and measures for environmental protection , the concept of environmental perception, theories of attitudes and behaviour linkages and the conceptual framework for the study.

Natural and Human-Induced Environmental Challenges

Environmental challenges constitute hazards and/or disasters that are either caused by nature or caused by anthropogenic forces or activities. An ‘environmental hazard’ is any natural event, phenomenon, or activity that may cause loss whilst an ‘environmental disaster’ on the other hand is defined as an event that causes serious disruption, leading to widespread human, material, or economic losses beyond the coping capacity of a given society (ICSU, 2007). Environmental challenges are classified into two broad overlapping categories namely natural and human-induced environmental challenges (ICSU, 2007). It should however be noted that though there are two broad categories of environmental challenges, they are interrelated. For instance, human-induced environmental challenges can accelerate the occurrence as well as the intensity of natural environmental challenges and vice versa.

Natural Environmental Challenges

Natural environmental challenges constitute the environmental hazards and or disasters caused by nature. Natural environmental challenges could be grouped under broad challenges as follows: hydro-meteorological, geological, biological, and climate change related (ICSU, 2007). Hydro-meteorological challenges account for most of the disasters in sub-Saharan Africa, and they impact on nearly every country in Africa (Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance-Centre for Research on Environmental Discussion [OFDA-CRED], 2002; United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction [UN/ISDR], 2004). They include floods, tropical cyclones, storm wave surges, droughts, extremely high temperatures (global warming), wildfires, sand or dust storms, and landslides. In the period 1975–2002, disasters of hydro-meteorological origin constituted about 59% of the total number of natural disasters that occurred in sub-Saharan Africa (OFDA-CRED, 2002; UN/ISDR, 2004).

Although droughts affect many parts of the globe, a large part of sub-Saharan Africa is susceptible to drought, especially in the Sahel with an annual rainfall of 150–600mm (ICUS, 2007). Research indicates that droughts occur due to complex interactions among the atmosphere, land, and ocean (Foley , Coe, Scheffer, & Wang, 2003; Nicholson, 2001). Wildfires may also be ignited naturally by lightning or by the spontaneous combustion of coal (Zimbabwe) and peat (Okavango Delta and Lesotho highlands).

The 1970-1974 droughts in the Sahel region caused unprecedented losses in human life and livestock as well as environmental damage. The widespread droughts of 1984-1985 were the most catastrophic: about 8 million people were affected, 1 million died, and large numbers of livestock were lost in the Horn of Africa (Webb & Teklu, 1991). It is also estimated, for example, that more than 60 million hectares are burnt annually in Sudan (Goldammer & de Ronde, 2004). Although wildfires cause few deaths, valuable resources are lost, thereby contributing to poverty. For instance, wildfires destroy pastures, crops, buildings, and infrastructure.

Geological environmental challenges include earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, mudflows, erosion, and siltation. Environmental challenges due to geological hazards have a far smaller impact on Sub-Saharan Africa than those due to hydro-meteorological hazards (ICSU, 2007). Earthquakes account for 2%, and landslides and volcanic hazards account for 1% of the number of hazards occurring on the continent (OFDA-CRED, 2002). Sub-Saharan Africa is largely a stable intra-plate region characterized by relatively low levels of seismic activity, with scattered earthquakes.

There are two main causes of earthquakes. Firstly, they could be linked to explosive volcanic eruptions and are very common in areas where they either proceed or accompany eruptions. Secondly, they could be triggered by tectonic activity associated with plate margins and faults. The destructive consequences of an earthquake can be classified into two. The primary effects are the immediate damage caused by the quake, such as collapsing of buildings, roads and bridges, which may kill many people whereas secondary effects are the after-effects of the earthquake, such as fires, tidal waves, landslides and diseases.

Another broad category of natural environmental challenges is biological hazards and they include epidemics and insect infestations which account for about 36% of all disasters in Africa (UN/ISDR, 2004). Epidemics such as cholera and fever are associated with environmental phenomena such as flooding and drought. Lieshout, Kovats, Livermore and Martens (2004) also added that Africa accounts for about 85% of all deaths and diseases associated with malaria as a result of its environmental conditions. Insect infestations on the other hand cause great agricultural losses, contributing to poverty and famine (Mengech, Saxena, & Gopalan, 1995).

