Atewa Forest as National Park:The Double Standard of Okyeman Council and Okyenhene Atewa Forest as National Park:The Double Standard of Okyeman Council and Okyenhene
The seeming retreat of the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Council and sudden silent of Okyenhene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin on the ruling New Patriotic Party... Atewa Forest as National Park:The Double Standard of Okyeman Council and Okyenhene
The seeming retreat of the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Council and sudden silent of Okyenhene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin on the ruling New Patriotic Party government intention leverage bauxite deposit in the Atewa Forest Reserve for mining sparks of double Standard.
 The Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Council and Okyenhene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin have over the years took entrenched position  and kicked against attempt by successive governments to mine bauxite deposits  in the Atewa Forest reserve.
The Akyem Abuakwa State Council in 2012 issued a statement under the signature of the State Secretary E. Ampofo Duodu when then government attempted to mine bauxite in the Atewa Forest.
The traditional Council stated explicitly that “A team of local and international scientists who have conducted a series of research in the Atewa forest have confirmed that Atewa harbours one of the healthiest and most important ecological systems in the world, with the headwaters of three important rivers in the country; Densu, Birim and Ayensu, which are essential sources of domestic, agricultural and industrial water for local communities and many of Ghana’s major population centres, including the capital city, Accra”.
Added that “the Atewa forest, thus, protects and provides clean water sources for much of Ghana’s human population and key elements of the country’s biodiversity. Similarly, through the process of photosynthesis, it provides the essential environmental service of continuously recycling atmospheric carbon dioxide into oxygen. That is, the Atewa forest is one of the ecosystems that produces and cleans the air Ghanaians breathe. This makes Atewa the right lung of the entire nation. Atewa is also a major source of both traditional and modern medicines”
The statement continued that “the exclusive biological resources or ecological benefits of the Atewa forest reserve used to be threatened by illegal logging, hunting and farming activities. The major threat today is the exploitation of bauxite deposits, which could have eternal damaging effects. For about ten to fifty years, at most, the benefits to the economy from a successful bauxite operation may include foreign exchange earnings, easing of unemployment, and stimulation of local economy. Unfortunately, there is a substantial trade-off between these immediate economic gains and the ecological balance of the nation. In other words, when the Atewa forest bauxite is mined, the permanent impact on the physical environment and, for that matter, the national ecological balance may be incalculable; and the reasons are not far fetched”.
Also, Nananom explained that “Bauxite is mainly extracted by open-cast mining, which involves clearing of vegetation and the removal of the top layer of soil in order to get at the ores underneath. This has the potential of destroying: hundreds of thousands of hectares of magnificent bio-diverse forests; habitats of exotic animals and plants; natural waterfalls and headwaters of the three river systems. In addition, as soon as the bauxite ores are mined, the land will become so caustic and completely dried out to the point that it can hardly support living things and agriculture. Besides, bauxite mining leaves behind another by product toxic (known as red dust particulate) in the air, which can have serious negative impacts on public health. What makes the remote decision to mine depressing is the fact that the bauxite identified at Atewa is classified as low grade. It is in the light of these realities that Okyeman is advocating for the upgrade of the Atewa Mountain protection status from forest reserve to a National Park. Besides protecting the nation’s ecological balance and the incredible biodiversity of Atewa for future generations, upgrading the status of Atewa to National Park will play a part in developing alternative income generation opportunities for the country and the communities surrounding the Atewa forest”.
The Traditional Council justified reasons why they opt for the Atewa Forest to be converted into a national park.
“National parks serve as major attractions in eco-tourism or nature-based tourism. Thus, eco-tourism would be the most optimal industry to be developed because of Atewa’s beauty, richness in species and close proximity to the capital city. Visitation, tourism, and jobs related to recreation could contribute billions of cedis to national and local economies, while creating thousands of private sector jobs. The economic benefits extend far beyond tourism. In today’s economy, the greatest value of natural amenities and recreation opportunities often lies in the land’s ability to attract and retain people, entrepreneurs, their businesses, and the growing number of retirees who may locate to Atewa environs for quality of life reasons.
