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General News of Saturday, 24 May 2014

Source: The Chronicle

Angry Mahama summons minister

Information obtained from a credible source at the Flagstaff House indicates that the Minister of Local Government & Rural Development, Akwasi Oppong-Fosu, has been summoned by President Mahama over the destruction of the Aburi Botanical Gardens Forest Reserve.

The president wants to inquire from the Minister whether the directive for the DCE to encroach on the forest reserve was from his office and whether there were documentary proof to that effect.

The minister, The Chronicle learnt, honoured the call on Thursday and gave account of the level of destruction done the forest reserve by the Akuapem South District Chief Executive, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan.

Mr. Afari-Gyan on March 7, 2014, stormed the 172-year-old forest reserve with a group of chainsaw operators, and directed them to cut down the timber species, in preparation for an office complex for the Assembly, an action he claimed, was backed by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development.

President John Mahama, according to inside sources, is not happy about the status of the country’s environment, which has in recent times, come under severe attack through deforestation and activities of illegal mining and logging.

The country’s 8.2 million hectares of forest reserve a century ago, has declined to a current 1.5 million hectares. That means, about 90% of its forest cover has been depleted, while the remaining 10% is still under pressure.

With the desire and strong political will to save the country’s environment, President Mahama, according to our source, is prepared to crack the whip on anyone, especially, those in government, who commit themselves in further causing harm to the environment.

Mr. Oppong-Fosu, according to our source, was engaged in a closed-door meeting with the President, where he briefed him about his side of the story.

It was not clear as to whether he confirmed or denied directing the DCE to develop 23 acres of the forest reserve into an Assembly office complex.

However, a source closer to the Minister said he was equally not happy about the action of Mr. Afari-Gyan.

The DCE, our source confirmed, was also at the Flagstaff House last Monday at the instance of the President to answer why he encroached on the Aburi Botanical Gardens forest reserve.

Mr. Afari-Gyan, prior to destroying a portion of the forest reserve, was offered a three-acre land by the Department of Parks and Gardens, but rejected the offer.

The Aburi Botanical Gardens operates under the Department of Parks and Gardens, which is an agency under the Ministry of Local Government & Rural Development. It covers an area of 160 acres (64.34 hectares), out of which 35 acres has been developed.

The Gardens is one of the leading gardens in the world for research into tropical botany. It is made up of orchids, flower plots, rock gardens, children’s park, nurseries and chalets (apartments for rental). It further has 13 hectares of undeveloped land (forest) reserved in its wild state as a means of stabilising the ecology of the area.

President Mahama is expected to make a pronouncement on the subject matter within the coming week.