Climate change which is another category of natural environmental challenge is defined as a change in the state of the climate that can be verified by changes in the mean and/or variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC], 2007). Nyong (2005) considers Africa as being the most vulnerable region to climate change due to the extreme poverty of many Africans, frequent natural disasters such as droughts and floods, and agricultural systems heavily dependent on rainfall.

Human-Induced Environmental Challenges

Human activities such as industry, mining, fishery, agriculture, and commerce have caused changes in land use, marine ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles, and the amount of biological resources, which are essentially supporting ecosystem functions and organisms in the world (Vitousek, Mooney, Lubchenco, & Melillo, 1997). Human-induced environmental challenges are understood not only as environmental issues that cause damage to ecosystems and the environment be it local, regional or global, but also as issues such as human health, the economy, social justice, and national security (Lubchenco, 1998). To understand human-induced environmental challenges, it is essential to focus on how human actions which directly alter the aspects of the environment and how environmental changes directly affect humans value (National Research Council [NRC], 1992).

The human-induced environmental challenges are the environmental hazards and/or disasters (challenges) that are caused and/or accelerated by anthropogenic factors or as a result of human activities (ICSU, 2007). The human-induced environmental challenges include land degradation, deforestation, water and air pollution, insanitary conditions, noise pollution and loss of biodiversity (ICSU, 2007). The next section explains the causes and consequences of some of these human-induced environmental challenges.

Land Degradation

Land degradation as a human-induced environmental challenge is an issue of worldwide concern as it threatens global food security and environmental quality. It is an acute problem in Africa where deforestation, mining, overgrazing and mismanagement of land resources have rendered over 320 million hectares of land unsuitable for any meaningful agriculture (Sant ‘Anna, 2001; Sherr & Yadav, 1996). In sub-Saharan Africa, majority of the soils in the arid and semi-arid areas are Arenosols, Lixisols, Regosols, Leptosols and Plinthosols, which are characteristically light-textured and inherently low in natural fertility, poor in structure, low organic matter and have low buffering capacity (Agboola & Aiyelari, 2000; Asiamah, Quansah, & Dedzoe, 2000; Sant ‘Anna, 2001). These characteristics make more than 60% of the soils highly susceptible to accelerated erosion due to various types of soil mismanagement without any investment in improved conservation measures (Agboola & Aiyelari, 2000).

In Ghana, the most susceptible agro-ecological zone to degradation is the interior savanna, which covers about 50% of the land area of the country (Asiamah et al., 2000). This comprises the Guinea and Sudan savanna zones (northern part of Ashanti, Eastern, Volta, Brong Ahafo regions and the whole of Northern, Upper West and Upper East regions). In these environments, especially the Sudan savanna agro-ecological zone, the potential carrying capacity of the land has been exceeded (Asiamah et al., 2000; Sant ‘Anna, 2001). This has resulted in the use of marginal and non-productive agricultural lands with serious degradation problems (Asiamah & Quansah, 1992). A study carried out in the Bawku area, which lies in the Sudan savanna agro-ecological zone of Ghana, shows that degradation is accelerated mainly by high population pressure (Directorate General of Regional Development [DGRD], 1992).

The most common form of land degradation is soil erosion by water and wind, which results from vegetation removal (Oldeman , 1994). Soil nutrient depletion occurs mainly through crop removal in harvested crops and residues, leaching, erosion, burning and nitrogen volatilization (Oldeman , 1994). For sub-Saharan Africa, Stoorvogel and Smaling (1990) estimated depletion rates for the major nutrients as 22–26 kilograms (kg) of nitrogen (N), 6–7 kg of Phosphorus penta oxide (P2O5) and 18–23 kg of Potassium oxide (K2O) per hectare per year between 1983 and 2000. In Ghana, the estimates for 2000 were 35 kg N, 4 kg P2O5 and 20 kg K2O (Asiamah et al. , 2000). These losses have reduced soil productivity, thus, leading to declining food production, food insecurity, reduced farm family incomes and livelihoods, slow economic growth against the background of increasing population and urbanization (Shetty, Debrah, & Renard, 1995). Again, several studies (Lowery, Hart, Bradford, Kung, & Huang, 1998; Lal, Mokma, & Lowery, 1998; Norton, Cihacek, & Edwards , 1998; Olson, Mokma, Lal, Schumacher, & Lindstorm , 1998) have also shown that human accelerated erosion has an adverse effect on soil quality and its agronomic productivity.