The results clearly indicate that tourism can generate considerable benefits for the local development in the structurally weak rural periphery. Specific National Park economic benefits include recreation visits, Park visitors’ expenditure, visitors staying outside the park in motels, hotels, bed and breakfasts guest houses as well as local transportation and retail purchases. Parks also impact the local and national economies through direct employment opportunities that offer wages, salaries and other payroll benefits.
Nananom also considered payments for ecosystem services or carbon credits, concluding that the economic values of the services provided by Atewa could be calculated and payments for these services made to the communities as a mechanism to protect the forest and watershed.
The Traditional Council is therefore optimistic that with careful planning and in collaboration with government, a National Park and an analogous management plan, compatible with both conservation and revenue generation goals, will be developed.”
The Okyenhene Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin during a durbar to climax the 2017 Ohum festival under the theme” Taking Charge of Our Environment ” ,at Kyebi in the Eastern region stated that Akyem Abuakwa area has the potential to become ecotourism destination in Ghana.
According to the Overload of Akyem Abuakwa Traditional area ,the ecotourism potential of the Atewa rainforest and its ability to save  the world from debilitating effect of climate change has attracted international attention hence the need to conserve the forest reserve to make it ecotourism center .“there is no doubt that ecotourism has a great potential in Akyem .The Equatorial rainforest is the cynosure of the Western World and,now,the focus of considerable environmental attention for its real and perceived ability to save the globe from self-destruction .Some of you may know of my role in this regard and the fact that I sat on the Advisory Board of the Princes Rainforest Project (PRP) ,an initiative by Prince Charles of Great Britain to protect the World’s rainforest ,ie the fraction that is left of it. Associated with it possibility of creating geological parks showing nature’s wondrous features “.
According to Okyenhene,he is not against mining  but rather against over exploitation of natural resources and its  associated negative environmental impact on the environment .
“While we vehemently condemn galamsey.Let me get this Straight ,there is talk that I am against mining .It is not mining I am against its exploitation and unchecked abuses of poor people’s drinking water ,I’m against companies whose only motive is profits and fail to build new communities, yes I’m against destruction of pristine forest and degradation of indigenous people’s farm without paying adequate compensation
and I still believe in butterflies” .
He further explained that, he is also against “the slave wages multinational firms pay our miners for doing the same job other miners do elsewhere. The proponents of mining both locally and internationally would want you to believe that these pronouncements will drive away investors. our answer to that is ,let us engage mining that is responsible and sustainable “.
He blamed previous governments for failing to enter into agreements with multinational mining firms that  benefit mining communities .
Government of Ghana has entered into $2 billion mortgage with Chinese government to mine bauxite deposits in the country including bauxite in the Atewa Forest Reserve .
The move has attracted huge outcry from environmentalists in Ghana given that the three major river bodies have its watersheds in the Atewa Forest reserve ,not undermining the species richness of the forest .
Government decision to mine the bauxite aim at creating jobs and develop the country.However according to Okyenhene ,Agriculture remains the main economic activity with the potential of providing jobs and contribute positively to the economy therefore government must make effort to aggressively diversify the single -family farm activity to include animal husbandry if it want to provide jobs for the youth instead of targeting natural resources .
” Several on-ongoing activities in the name of economic development are indeed leading to resource depletion and causing environmental degradation. As if that were not enough these activities ,frequently authorized from outside Akyem are now disrupting the daily farming activities of the citizens and destroying water bodies ,including watersheds.”
Having expressed these dispositions over the years,it is suprising therefore that,the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Council has remained virtually silent on government’s intention to mine bauxite in the Atewa Forest .Is it because ,the President ,Nana Akufo Addo is son of Okyeman therefore the traditional authority has to retreat from its initial position despite the long -term socio-economic implication on millions of Ghanaians.
Source /Annor Obed