CSOs revamp campaign against mining in Atewa forest reserve

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Some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the country are intensifying their campaign against plans by the government to mine bauxite in the Atewa Forest Reserve in the Eastern Region.

Government in the 2017 budget statement revealed its intentions to develop an integrated aluminium industry and also mine bauxite deposits within the Atewa Forest Reserve. Since then, environmentalists have argued the country will pay a huge price for the proposed $15 billion Ghana-China joint venture if the government goes ahead with the plans.

From 1990-2010, Ghana lost 33.7 per cent of its forest reserves to illegal logging and other human activities. This alarming rate of depletion is raising serious concerns among environmental activists and CSOs.

The group is made up of Tropenbos Ghana, A Rocha Ghana and Friends of the Earth Ghana.

They want the government to review its stance on allowing mining in the Atewa Forest, considering the importance of the reserve to the livelihood of humans and biodiversity.

“Atewa Forest is the source of three rivers, Densu, Ayensu and Birim, so there is the need to protect it from any activity that could put these rivers at risk,” leader of the campaign, Project Coordinator for Tropinbos Ghana, Boakye Twumasi Ankrah, said.

He has impressed on the government to consider the environment above temporary economic considerations that leave behind more problems for the people to contend with.

“The Atewa Forest would generate additional financial resources for the state,” he said.

Though the advocacy has received little impact, the CSOs say they will continue to push for the forest to remain in its natural state.

Other forest reserves

The group also cited the cocoa expansion programme in Juaboso-Bia landscape area in the Western Region, where serious encroachment is taking place in forest reserves, as a serious environmental problem.

“We are not against the cocoa expansion programme in any way, but that cannot be done at the expense of our forests that help protect our environment,” Boakye Twumasi Ankrah pointed out.

The group also admonished government against allocating forest reserves for mining activities, emphasising that the damage caused by such activities in has contributed to the depletion of Ghana’s forest cover.

Implementation of laws and policies

Civil Society groups have often blamed the Lands Ministry for huge revenue losses in the small-scale mining sector.

According to them, the ministry has failed in its oversight responsibility to ensure proper enforcement of laws.

There are currently eleven laws governing the mining sector including that which allows for the imprisonment of up to three years of persons who flout mining regulations.

A total of $6 billion was recorded in losses in the mining sector within the last three years and this has been attributed to the activities of illegal miners.

Environmental Lawyer at Clientearth – a UK based group – who doubles at lecturer at GIMPA, Clement Kojo Akapame, has urged Parliament to exercise its rights under Article 268 of Ghana’s constitution to effectively scrutinise mining contracts and concessions.

The article empowers parliament to authorise other government agencies to do due diligence on its behalf before approving concessions for exploration and mining of any natural resources of Ghana.

He said the disregard and blatant breach of Ghana’s Forest and Mining Laws can only be curtailed if regulatory agencies have the willpower to strictly enforce these laws.

This was revealed at a capacity building workshop on forest and mining laws.

The workshop was in partnership with A Rocha Ghana, Friends of the Earth and Tropenbos Ghana, under the Green Livelihoods Alliance (GLA) program.

The media in recent times have shown interest in environmental issues, with some undertaking advocacy actions against galamsey.

The need for environmental advocates to also know the relevant laws that govern the sectors of forest and mining cannot be overemphasised since that will help make key advocacy messages well aligned with the relevant legal provisions.

The workshop, according to the group, is aimed at ensuring sustainable and inclusive management of the remaining forest through an integrated approach and recognises the devastating nature of deforestation and environmental degradation in Ghana, mainly resulting from agricultural expansion especially from cocoa and unsustainable logging and mining practices.

The workshop was organised by Tropenbos Ghana under the Green Livelihoods Alliance Programme with funds from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Dutch Embassy in Ghana.

Source: Prince Appiah || Luv FM

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