Committee inaugurated to design Ramsar site protection plan

BY: Della Russel Ocloo
Development ongoing on parts of the Ramsar site along the Tema Beach Road.
Development ongoing on parts of the Ramsar site along the Tema Beach Road.

The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has inaugurated a seven-member committee to design modalities towards the protection of the remaining wetlands at the Sakumono Ramsar site, near Tema.

The move, according to a deputy sector minister, Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, followed the continuous encroachment, including human settlement and degradation of portions of the remaining site.

The committee, chaired by the deputy minister, is made up of officials from the sector ministry, and the Lands and Forestry commissions, and has been tasked to establish the extent of encroachment on the area, which, the minister said was gradually robbing the site of its ecological functions.

The members of the committee are Mr Musah Abu-Juram, Mr Mathew Ababio, Mr James Dadson, Mr Atibung Lana, Mr Abukari Abdulai, Ms Mabel Yemide and Mr David Kpelle, with Mr Hope Agbah serving as secretary.

The committee, Mr Owusu-Bio said, would investigate and establish the major groupings and individuals involved in the encroachment and sale of the lands in the area.

Recommendation

He said members of the committee would be required to make recommendations for actions to reduce further encroachment in the short, medium and long term interventions to restore the ecological integrity of the site.

Relevant stakeholders such as chiefs, the municipal assembly and estate developers, he stressed, would appear before the committee to assist in drafting the modalities on the protection and preservation of the site.

Mr Owusu-Bio said several interventions made in the past to reverse the trend of encroachment and degradation had yielded no significant results.

The Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, for example, submits maintenance budget on an annual basis to mark the zones, but such efforts have not been successful.

Mr Owusu-Bio expressed the hope that the general public would come to appreciate the importance of Ramsar sites across the country and the urgent need to halt development activities in such areas.

The site, located at the west of Tema, covers an area of 1,364.35 hectares (13.64 kilometres), and was set aside for flood control and nature reservation purposes.

It has, however, witnessed the development of houses over the years, with people of diverse backgrounds owning property in the enclave.

The situation has seen a huge part of the land size completely sold out, with just a few hectares of the site remaining, which the Forestry Commission officials are having challenges protecting as a result of the activities of developers and landguards.

During the deputy minister’s tour of the site, several new developments appeared to be under construction, while those that were previously demolished by the commission were being rebuilt.

The seabed had equally dried up completely with giant seaweeds taking over the area as a result of the seasonal fluctuations in rainfall.

The site close to the rail lines on the Tema-Sakumono beach road had also been turned into a waste disposal point by the Tema West Municipal Assembly (TWMA), a practice the deputy minister condemned.

“Wetlands are to ensure our communities are resilient enough to cope with incidents of floods, but the devastation we are seeing means many of our communities may continue to be at a point of devastation when there are heavy rains,” Mr Owusu-Bio said.