Yesterday, three advocacy groups urged the government to upgrade the Atewa Forest to ensure its long-term security and sustainability, as well as the development of the area.
The call came on the back of years of appeal to the government by pressure environmental groups, several civil society organisations and individuals not to mine the forest for bauxite as that would be catastrophic to the nation.
In July 2018, the government’s announcement in its mid-year budget review that a $2 billion deal with a Chinese engineering firm, Sinohydro Group Limited, to fund infrastructure projects would be catered for by Ghana's refined bauxite to be mined in the Atewa Forest drew uproar from a section of the public.
One of the strong arguments that have been advanced over the years is that the Atewa Forest is the source of the Birim and Densu rivers and together the two rivers provide water to feed the Weija Dam and other treatment plants and by extension they provide water for at least five million people in the Greater Accra, Eastern and Central regions.
Also argued is that the forest and its reserve are home to several animal and tree species, some of which are endemic to Ghana. That means once the habitat of the animals is destroyed, we would eternally lose them as they would go extinct. We would also lose the trees forever.
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They maintain that while, simplistically, revenue from the bauxite and diamonds to be mined must hold sway against the plants and animals as the revenue would help the country’s developmental efforts, destroying the flora and fauna would have dire consequences in view of the life-sustaining qualities the forest holds.
The arguments for and against mining in the Atewa Forest have gone on since 2013 and the Daily Graphic believes that it is time to resolve the issue once and for all by bringing in some balance to the discourse.
We believe that it is not for nothing that the CSOs and individuals have risen against the mining of the Atewa Forest and they must be heard so that the right step is taken.
For now, both the chiefs and traditional authorities, as well as the government believe that if the bauxite and diamonds are mined, it would enhance development of their areas and Ghana as a whole, but we urge the government to conduct an audit of the forest or investigation into the concerns raised before any step is taken.
The Daily Graphic believes that mining has contributed to the development of the country but we should count the cost before committing to mining in the Atewa Forest, part of which is a reserve that has been protected for decades.
Although the National Director of A Rocha Ghana, Mr Seth Appiah Kubi, has stated that a cost analysis conducted on the elevation of the Atewa Forest to a national park with a buffer zone around it would bring about far-reaching economic value in the long term than the revenue to be generated from the mining of bauxite, we believe that a cost benefit analysis must be conducted to ascertain whether we must mine or not.
Indications are that illegal mining and deforestation have already taken a toll on the forest, but that does not make it right to mine without due diligence or the resolve to ensure sustainable mining.
Atewa may hold the key to several lives in the country so let us tread cautiously and do extensive consultations to secure Atewa not only for prosperity but also for posterity.