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Opinions of Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Columnist: Joel Savage

Stop degrading the land for political greed

A report from the World Bank indicates that Ghana is losing close to 12 percent of its Gross Domestic Product due to environmental degradation.

Africa is a continent that has a lot more than any continent in the world, yet many Africans are illiterate and unemployed, facing poor medical, economic, sanitation, diseases, and drainage problems, while through land grabbing foreign countries get richer.

Multinationals and foreign governments buy lands in poor African countries to exploit them intensively at an industrial level and often expel the resident peasants.

For example, oil companies, especially Shell Petroleum, have been operating for more than 30 years without serious control or environmental rules driving their operations.

The Niger Delta is a vast area that covers about 70,000 square kilometers and the richest oil region on the African continent.

This is where 90 percent of Nigeria's oil and gas reserves are located, yet, despite the resources available, the majority of the population of this area, around 31 million people, live in extreme poverty.

The voices of the African peasants, who often rebel against the system degrading the environment and threatening their livelihood and their villages, are often ignored because of bad corruptible governments.

After colonization, foreign governments are still interested in the continent to sustain their economies, thus part of our lands are becoming theirs. Madagascar has handed over to South Korea half of its arable land, about one million three hundred thousand hectares.

In Tanzania, 400 thousand hectares have been purchased by the Emir, for exclusive hunting rights. The leader of the Arab nation had them fenced and sent the military to prevent the Masai tribes from trespassing for their animals.

In Uganda, 22,000 people had to leave their homes to make way for the activities of a timber trading company, the English New Forest Company. The company had bought everything, including land and villages.

In the eyes of the corrupt African leaders, most of the foreign companies continue to spill toxic waste in our environments and polluting the waters in our country, yet in their own countries, they adhere to safety rules and environmental protection.

In Ghana, despite protests from environmentalists, activists, and people, the Ghanaian government is interested to extract bauxite deposits in the Atewa Forest, in the southwestern part of the country, even though the forest reserve supplies water to 5 million people in Ghana.

In Ghana illegal mining has engaged the activities of foreign nationals, including the Chinese, yet no Ghanaian can engage in a similar act without going to prison in a foreign country.

African leaders must not be greedy and corrupt to sell our lands and forests for degradation. As a developing continent, the continent needs leaders who are willing to protect the people and the environment.

Civil society, governments, and oil companies must work together to promote a long-term strategy that respects and protects the environment, the right to water, and better health facilities.

Before all these can be achieved corrupt African leaders must stop collaborating with foreign governments to destroy our lands for their political greed.

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