Business News of Saturday, 3 May 2014

Source: B&FT

Illegal mining in Ghana destroys 2% forest cover annually

The country continues to lose two per cent of its forest cover annually due to the activities of illegal mining, an environmental non-governmental organisation, A-ROCHA Ghana, has said.

This group called on government to urgently find solutions to halt the operations of illegal mining activities in the forest reserves.

Mr. Emmanuel Akon, Research and Project Liaison Officer of A-ROCHA Ghana, speaking at Bonsu in the Eastern Region under the theme ‘Our Forests in Harmony with our cities’, revealed that improper monitoring of forest reserves has made the country lose about 90 percent of its forest cover in the past decade.

He indicated that the activities of illegal bauxite miners operating in the Atiwa Forest is seriously affecting the animal and vegetation reserve in the country.

“The Atiwa Forest is noted as a water-shed, animal and vegetation forest reserve in the country. It delivers a variety of ecosystem services and benefits that supersede whatever amount the country will gain from mining,” he said.

Mr. Akon said the Atiwa Forest plays an important role not only as a repository of biodiversity but also provides carbon sinks and sources of drinking water for cities and rural communities.

“The forest shelters the head-waters of major rivers in-Ghana, such as the Ayensu, Birim and Densu, which provide drinking water to a large number of both rural and urban dwellers in Accra, Oda and Kade, which are under serious threat.”

A- Rocha Ghana, in partnership with the environmental office of the United States Embassy in Ghana, Save The Frogs and the University of Agriculture and Environmental Studies at Bunso, have sought to educate the community and civil society to join the crusade in protecting the forest reserves, especially those close to the cities, Mr. Akon said.

Mr. Ben Adu-Osei, who was chairman for the programme, explained that the Atiwa Forest is faced with the threat of increased degradation of forest resources from a growing population.

The forest reserve is again faced with persistent pressure for commercial bauxite mining, illegal artisanal and chainsaw logging, bush-meat hunting and farm encroachment.

This, he said, poses serious risks to the ecological integrity of the forest and provision of services, especially its role in absorbing carbon dioxide emission from cars, industries and other human activities.

“The greatest threat facing communities is not only poverty, but also an environmental catastrophe from destructive and unsustainable levels of natural resources exploitation in the country,” Mr. Adu-Osei said.

The Atiwa Forest, located in the Eastern Region and among the 260 forest reserves in the country, is one of the largest remaining blocks of tropical forest and also one of the healthiest and important ecosystems in West Africa.

The Atiwa together with Tano Offin Forests are the two largest and richest forest reserves in Ghana. Atiwa has national recognition as an important reserve that delivers a variety of ecosystem services and benefits whose economic values cannot be matched or replaced.

It also shelters the head-water of various major rivers such as the Weija, Densu, Birim and Ayensu, which serve most communities with potable water in the country.