Feeling trees for construction projects; a silent threat to fight against climate change
Feeling trees for construction projects; a silent threat to fight against climate change

Felling trees for construction projects; a silent threat to fight against climate change

Whenever we drive or ride on highways, we test how fast our cars or bikes can speed, boast of how faster we reach our destinations but not even for a moment we spare a thought on how the highways might have been constructed.

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While we continue to fight for good roads and other infrastructure as citizens to make life convenient for us, the environment bares the impact of the construction activities. 

The impact of construction activities on the environment has been recognised in the developed countries, but the situation appears to be different in many developing countries including Ghana as most contractors often cause havoc to the environment with impunity.

In most instances, trees by highways and forest reserves are cut down by contractors during road constructions, while streams and other water bodies are mostly contaminated without any environmental sustainability measure.

Situation

A recent visit to the North East, Savannah and Upper West Regions where massive roads constructions works are ongoing saw a number of trees by the roads sites destroyed to pave way for the construction activities.

For instance, on the Nalerigu to Bunkpurugu and Wulugu to Kpasenkpe stretch roads, it was observed that economic trees including shea, dawadawa, cashew and rosewoods bared the brunt of the construction works.

An Environmental Activist, Nana Yaw Osei-Darkwa said the number of trees that had been cut down for roads construction and housing projects in the country for the past years cannot be underestimated.

“Considering the fact that this year being the Year of Roads and government undertaking constructions across the country, you can imagine the number of trees that will be affected in the construction process, most especially roads that are passing through forest reserves.

Whenever the issue of environmental destruction arises, as a country we turn to focus only on illegal lumbering, gallamsey and charcoal burning but it appears the attention is not given to the impact of road construction works” he stated.

“When roads are being constructed the first thing we see is bulldozers clearing the land and we lose large number of trees every year to road construction so if you multiply it by 10 to 20 years and the kind of roads we had then it will tell you the magnitude of the harm we are causing to our environment” he added.

Nana OseI-Darkwa expressed worry about the development and said if pragmatic measures were not taken to address the menace it would draw back the fight against climate change.

Permit 

The construction industry would continue to impact the physical environment as long as the citizens yearn for massive development, and this would assume huge environmental significance with the rapid growth in population and the attendant implications for natural resources.

In the light of the growing phenomenon, state institutions which are mandated to protect the environment are often having tough time with some contractors who destroy the environment for construction works because of the lack of political will to deal with the offenders.

The Northern Regional Director of Urban Roads, Kwasi Darko in a recent interview said per the law contractors were supposed to always seek permit from institutions mandated for preserving and managing the environment before they could be allowed to fell trees to pave way for their construction activities, adding that “if they are granted permission, the Forestry Commission can take stock of the affected trees and ask them to pay for the trees so that they can use the money to  replant”.

He said in instances where the construction project was a special roads project such as the Sinohydro construction project an environmental sustainability assessment was often conducted to ascertain the impact of the project on the environment.

“The issue is really worrying and we need to pay much attention to it, some contractors just clear the trees without considering the negative impact on the environment “he said.

Reforestation/policy  

In 2019, residents of Sandema in the Upper East Region fiercely protested against a road expansion project over concerns that iconic trees that had beautify the town were going to be destroyed.  

According to the residents, though there was the need to expand the road and fix its poor state to reduce accidents, it would be good for authorities to undertake the road project without endangering the trees.

Nana Osei-Darkwa said such bold decision taken by the residents was the best way to ensuring that the environment was not endangered, saying “let’s all emulate the decision the people of Sandema took to protect the environment since protecting the environment is a collective responsibility”.

He proposed to the Ministry of Roads and Highways to initiate a policy that would ensure the allocation of a certain percentage of contractors fees to re-invest into replanting of trees that they cut down to make way for road constructions and other building projects.

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“if the ministry takes up this suggestion we will get huge sum of money because contractors earn huge sum of money, one contractor can earn like over 100 million dollars and if we are allocating even 0.5 percent of that for trees planting, I think collectively we will have a pool to do a lot because that is one of the best ways government can make money to restore the depleting environment” he said.

Climate change

The phenomena is having a toll on the vegetative cover of the country, particularly Northern Ghana as the few forest reserves and economic trees such as shea, which constitutes about 90 per cent of the ecology is being destroyed.

With the rampant destruction of the vegetation through the indiscriminate feeling,  many have raised concerns that if the menace is not immediately checked by authorities, the area would soon lose its already depleted vegetation, worsening the climate change situation.

The Forestry Commission estimates that about 6.6 million hectares of Ghana’s 8.2 hectares of forest trees have been depleted over the years through indiscriminate human activities.

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Currently, the country’s remaining forest cover of 1.6 million hectares is threatened by illegal mining, lumbering and other human activities.

Wayforward 

The call for sustainable construction is very necessary because of the significant contribution to environmental sustainability and the fight against climate change.

The rate at which trees especially economic trees are being destroyed for construction projects without replanting was alarming and if not checked by authorities, the country would soon lose its already depleted vegetation, worsening the climate change in the process.

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