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Time to halt destruction of our environment

BY: George Ernest Asare
 A section of the Achimota forest that was set ablaze recently.

The fire outbreaks that gutted the Unilever warehouse in Tema in late January,  those that  completely  consumed about 500 acres of farmlands in the Bosomtwe District in Ashanti, as well as the fire outbreak that reduced the slums around Santasi roundabout in Kumasi to ashes added to the menace of annual fire outbreaks in the country.

In the Monday, February 1, 2016 issue of the Daily Graphic, it was reported that fire outbreaks in Tema, Kumasi and the farming communities in the Bosomtwe District did not only take the life of a 15-year-old boy, Kwadwo Dwomo, and injured two of his friends, Felix Nkrumah and Gideon Fosu, but also destroyed property worth thousands of cedis.

 

“In the Bosomtwe District, bush fires that raged for eight days, claimed one life and burnt down more than 500 acres of farms. The worst hit farming communities were Konkoma and Brodekwanho. Kwadwo Dwomoh, 15, was burnt when he tried to prevent the raging fire from destroying his father’s cocoa farm, while his two friends, Felix Nkrumah and Gideon Fosu, who were helping him, sustained severe burns,” the paper reported.

According to the paper, personal care products of Unilever Ghana, a major manufacturing company, were reduced to ashes when their warehouse was gutted by fire.

Fire outbreaks

The fire outbreaks that occurred late last month was one of many others, including the over 1.5 acre forest that was destroyed at Achimota a few weeks ago.

On  January 13, 2015, a fire that  swept through the Central Medical Stores (CMS) did not only reduce the facility to ground zero, but also destroyed national medical supplies estimated at GH¢237 million.

That singular fire outbreak at the CMS at Tema last year was considered one of the most devastating  in the country, and as of now, Ghanaians are still counting the cost in terms of  quality health care delivery.

That is why I agree with the President of Friends of Rivers and Water Bodies, Nana Dwomo Sarpong, when he said: “The time has come for those in authority to come out with a strategic policy and plan that will halt the menace of perennial fire outbreaks in the nation.”

To him, the impunity of felling trees in communities and our forest through the activities of chainsaw operators, together with the menace of galamsey operations that are causing devastating effect on the environment and destroying water bodies, is likely to create health hazards for the present and future generations.

“We always treat the environment as if it is not important. That is why some elements in society set bush fires anywhere and anyhow, creating much environmental hazards for the country, with many others operating  galamsey in our rivers, destroying water bodies, ” he bemoaned during an interview with the Daily Graphic.

Harsh weather

Commenting on the harsh weather conditions and its associated health hazards, including the upsurge of meningitis which had claimed 93 victims at the time of going to press, Nana Sarpong noted: “One of the problems  we have created in the country is that anytime we set fire in the forest or anywhere in the country, we destroy the ecosystem, thus reducing the oxygen that the trees are producing.

This also causes much more carbon to be produced,creating all forms of diseases, including meningitis, which has now become an albatross for the nation.

Trees are supposed to  absorb the carbon and give us oxygen, so it is surprising  that we have become our own enemies by destroying trees with impunity without any intervention by people in authority.”

On the destruction of water bodies through galamsey operations, he mentioned the Densu, Offin, Pra, Ankobra and the Black  and White Volta rivers among others, which he said, had now dried up or on the verge of drying up due to the upsurge of  illegal mining in those rivers.

“The destruction of the Black and White Volta in particular, together with other rivers, would not also affect the operations at the Akosombo dam to undermine the production of electricity at a minimal cost, but also has the tendency of affecting productivity, income generation and employment in the country,” he bemoaned.

Fertile lands

Expressing concern over the situation, he said the combination of rampant bush fires and galamsey operations in water bodies were likely to create famine in the country.

“Our fertile lands are being destroyed through bush fires and galamsey operations, and with our rivers drying up, farmers cannot cultivate cassava, plantain, coconuts, maize and yams among others to feed the nation and generate a little income, so the effect will be disastrous if nothing is done about it.”

“People in high offices are there to  sanction those who go contrary to the laws and regulations governing the state to create sanity, but so long as they renege on their core responsibilities, or refuse to enforce the laws in the country, people will continue to be lawless by destroying  the environment and water bodies with impunity. Every country which doesn’t enforce its laws can never progress, hence the need for people in responsible positions to be held responsible for their inactions to reduce the incidence of environmental destructions through illegal mining and bush fires in the country,” he noted.

Wondering why government officials and some technocrats in high offices complain about environmental hazards and the destruction of water bodies  instead of  exercising the power and authority they wield, he said: “The time has come for people in high authorities to address this social canker head-on rather  than complain like the ordinary Ghanaian.”

“Since the challenges of the environment also affect the health of the ordinary Ghanaian, undermine income generation and reduce  employment opportunities among other social predicaments,  the Ministries of  Finance, Health, Environment and  Local Government, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), should collaborate and come out with an action plan that halts all forms of environmental destructions immediately,” he suggested.

Rules and regulations

Expressing concern about the situation, he said it was important  for rules and regulations governing the environment to be strictly applied to create sanity, warning that “our actions and inactions are creating high standards of living, where everybody is complaining. We should also check what we are doing and how we can also help, but more importantly, people who have been put in charge of certain areas and sectors should do their work. I think people who have been placed in governmental positions  and high offices should  be made to sign contracts to discharge their duties effectively and meaningfully, so that we can hold them responsible if they renege on their responsibilities”.

“We cannot do the same thing and get different results, and I am afraid,  if the destruction of the environment through bush fires and galamsey operations continues, we are likely to run down the country and the effect on the present and future generations will be disastrous,” he said.