Deforestation as another human-induced environmental challenge defined as the conversion of forested land to other uses, or a permanent reduction of canopy cover has attracted increasing international attention in recent years (Food and Agricultural Organization ([FAO], 2004). Annually, the rate of global deforestation is around 13 million hectares, most of which occurs in the developing world. Forest loss in Africa is particularly troubling, because two-thirds of the continent’s population depends on forest resources for income and food supplementation, and 90 percent of Africans use fuel wood and charcoal as sources of energy (ICSU, 2007). The deforestation in Africa is estimated at around 3.4 million hectares per year, mainly due to over reliance on forest resources and non-timber forest products for socio-economic development (Centre for International Forestry Research [CIFR], 2005; FAO, 2010).

Between 1990 and 2000, Ghana lost an average of 135,000 hectares of forest per year and between 2000 and 2005, Ghana’s forests decreased by a further 115,000 hectares (FAO, 2010). In total, between 1990 and 2005, Ghana lost about 26% of its forest cover, or around 193,000 hectares (United Nations Environment Programme [UNEP], 2008). Ghana’s rate of deforestation is about 3% per annum and it is one of the highest deforestation rates in Africa and the world (United Nations Development Programme [UNDP], 2012). In Ghana, deforestation is the result of a number of economic activities: legal and illicit logging, clearing trees to increase arable land, fuel wood extraction, mining and urbanization (Forestry Commission of Ghana [FCoG], 2008). These causes are differentiated across the various vegetation zones in the country. Boafo (2012) however, identified timber exploitation, mining and agriculture expansion for being the predominant causes of deforestation in the tropical forest zones (Western, Ashanti, Eastern and Brong Ahafo regions) (as cited Boafo, 2013). In the Guinea and Sudan savanna zones, unsustainable charcoal and firewood production, forest fires and agriculture expansion are the major causes (Agyeman, Amponsah, Braimah, & Lurumuah, 2012).

Again, Ghana is the world’s second-largest producer of cocoa beans and large tracts of tropical forest have been cleared to support increasing cocoa production (FAO, 2007). When world cocoa prices are low, Ghana’s foreign exchange earnings are significantly affected, this is often compensated for by increasing timber and mineral exports. Thus, cocoa farming is both a direct and indirect driver of deforestation (UNEP, 2008). Another major contributor to Ghana’s deforestation has been the alienation of forest communities from policy formulation although such communities are expected to help in protecting the forests (Ministry of Lands and Forestry [MLF], 1996). The decision by the Forestry Commission to grant timber concessions in forest reserves also contributed to continual decline of forest reserves (Opoku, 2006). The failure of the Commission to manage the deforestation caused in off-reserve areas and the perceived failure to punish infringements by large companies are also responsible for the decline (Agidee, 2011; Boon, Ahenkan, & Badoun, 2009).

More so, the Ghana government, since the 1980s, has provided generous incentives to attract investments in the mining sector and have even given mining concessions within some of Ghana’s forest reserves (UNEP, 2008). This poses a serious threat to Ghana’s remaining forests. For example, over 60% of the Wassa West District in western Ghana is under concession to large-scale gold mining companies. It is the greatest concentration of mining in a single district in Africa (UNEP, 2008). The large footprints of these open-pit mines directly result in significant forest loss. In a nutshell, shifting cultivation, uncontrolled logging, surface mining, charcoal production, and increasing population place enormous pressure on the remaining of Ghana’s forests.

