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Forestry Commission undertakes inventory at Ramsar Site

BY: Della Russel Ocloo
An aerial photo of the developments at the Lashibi side of the Ramsar Site. Below: Benito Owusu-Bio (middle), Deputy Lands Minister, together with Henry Quartey (right), Greater Accra Regional Minister, and John Allotey arriving at the site. Pictures: DELLA RUSSEL OCLOO
An aerial photo of the developments at the Lashibi side of the Ramsar Site. Below: Benito Owusu-Bio (middle), Deputy Lands Minister, together with Henry Quartey (right), Greater Accra Regional Minister, and John Allotey arriving at the site. Pictures: DELLA RUSSEL OCLOO

The Forestry Commission is undertaking inventory of structures that will be affected in the second phase of the demolition exercise at the Ramsar Site at Sakumono.

A Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources in-charge of Forestry, Benito Owusu-Bio, who made this known during a visit to the site last Thursday, said from next week, the ministry would make public the number of structures to be pulled down in the second phase.

The visit was to enable the deputy minister to inspect the progress of the demolition exercise that commenced last Wednesday, and saw the demolition of walls, which secured lands belonging to individuals and real estate developers, being pulled down at the site.

State of buildings

Addressing journalists, Mr Owusu-Bio indicated that while majority of the buildings were not inhabitable, since they were still within the development stage, they also had no building permit covering the developments.

“As you can see, majority of the structures here are almost not habitable and these encroachers have no form of permit since the lands are still under an executive instrument and so these structures do not need to be here in the first place,” the minister said.


He was accompanied by the Greater Accra Regional Minister, Henry Quartey, the Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, John Allotey, the Chief Executive of the Tema West Municipal Assembly, Anna Aduwkei Addo, as well as officials of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) and other stakeholder agencies.

Security

The team, arriving in a military chopper, took an aerial survey of the stretch before landing at the site to address the media, a situation which attracted scores of residents of the area, including property owners, trooping in to observe proceedings.

Security, as usual, was tight with a heavy deployment of gun wielding officers from the military, the police and the immigration, who were stationed at various points of the area to ward off any troublemakers.

The team gleefully looked on with some directing the bulldozers, deployed for the exercise, to clear all structures within the affected areas.

New boundary

The deputy minister indicated that following the huge encroachment, officials created a new boundary as the buffer to protect what was left of the site of which developers should not cross since they felt the need to apply a human face.

That, however, he said, had been flagrantly been disregarded with the encroachers overrunning the core zone which had badly affected the ecology of the area and the lagoon.

“If we continue to sit and allow what’s going on now, the waterway will be gone and we will be having disasters on our hands whenever it rains heavily,” Mr Owusu-Bio said.

The ministry, he said, would continue to support the Greater Accra Regional Security Council (REGSEC) to ensure that the remaining 1,500 acres of the 4,000 acre site was protected.

Consultations

Mr Allotey, for his part, said previous attempts in 2020 to demolish the structures were met by court orders by the developers which restrained the Commission from carrying out its mandated duties of protecting the site.

Subsequently, the Commission, he said, held consultations with relevant stakeholders, including the chiefs of the Nungua area, the allodial owners of the area.

Mr Allotey, however, debunked suggestions that the Commission had granted leases on some of the lands to individuals and developers, saying although individuals had submitted applications to the Commission, no leases had been granted.

“The Forestry Commission does not have the capacity to release lands to people, rather, we are to manage the resource and it is only the district assemblies that can grant permits and the Lands Commission grants leases,” he said.

He challenged individuals claiming to have leases covering the lands at the site to come forward and challenge the Commission’s assertions.