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Sunday, 30 October 2011

Working to prevent transnational pollution in the Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem

The location is Kpémé. It can easily be found in Google Maps. All that needs to be done is to enter the name and click on the image to enlarge. And there it is - Kpémé, in Togo, West Africa.

Now, click once more… and once again … and you will see what is supposed to be the sparkling blue waters of a part of the Guinea Current - a warm ocean current that flows easterly along the coast of West Africa. These waters, however, are brown. The reason? A phosphate factory in the nearby Kpémé which has been releasing its waste waters into the sea for years. “What looks like environmental fraud at first glance, is in fact a complex socio-economic dilemma,” says Christian Susan of UNIDO’s Water Management Unit. 

The coastal region of Togo hosts more than 90 per cent of the industrial units of the country. Among these is the International Fertilizer Group (IFG) industry, which processes phosphates at Kpémé.

“The revenues from IFG contribute significantly to Togo’s Gross National Income USD. So far Togo has not yet enacted any standards for industrial waste water and phosphate accounts for some 20 per cent of export earnings and IFG is one of Togo’s largest employers,” explains Susan. Yet the effluents discharged in the coastal waters without any further treatment provoke enormous pollution problems along the coast of Togo as well as beyond the country’s territorial waters, including in Benin and all the way to Nigeria.

Since 2005, UNIDO has been supporting Togo helping– deal with the polluted coastal waters through the Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem (GCLME) project.

The GCLME is one of the world’s 64 large marine ecosystems that together produce 95 per cent of the annual world fish catch. The physical extent of the Guinea Current encompasses coastal waters from Guinea-Bissau on the north to Angola on the south, with 16 West-African countries sharing the resources of the GCLME.

The waters of the GCLME are among the world’s most productive and are characterized by abundant biodiversity. They support large populations of sardines, tunas, mackerel and other species important to the economies and livelihood of the more than 300 million people in the coastal zone as sources of food and export products.

The waters are not only rich in fisheries, but also support large-scale gas and oil production, coastal and mangroves that provide important nursery grounds for various fish stocks. Present and future generations in West Africa are largely dependant on these resources – enough reason for UNIDO to harness know-how and expertise and seek ways to clean-up the coastal region.

“The phosphate mine in Kpémé constitutes one of the most serious but by far not the only source of transboundary industrial pollution in this ecosystem,” says Christian Susan.

Under the umbrella of the Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem project, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) supports the sixteen countries sharing the ecosystem in their efforts to restore and sustain depleted fisheries, reduce pollution, restore degraded habitats and institutionalize eco-system wide cooperation.

The project is to be completed by April 2012. It is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and executed by UNIDO. It also benefits from substantial support provided by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (US-NOAA).

To strengthen regional cooperation the riparian countries have established the Interim Guinea Current Commission (IGCC). The GCLME project’s Regional Coordination Unit which is hosted by the Government of Ghana serves as the Commission’s executive secretariat.

“In line with UNIDO’s Green Industry concept, we make sure that industrial production is maintained while resource efficiency is increased and detrimental environmental impacts resulting from industrial production processes are reduced,” says Christian Susan. 

“In 2006 we conducted in-depth research that led to the recommendation of low-cost, low-technology measures to control the pollution of GCLME waters by drastically reducing the particulate content of effluents from the phosphate processing plant. Then, in 2009, we helped prepare detailed engineering designs, bills of quantities and cost estimates. Today, UNIDO experts are assessing the environmental, social and financial feasibility to recycle and re-utilize the sludge resulting from the proposed waste water treatment plant for industrial purposes as well as for income generating activities.”

UNIDO helped identify the best technology to deal with the industrial pollution and developed a forward-looking strategy. The Organization has also helped train experts in all 16 countries of the GCLME. They will continue the cleaning of the ecosystem.

By Eva Manasieva

Posted October 2011

To download a fact sheet on the programme, go here

To see the video on the project, go here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxSAYStYKCc&list=UUEdVD3q7YIDiWU-VkEhfOuA&index=55

For more information about the programme, please email:

Christian Susan
UNIDO Project Manager
E-mail