Deforestation leads to land degradation and eventually desertification, thus increasing the vulnerability of the population to drought (Timberlake, 1994). The impacts of deforestation in exacerbating rural poverty are complex and widespread. Not only does forest loss reduce forest communities’ contributions to national economic growth, but more critically, it threatens the livelihoods and traditions of rural and forest dwelling people across the country (Acheampong & Marfo, 2011). According to Bosu, Foli, Djabletey, Ametsitsi, Addo-Danso, Cobinah, Nkrumah and Bandoh (2010) the reduction of the availability of non timber forest products alongside the trees that support them, make forest communities to often travel further distances into the forest to access products that sustain their food security and socio-economic well-being (as cited Boafo, 2013). For instance, income in rural areas comes from forests products and 76% of Ghana’s final energy consumption is derived from wood fuels (firewood and charcoal) and wood fuel is the main source of cooking fuel for up to 85% of households in Ghana (Appiah, 2009; Edjekumhene & Cobson-Cobbold, 2011). Therefore, if measures are not being introduced to deal with this canker of deforestation it will have more serious implications on the socio-economic well-being of the rural communities such as loss of livelihood and poverty.

Water Pollution

Water pollution (for example, contamination of rivers and lakes) is also a serious human-induced environmental challenge in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2000, over 300 million people did not have access to clean and safe water (ISCU, 2007). Anthropogenic pressures account for contamination of surface water and groundwater quality (Carpenter et al., 1998). These anthropogenic pressures include farming along water courses, deforestation, soil winning for building construction, mining, discharge of harmful chemicals in water bodies, fishing and discharge of waste (solid and liquid). In Ghana, contaminations of surface and ground water bodies have particularly been experienced in gold mining communities (Kuma & Younger 2004; Manu, Twumasi, & Coleman, 2004; Obiri 2007). For instance, gold mining in recent times has become unpopular as it is regarded as a significant source of mercury, lead and heavy metal contamination of the environment owing to activities such as mineral exploitation, ore transportation and waste waters around mines (Essumang, Dodoo, Obiri, & Yaney, 2007; Hanson, Dodoo, Essumang, Blay, & Yankson 2007; Obiri 2007).

Water pollution causes flooding due to the accumulation of solid waste and soil erosion in streams and rivers. Discharged of sewage, fertilizer and agricultural run offs which contains organic materials into water increases the growth of algae, leading to depletion of oxygen and therefore threatening aquatic life.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is becoming a serious human-induced environmental challenge in Africa, which, in the past 25 years, has been experiencing the world’s most rapid rate of urbanization at nearly 5% per annum (ICUS, 2OO7). Air pollution is the contamination of indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere (http:/ pollution/). Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution (http:/ pollution/). Pollutants of major public concern include particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide. According to World Health Organization (2009) the most significant cause of indoor air pollution in the developing world is the burning of coal or unprocessed biomass fuels. In addition, more than 50 percent of the world’s population gets their energy for cooking in this way, with almost all of these people living in impoverished countries (WHO, 2009).

In Ghana, majority of the population relies on biomass (wood, charcoal and crop residue) for cooking, causing high concentrations of smoke and carbon dioxide in homes (Edjekumhene & Cobson-Cobbold, 2011). In 2000, the World Bank estimated that 95 percent of Ghanaian households used solid fuel to power stoves, a much higher portion than the 73.4 percent estimate for Africa’s Northwestern quadrant (as cited Ezzati & Kemmer, 2002).

The health risks of indoor air pollution range from acute respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and asthma, to nasopharyngeal and laryngeal cancer. It also contributes to cataracts, blindness, and perinatal risks such as stillbirth, low birth weight, prematurity and early infant death ( In 2000, between 1.5 and 2 million deaths worldwide were caused by indoor air pollution. This represents 4 to 5 percent of global mortality for that year (Ezzati & Kemmer, 2002). According to the Africa Environment Outlook (AEO) report, those most affected are women, who do most of the cooking in African families, as well as infants, who are often times strapped to the backs of their mothers (as cited UNEP, 2002).

On the other hand, the major sources of outdoor air pollution include industries such as aluminium smelting, oil refining, mining, cement-asbestos product plants, steel works, sawmill and wood processing; automotive exhaust emissions; dust from road construction and stench from waste (EPA, 2002). Pollutants from combustion processes tend to be in the form of particulate matter, smog, odours and nuisance gases all containing different amounts of gases like sulphur oxides, nitrogen, carbon and hydrocarbons (EPA, 1991). Vehicular exhaust emissions have been a significant cause of poor urban air quality over the years in Ghana (EPA, 2002). Outdoor air pollution poses serious health challenges to humans and other forms of life when they are exposured long to emissions. The health challenges include inability of lungs to resist diseases, painful breathing and coughing. Again, acid rain burns plants, causing them to turn into yellow and die. Acid rain also causes corrosion of buildings, bridges and monuments. The pollution of the air by chlorofluorocarbons also attacks the ozone layer, which protects us from the damaging part of the sun’s radiation.

