The project dubbed Xenobiotic Substances and Heavy Metals in the Environment – A Threat to Health, Ecosystems and Development (SHEATHE), a collaborative effort between the Department of Chemistry of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) and Arhus University, Denmark has opened a kick-off meeting to mark the official launch of the project. The essence of the meeting is to bring on board all stakeholders of the programme to officially set the project in motion.
The project, funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), commences in 2016 and ends in 2020. Partners of the project include the Ghana Meteorological Agency and the Water Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. According to Dr. Godfred Darko, the two local partners will assist in the provision of relevant data and other institutional support. The project plans to purchase an air sampler, Lumex Mercury Analyser and also a Graphite Furnace Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (GFAAS).
Dr. Darko revealed that the project would adopt an inter-disciplinary and a multi-scale approach to address environmental and health risks. Researchers from the Social Sciences, Soil Sciences, and the Colleges of Science and Engineering would be involved to ensure the success of the project.
Professor Jesper Leth Bak, A team member from the University of Aarhus, stated that the project was an integrated cultural approach to address artisanal or small-scale mining (ASM), waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) and the dispersal and effects of heavy metals and xenobiotic substances. Prof. Leth Bak said human health, natural science and economic reviews would be conducted in addition to existing studies on the environmental effects of mercury and other heavy metals. He said earlier studies and investigations in Ghana were confined and limited in the effects of substances considered. The project would take place in the mining areas of the Northern, Western, Ashanti and Eastern Regions.
Dr. Marian Nkansah, a team member from KNUST, said that as part of the dissemination strategy, a website had been constructed for the project. PhD students will also be recruited to help achieve the objectives of the project in the areas of synopsis writing, community entry and environmental campaign, data collection, laboratory analysis as well as publication of research findings.
Outcomes from preliminary samples would be made known to both scientists and the general public through the extensive use of the media and social media. As part of the dissemination, PhD students are expected to publish a minimum of thee (3) refereed journal articles.
Dr. Nkansah hoped that the outcome of the research would help drive policy direction in Ghana since a published copy would be given to DANIDA and stakeholders to shape future policies. She also used the occasion to challenge policies makers to make use of recommendations of academia based on solid evidence through research to help develop the country.