For some years now, Diplomats, Traditional Rulers, Civil Society Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations and other Senior Citizens have continued to trumpet the need to safeguard the Atewa Forest reserve which has been earmarked for Bauxite mining.
This call was given a fresh renewal on Friday, 22nd March, 2019 when Ghana joined the rest of the world in celebrating the World Water Day.
World Water Day is held annually on 22nd March. It is a day set aside by the United Nation to focus attention on the importance of tackling water crisis by addressing the reasons why so many people are being left behind -through advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
The world water day also forms part of the Sustainable Development Goal 6 which projects water for all by 2030. The event was celebrated in Ghana under the theme ‘Leaving No One Behind’.
It is worthy to note that, decades past, Ghana faced little challenges with pollution of its water bodies to activities of illegal mining, often referred to as “Galamsey”. However, in recent times, the introduction of the Chinese in their uncountable numbers in the mining sector has revealed how ‘economical’ the local illegal miners have been in their illegal activities on our water bodies.
With the introduction of advanced equipment into the illegal mining business, the Chinese are capable of turning the bellies of our water bodies upside down and inside out while robbing it of all of its resources, and most painfully, they have ended up poisoning them with chemicals which are banned the world over, rendering Ghana’s most priceless water bodies useless for aquatic life and useless for human consumption.
The situation which almost out of hands, received a great deal of attention from the citizenry, championed by the media, government banned all mining activities in our water bodies. The government`s excuse was that, the activities of these miners has had an overwhelming toll on our water sources and it was time to save these highly important waters.
This move by government was welcomed by a large section of Ghanaians including the government of our neighbouring country, Cote Ivoire, which had complained squarely that the illegal activities had a toll on its water sources. It praised government for the timely intervention.
However, soon after the declaration of ban on illegal mining, the same government revealed that plans are far advanced to hand over one of Ghana’s most important Forest reserve, the Atewa Forest to the Chinese, to completely destroy it under a deal for the mining of bauxite deposits.
Now, this move by the government is seen by many as contradictory over claims of protecting water bodies on one hand and on another hand bent on destroying a highly important forest reserve. It is important to note that the significance of Ghana`s few remaining forests to our water bodies and our overall existence as a nation cannot in any way be over-emphasized.
- “Why should a precious, unique and priceless site such as Atewa be destroyed; and who will account for the water and the endemic animals and plants, many of which were yet to be scientifically discovered and named?”
- “Who will follow the removal of rocks which predate our current age, mark and study them to provide an account of their history?
- “Who will supervise the removal and haulage of the excavated soil of the mountain and make sure that it is only bauxite deposits that are being removed but not diamonds and gold? Who will account for and who will authenticate the value of the excavated soils?”
These were some priceless questions by Professor Alfred Apau Oteng-Yeboah, a retired Professor (Department of Plant and Environmental Biology, University of Ghana, Legon) in a recent press conference held to draw the government`s attention on the need to safeguard our water bodies through the preservation of our forest reserves, importantly the Atewa Forest.
Like myself and many other concerned Ghanaians, Professor Alfred Apau Oteng-Yeboah has equally expressed concern about the fact that the Atewa Forest is a globally significant biodiversity area with multiple benefits and great potential for ecotourism which needs to be preserved and protected at all cost.
Indeed, it does not add up, when government at one hand is banning galamsey and at another instance is handing over the most important forest reserve in this country for mining.
Our country, not China, stand the risk of a long-term disadvantage if it proceeds to mine bauxite in the Atewa Forest, which suggests its total destruction form the surface of the earth.
I join the many desperate voices to appeal to government to take a take a critical look and rescind their decision, lest we will lose this all-important forest reserve, which is a critical piece of Nature`s gift to humanity.