The Forestry Commission (FC) has received the nod from the government to arm its forest guards in its effort to clamp down on the activities of illegal operators in the forest sector, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the FC, Mr Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, has said
"We are very serious to clamp down on the activities of illegal operators whose activities are destroying forest resources. Approval has been given for us to arm the forest guards with powerful weapons that can match the illegal operators because we will no longer countenance any activities that destroy the forest," he said.
It is estimated that about 6.6 million hectares of Ghana's 8.2 million hectare forest reserve
Currently, the remaining 1.6 million hectares of the forest cover is being threatened through illegal lumbering, the activities of estate developers and other human activities.
To reverse the trend, Mr Owusu-Afriyie said, 80,000 youth had been employed to help plant trees in different parts of the country, while 54,000 pieces of illegal lumber had been seized by the FC as part of the effort to contain the activities of illegal lumber operators.
Furthermore, he said, 80 cars being used by some illegal operators had been impounded, while 185 individuals had been arrested.
Mr Owusu-Afriyie commended the Nkawie Office of the FC for the recent arrest of 14 illegal operators who were fined GH¢50,000.
"The FC is working closely with the Chief Justice to ensure that the Forestry courts that have been established to deal with illegalities in the forest sector apply the appropriate sanctions on offenders to help save our environment," he said.
For his part, the Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Simon Osei-Mensah, called for concerted national efforts to crack down on illegal operators to preserve the forest.
He called for a robust afforestation drive to reclaim forest vegetation that had been destroyed to ensure that the potential in that sector was properly harnessed for national development.
He urged estate developers whose activities contributed to the loss of the forest cover to be moderate in their use of concrete
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr John Peter Amewu, directed the FC to make enough funds available to support efforts being made to preserve the environment.
He called for effective stakeholder collaboration involving state institutions, traditional authorities and members of the public to protect the environment.