As part of events commemorating the 65th Anniversary Celebrations of the University of Ghana, the Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies (IESS) collaborated with the Faculty of Science to organize a debate on the topic: “Should the Government of Ghana focus more on Environmental Sustainability or Economic Growth”. The debate was held on Tuesday, 29 October 2013 at the International House Auditorium with students of the Institute, students of the Presbyterian University College and members of the University community in attendance.
The contest was between the M.Phil and the PhD students of the IESS speaking for and against respectively. Each group had three speakers; one principal speaker and two other supporting speakers. Dr. Ted Nii Yemoh Anang, Research Fellow of the Institute moderated the programme with three Senior Members in the persons of: Drs. Daniel Nukpezah, Research Fellow of the IESS, Patrick Ocloo Seshie, Lecturer at the Wisconsin International University, Accra, and Daniel Twerefour, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Economics, University of Ghana, Legon serving as judges.
The Director of the Institute Professor Chris Gordon in his welcome address to commence the programme highlighted the importance of the debate as a means of the IESS contributing to national discussions on environmental sustainability concerns; an important requirement in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Dr. Dzidzoh Yirenya-Tawiah a Research Fellow, briefly explained the mission, vision and the various activities of the Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies to the audience present.
Mr. Ohene Asa Bosompem, principal speaker on behalf of the M.Phil students argued strongly for the topic; the need for the Government of Ghana to focus more on environmental sustainability. He contended that lack of sustainability of the environment posed serious health threats to people, which eventually lead to low economic growth as pertained in most developing countries. He described the environment as the “economy”; such that no country could boast of economic development when she is faced with environmental challenges.
The PhD students who spoke on the need for the Government to focus more on economic development did well to convince the audience that an effectual environmental management and health care system was largely dependent on a robust economy. Mr. Stephen Omari cited the industrial revolution as a major contributor to the massive economic growth of developed nations, which have, by far healthy environmental conditions than developing nations.
Supporting speakers of each group had their turn to address the audience either for the Government to focus more on environmental sustainability or to focus on economic development.
To summarize their points, the M.Phil students advocated for long term environmental sustainability, highlighting the need to preserve the integrity of the ecosystem in as much as economic decisions largely affect environmental management. The PhD students on the other hand campaigned strongly for development of the Ghanaian economy first in order to have enough resources to better manage the environmental situations such as insanitary conditions, polluted water bodies and depletion of forest cover. To them environmental policies cannot be implemented effectively by weaker economies.
In conclusion the judges agreed with the M.Phil students and declared them winners of the debate. They won by a margin of 73% as against 67% for the PhD students.
Dr. Elaine Lawson, Research Fellow of the Institute presented cash prizes to the contesting teams.