Noise Pollution

Noise pollution is sound that is incoherent and irregular, and produces an unpleasant sensation that is unwanted or that interferes with the ability to hear. The sources of noise pollution include motor vehicles and traffic such as mobile cassette vending and unnecessary blowing of sirens and horns; industrial activities for example the textile mills and printing houses; extractive industrial activities such as mining; social and religious activities for example funerals, church activities and entertainment activities. Gbedemah (2004) considers the mining companies as the most important culprit of noise pollution in Ghana. The sources of noise and vibrations at the mines according to him include air blast, blasting of rocks, and other mobile equipments which are old with poor maintenance.

For most people, sound is an important and meaningful contributor to the experience of their environment and their daily activities. However, unwanted sound may interrupt activity where quiet is desirable, distract concentration, reduce the quality of communication, and contribute to the stress of individuals (WHO, 2005). Noise pollution leads to sleep disturbance and may produce increased annoyance through remembered awakenings (Basner, 2008; Basner, Samel, & Isermann, 2006). The difficulties, stresses and annoyance potentially arising as a result of unwanted noise exposure during waking or sleep have sometimes been termed “health effects” (WHO, 2005).

Kiernan (1997) finds that even relatively low levels of noise affect human health adversely. It may cause hypertension, disrupt sleep and/or hinder cognitive development in children. The effects of excessive noise could be so severe that either there is a permanent loss of memory or a psychiatric disorder (Bond, 1996). It may also cause deafness, nervous breakdown, mental disorder, heart troubles and high blood pressure, headaches, dizziness, inefficiency and insomnia (Bhargawa, 2001). After considering the predominant causes and the devastating consequences of human-induced environmental challenges discussed earlier, it is therefore imperative to review the social system responses to the environmental challenges.

Social System Responses to Human-Induced Environmental Challenges

Social systems research on human dimensions of global environmental challenges is concerned with the causes and consequences of individual’s and collective actions in terms of the ways in which human activities affect the environment, the socio-economic impacts of global environmental challenge, and the individuals and societal responses to those challenges (Jager, 2003). Placing emphasis on understanding human dimensions of global environmental challenges can help manage human-induced environmental challenges effectively or adapt to these threats. Environmental challenges management as global environmental issue is not simply a process to use scientific or technical methods to control pollution or prevent environmental degradation but rather is profoundly embedded in social judgment, attitudes, and values, as well as organizational and political processes (McDaniels, Axelrod, Cavamagh, & Slovic, 1997).

In social processes, humans and human activities are the most dynamic factors driving global environmental challenges and affecting almost every aspect of social systems. The National Research Council (1992) advocates that, it is human behaviour that must be controlled if humans want to succeed in managing human-induced environmental challenges. It has been realized that good decisions on managing human-induced environmental challenges are based on analysis of the human drivers of environmental challenges, decision making using information from various public and organizations, and effective public involvement (Dietz, 2003). The next section discusses public participation in environmental protection.

Public Participation in Environmental Protection

Community participation in environmental protection follows the example of community policing in advancing: shared responsibility for policing (as community members play a role in identifying problems and agencies respond to these community-reported issues); prevention (where the ultimate goal is identifying and eliminating the source of a problem); and increased discretion and flexibility within agency and community stakeholder groups (Rohe, Adams, & Arcury, 2001). As Skogan and Hartnett (1997, p. 5) suggest, the goal of community oriented policing lies in “reforming decision making processes and creating new cultures... a commitment to broadly focused, problem-oriented policing... responsive to citizens’ demands.” Similarly, community environmental policing tries to advance both civilian oversight accountability for government agencies and community participation in policing (Bass, 2000).

Community environmental policing has taken many forms and achieved varying results (Greene & Mastrofski, 1988). Common characteristics of successful community policing initiatives include a move toward organizational decentralization, better communication between the police and the public, new kinds of information exchange, and increased responsiveness to citizen concerns. It is also capable of increasing trust and coordinating actions, helping to understand the causes of problems, analyzing patterns of problems, and responding creatively to these problems through multiple means and coordination with other agencies (Lavrakas, 1995; Rosenbaum, 1997).

