Forestry Commisison cautions chiefs selling portions of Ramsar site

BY: Seth J. Bokpe
CEO of Forestry Commission, Mr Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie
CEO of Forestry Commission, Mr Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie

The Forestry Commission has asked owners of unauthorised buildings at the Sakumono Ramsar site to rectify their stay on the land as tenants as no chief has the right to sell the protected area to them.

The Chief Executive of the Commission, Mr Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, speaking at a stakeholders meeting in Accra Tuesday said the site was owned wholly by the government and meant for protecting Sakumono, Tema and their environs against flood, pollution, breeding of fish for the Sakumono Lagoon as well as recreational activities.

The Ramsar sites are also the relaxation and feeding grounds for over 70 waterbird species. The sites also serve as the breeding ground for about three marine turtle species.

But Ghana's 1.7 million housing deficit means that increasing demand for housing is pushing the public and real estate developers to invade the wetlands with brick and mortar.

The Sakumo Ramsar Site was established alongside four other coastal Ramsar Sites in 1992.

Stay away

It is the only wetland owned by the government as the other four sites belongs to stools, Mr Owusu-Afriyie, therefore, cautioned chiefs selling portions of the site to stay off the property or face contempt of court.

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While insisting that the commission had no intention of demolition existing properties on the site, he warned that the Commission would not tolerate any new development in the area which had encroached upon by developers who had filed the wetlands and built structures without permits.

“After 2006, we noticed that the place was being encroached by illegal developers. We did carry out some demolition in the past with the support of the Tema Metropolitan Assembly and TDC.

We have also put out a number of publications in the dailies, alerting people that the Forestry Commission has not given any chief or individual any right to sell land or authorise the putting up of buildings within the Ramsar Site. We have also warned the public not to purchase land within the Ramsar Site, from anybody,” he said.

Police protection

He called on the police to assist the Forestry Commission to curtail the activities of land guards and support the Protection Staff of the Forestry Commission to do their work effectively without interference from armed land guards.

Mr Owusu-Afriyie said the commission had demarcated the area setting a buffer zone that could not be crossed.

The Commercial Development Manager of the FC, Rev David Kpelle, while rallying support for an eco-tourism site which among other things would involve dredging the lake, constructing water bungalows and an eco-medical village as tourist attraction.

The Member of Parliament for Tema West and his counterpart from Kpone Kantamanso urged the Forestry Commission to invite all the chiefs and other stakeholders to draw physical buffer zones that no one could cross.

The Nungua Mantse, Nii Odai Welentsi, insisted that until he had seen evidence of payment of compensation, the Nungua had not been compensated for the land.

He, however, said he would support any cause that sought to protect the site from encroachment.

However, the Forestry Commission maintained that the13.6 kilometre square Sakumo Ramsar Site was part of the lands acquired under the Tema Development Corporation (TDC) for which compensation has been fully paid to the Nungua Stool. It has a catchment area of 222km2 from which water drains into the 1.6km2 Sakumo Lagoon.