The government of Ghana may face stiff opposition from Environmentalists over plan to mine bauxite deposit in the Atewa Forest reserve which is a high forest zone in the Country.
Some Environmentalists have vowed to oppose the intended move by government due to the importance of the Atewa Forest reserve in the Country.
The high deforestation rate of Ghana estimated around 2% per annum, is fast wiping away Ghana”s forests reserves.According to the Forestry Commission of Ghana, mining ,agriculture, fuel wood, and illegal logging are the major cause of deforestation in the country. Deforestation rate in Ghana is third highest worldwide after Togo and Nigeria.Since 1950’s ,the West African Country has loss 60% of its forest reserves.
The Atewa Range Forest Reserve is about 23,663 hactares which is part of an ecosystem known as the Upper Guinea Forest. The Atewa Range which spans across Akyem Abuakwa area, is noted one of the two such forests left remaining in Ghana.
Apart from the Atewa forest serving as ecosystem and biodiversity ,it also provides headwaters for three major river systems, the Ayensu, Densu and Birim rivers. These rivers are the most important source of domestic and industrial water for local communities as well as Ghana’s major populations such as its capital Accra. Atewa forest provides global medicinal needs as it presents an unlimited array of species, both flora and fauna with pharmaceutical properties of tropical species.
The scientific and educational value of the forests is incalculable. The rain-forest has wide variety of habitats (permanent streams, swamps, closed forest, and natural clearings) support a rich fauna.Atewa forest also harbours gold and bauxite in enviable amount .
Nine new species have been identified in Atewa forest ,already the forest is habitat to the critically endangered frog species (Conraua derooi) whose presence in Atewa may represent the last viable population in the world.
Despite being disturbed recently by invasion of illegal miners, topographic variability and the diversity of plants and animals provide considerable potential for tourism, especially as the Atewa Range is the nearest rain forest to Accra.Activists have been pushing for the forest to be turned into a national park to breed more economic benefits.
Ghana’s President, Nana Akufo-Addo has announced this year that, the bauxite deposits at Kyebi which forms part of the Atewa forest and Nyinahin will be mined to manufacture machine parts within the country to create jobs for the youth.
However ,Mr.Emmanue Akom,Kibi Area Manager of Arocha Ghana says ecological services and benefits of the Atewa forest reserve supersede the intended purpose of government hence the decision must be think through and rescinded .
He said,mining in the forest reserve will affect the three major rivers which over 5million depend,destroys wildlife ,lead to loss of biodiversity, lead to extinction of some species ,and affects negatively, agricultural activities in the surrounding communities .
Meanwhile ,Environmental Eye Ghana,an Environmental activism group says, it is a misplaced priority for the Government to invade the forest for resources to execute his numerous campaign promises without recourse to its environmental implications and sustainability for the future generation .
The group said government failure to curb illegal mining in Kibi and its environs has led to unprecedented degradation and pollution of major river bodies in the Kibi area hence mining bauxite in the forest would worsen the environmental woes in the area.
A petition dubbed “Save Atewa Forest Now ” had been mounting pressure on the Government of Ghana “to ban mining in Atewa Forest Reserve.According to the Petitioners, ” Mining will provide short-term income, but it will forever degrade or destroy ecosystem services, such as good fresh water for millions of people. We ask you to make Atewa a National Park and so benefit present and future generation”.
The Atewa forest reserve was created in 1926, declared Special Biological Protection Area in 1994, one of Ghana’s 30 Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBAs) in 1999 and in 2001 was listed as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International.