Public participation in environmental issues is also supported for its potential to provide additional sources of information to government agencies, increase acceptance of and confidence in government decisions, educate and empower community members on issues that affect them, and advance democratic ideals (Fiorino, 1990; Heiman, 1997; Shepherd & Bowler, 1997; Spyke, 1999). For instance, community participation in environmental watch programmes can provide new sources of information for identifying problems and their root causes (Crank, 1994) and help to enhance policing through the combined actions of community members and enforcing agencies (Fung, 2001). Finally, some versions of community policing of the environment focus explicitly on advancing increased accountability over the state enforcing institutions (Fung, 2001).

It is also now widely believed that members of the public should participate in environmental decision making because involving stakeholders results in better quality decisions (Beierle & Cayford, 2002; Bruch, 2004; Webler, Tuler, & Krueger 2001). People also believe that participation can help increase trust in government, credibility, and acceptability of risk management decisions (Charnley, 2000; Rowe & Frewer, 2000). Public participation also contributes valuable local knowledge and experience that supplements that of ‘technical experts’, aiding in the ecological risk assessment process, and in more effective risk management decisions (Goldstein et al., 2000). Moreover, community involvement can result in the collective transition of the residents from victims to agents of change (O’Rourke & Macey, 2003). Community engagement encourages citizens to be proactive in their attempts to resolve environmental challenges (Parenteau & Thong, 2005).

In the long run, public involvement in decision making is viewed as the means to make the public understand more about the decisions, to lead them to accept environmental protection policies, and to gain public support for the policies and decisions after they are implemented (Arvai, McDaniels, & Gregory, 2002; Bruch, 2004). The responses from public participation would redirect human driven forces in social processes towards reducing the threats of human-induced environmental challenges.

Nevertheless, purely top–down, hierarchical approaches, do not often produce sustainable results in environmental protection (Gasteyer et al., 2002). Rather, success requires a vibrant civic infrastructure at and across multiple levels of society whereby governments engage citizens, local communities, businesses and non-profit organisations in environmental solutions (Eckerberg & Joas, 2004). This could best be accomplished by creating and sustaining institutions where civil society could take hold and grow. These civic institutions are built when local residents, businesses, NGOs and governmental entities collaborate to focus on the common goal and mutually beneficial outcomes (Banyan, 2003).

However, people criticize the public participation process, asserting that it increases rather than decreases conflict between agencies and the public, increases rather than decreases the costs of making and implementing policy decisions, and is unduly time consuming (English, 1996). In addition, some people believe that decisions involving complex technical and scientific issues should be made by experts, viewing members of the general public as being unqualified to address them, and too emotionally involved in the problems to be solved (Folk, 1991). Sinh (2001) explains further that local communities have not yet been given the authority to participate in the decision-making, management and monitoring process due to lack of local people’s awareness about environmental policies and regulations. All of these barriers detract the ability of citizens, communities and other stakeholders to collaborate and share power in solving local environmental problems. In addition to public participation as a response to human-induced environmental challenges, the National Research Council (1992) prioritizes culture as a fundamental factor to the causes and consequences related to human-induced environmental challenges (Proctor, 1998).

Cultural Responses to Environmental Protection

Culture is explained as the norms, values, and beliefs shared by a group. Culture contains a dominant worldview that is held by most members of society. The common beliefs and value systems shape the major activities of that society and structure people’s perceptions of the world (Olsen, 1992). Culture is considered as one dimension of all other human dimensions of global environmental challenges, which shares meanings connected with the full range of human practices associated with global environmental challenges (Proctor, 1998).

Kempton, Boster and Hartley (1995) indicated that understanding culture is an essential part of understanding environmental challenges, because human cultures guide their members both when they accelerate environmental destruction and when they slow it down. For everyone in the culture, the cultural framework shapes the issues that people see as important and affects the way they act on those issues. To effectively address and manage human-induced environmental challenges, environmental managers need to recognize, understand, and adjust to the unique culture of a society. For example, universal participation in global climate change management requires ethical analyses of global warming issues, and an ethically acceptable solution would not emerge until the perceived ethical dimensions of global warming issues are identified (Brown, 2003).

Voluntary environmental management is inherent within the Ghanaian cultural system. Since time immemorial, sacred groves (small patches of relict climax vegetations) have been protected through certain traditional, religious beliefs and taboos (Kingdom, 1989). The traditional beliefs, taboos and unwritten laws serve as regulatory mechanisms and spell out the “dos” and “don’ts” pertaining to the use of the resources in the groves (Attuquayefio & Fobil, 2005). Sustainability can be said to be engrained in the way of life of the traditional Ghanaian beliefs and practices. For instance, Boaten (1997) added that African traditional concept of land ownership enjoins the living to manage and conserve the environment for the future generation, and would also be accountable to their ancestors for such stewardship. However, with urbanization, industrialization and advent of western religious practices, these traditional environmental practices have broken down giving rise to many human-induced environmental challenges including waste management (Gbedemah, 2004). There is therefore the need to reinforce environmental education programmes to help people to imbibe and develop ecological attitudes and behaviours towards the natural environment (Hungerford & Volk, 1990).

The Role of Environmental Education in Environmental Protection

Environmental education ensures harmony within the systems of operation in the environment. The goal of environmental education is to foster clear awareness and concerns about economic, social, political and ecological interdependence in rural and urban areas. According to Laing (1991), the main objective of environmental education is to raise the level of environmental issues to a point where individual groups and organizations can fully assume their responsibilities in safeguarding the environment, particularly at the grassroots level.

Education is at the heart of all activities in environmental protection, conservation and sustainability for development. Traditional education has a role of transmitting existing knowledge of society to individuals and also has to promote young people’s competencies for critically analyzing and reflecting the environment awareness. The individuals should learn about the causes of the environmental problems and how to avoid them (Hirsch, 1995). There are plenty of research activities in environmental education. The results suggest that environmental education has to be reshaped within the social process of sustainable development and educational policy (Kyburz-Graber & Robottom, 2006).

It is well known that environmental education is a complex issue that is mostly depending on individuals’ previous experiences, their environment and culture. The interesting thing is how teachers and learners implement their previously gained individual environmental knowledge into present educational approaches which are considered vital issues in environmental education. Environmental education growth does not always affect environmental attitudes in positive direction . It is generally accepted that complex issues of basic knowledge do not necessarily have effect on the individuals’ growing responsible attitudes towards environment (Hungerford & Volk, 1990).

In order to convert individually obtained knowledge and experiences from family and school into positive individual attitudes, individuals should grow into enough maturity. It is accepted that an environmentally responsible individual should have basic knowledge of ecological principles, capability of applying these principles into life, and they should have responsible behaviours and attitudes towards the environment (Hungerford & Volk, 1990).

Generally, environmental education deals with a wide range of environmental experiences , methods and processes. For this reason, teaching environmental subject should not only cover pure ecology education; it should also cover citizenship responsibilities. Environmental education in schools enables students to learn how nature works and gain insights into environmental problems such as pollution, bushfires, deforestation and epidemics (EPA, 1997). When people are equipped with knowledge and skills in environmental protection, they can help to maintain and increase the productivity of the environment. As an attempt to make environmental issues priority in Ghana, the government adopted an Environmental Education Strategy (EPA, 1997). The strategy covers both the formal and the informal educational sectors and it was a collaborative effort developed with input from the media, Non Formal Division of the Ministry of Education, the Ghana Education Service, Non Governmental Organizations and the National Council on Women and Development (EPA, 1997).

The success of any environmental policy depends on the fact that all sections of the population understand the function of the environment and the problem it presents (EPA, 1997). This implies that environmentalism should reach all sections of the community. Indeed, there are sectors responsible for providing environmental education in all forms throughout the country to create environmental awareness in the public and it is coordinated by EPA.

However, environmental education does not seem to be fully integrated into the country’s educational system and there is therefore an urgent need to address the problem in order not to defeat the very aim of the environmental education. It is also important to effectively extend the environmental education programmes to the non-formal education so that those who are not in formal education can also be reached. Alternative methods such as drama troupes, cinema vans, opinion and traditional leaders can also be mobilized to reach the communities in their local dialect. After the United Nations conference on Human Environment (UNCHE) held in Stockholm in 1972, countries started putting in policies to help to ameliorate the environment (as cited Boon, 1998). And Government of Ghana for instance, established environmental policy institutions to consequently deal with the human-induced environmental challenges (Boon, 1998).

The Role of Environmental Policy Institutions in Environmental Protection

The Government of Ghana does not only formulate environmental laws, legislation or policies but also transform them into programmes and projects. The programmes and projects are implemented by the policy institutions and bodies established by the government. The institutions include the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST). This is the main ministry responsible for the environment; Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which is an advisory institution to propose policy guidelines on issues concerning the environment, and it is also an enforcement agency. Others include the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), Ministry of Lands and Forestry; Ministry of Mines and Energy; Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana Wildlife Department and the District Assemblies. The roles of EPA and District Assemblies in environmental protection are explained in the subsequent sections.

The Role of Environmental Protection Agency in Environmental Protection

In 1974, the Government of Ghana established the Environmental Protection Council (EPC) by NRC Decree 239. The EPC was primarily an advisory and research organization and it was expected to co-ordinate the activities of other bodies concerned with environmental matters. It had no power to enforce measures for improving the environment or preventing damage to it. In 1994, the Environmental Protection Agency Act (Act 490) transformed the Environmental Protection Council into an Agency having, inter alia, regulatory and enforcement roles.

The EPA has full mandate to regulate the environment and ensure implementation of government policies on the environment. The EPA is a corporate body with legal personality, capable of acquiring and holding property, capable of suing and being sued and capable to enter into contracts. The EPA does not only perform advisory, research and coordinating functions, it also has enforcement powers. It is therefore an implementing Agency, a regulatory body and a catalyst for change towards sound environmental stewardship.

The duties of the EPA are quite comprehensive and require huge amounts of resources to be effective. In line with this, Act 490 establishing the EPA makes provisions for a National Environmental Fund to provide funding for the EPA’s activities. The Fund is financed by grants from the government for the protection or improvement of the environment; levies collected by the Agency in the performance of its functions; donations from the general public, institutions and organizations. Monies from the Fund are used for environmental education of the public, research, studies and investigations relating to the functions of the Agency and human resource development. The Agency has power to request for an environmental impact assessment from any person planning to undertake a development project, which in the opinion of the Agency has or is likely to have effect on the environment. It also has power to impose fines for non-compliance of its orders (Environmental Protection Agency, 1994).

The EPA also works with other departments whose activities have a bearing on the environment to formulate and implement Ghana’s environmental policies and programmes. The departments include the Forestry Department, the National Energy Board, the Department of Parks and Gardens, and the Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI). The EPA is also responsible for coordinating the implementation of the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) through the setting up of inter-sectoral networks with the responsibility of implementing the plan. To achieve sustainable balance between economic growth and sound environmental management in Ghana, EPA has adopted an integrated environmental planning and management systems. These systems were established on a broad base of public participation, efficient implementation of appropriate programmes and technical services as well as effective and consistent enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. The District Assemblies serve as organs through which national policies and programmes on the environment are translated into actions at the local and district levels.

District Assemblies Role in Protecting the Environment

In line with Ghana’s policy on decentralization, the Local Government Act, 1993 (Act 462) empowers the District Assembly by section 10 (3) (e) to be responsible for the development, improvement and management of human settlement and the environment in the district. Again, the same Act (Act 462) by section 46(1) also establishes each District Assembly as the Planning Authority of its area of jurisdiction. The Act therefore gives the District Assemblies the mandate to formulate environmental sanitation bye-laws in their areas of jurisdiction. These bye-laws are supposed to be in conformity with the National Environmental Policy. The Act also empowers the District Assemblies to enforce their environmental sanitation regulations as well as prosecuting the offenders. District Assemblies are mandated by the Act 462 to be the authority for carrying and executing the provisions of: Control and Prevention of Bushfires Law, 1990 (P.N.D.L. 229); Trees and Timber (Chain Saw Operators) Regulations, 1991 (L.I. 1518) within their areas of jurisdiction


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Perception of Human-Induced Environmental Challenges in the Birim Central Municipality, Ghana
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Clarke Owusu (Author), 2015, Perception of Human-Induced Environmental Challenges in the Birim Central Municipality, Ghana, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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