President Akufo-Addo will speak at the Graphic Natural Resources stakeholders dialogue
President Akufo-Addo will speak at the Graphic Natural Resources stakeholders dialogue

LIVE VIDEO: Graphic-Lands Ministry dialogue today: Law enforcement tops agenda

Retaining the minerals value chain, ensuring stricter enforcement of laws to tackle illegal activities in the mining and forest sectors, as well as eliminating barriers to effective land administration will take centre stage as policymakers and stakeholders gather in Accra today for the maiden dialogue on natural resource management.

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As stakeholders converge on Kempinski Gold Coast Hotel for the dialogue being organised by Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), in partnership with the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the stakes are high as they expect an honest post-mortem of the country's natural resource conundrum and proffer solutions for  the sustainable management of resources.

The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is the Guest of Honour for the dialogue.

Some of the stakeholders have called for inclusiveness in the search for ideal modules for effective management of the country’s natural resources.

Those who made the call in separate interviews with the Daily Graphic are the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Telecoms Chamber (GTC), Dr Kenneth Ashigbey; the National Chairman of the Commercial Quarry Operators Association (COQOA), Dr Ebenezer Mireku; and the Director for Climate Change and National REDD+ Focal Point at the Forestry Commission, Roselyn Fosuah Adjei. 

Prior to the dialogue, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, had called on stakeholders in the natural resource sector to support the government’s agenda to promote value addition in the minerals value chain.

The minister had said it was the vision of the government to build robust infrastructure to add value to the country’s mineral resources and create more employment opportunities along the value chain.   

While upholding the minister’s call for value addition, the stakeholders stressed the need for stricter enforcement of laws and regulations in the natural resource sector to weed out illegalities that threaten the judicious use of those resources.

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Dr Ashigbey, who is also the Convener of the Media Coalition against Galamsey, stressed that the dialogue must be the turning point for an inclusive search for solutions to the myriad of challenges confronting the land, mining and forestry sectors rather than “the usual talk shops”.

“This is not the time to be talking; we have done a lot of talking about the state of our natural resources. Our water bodies are getting more polluted, our gold is getting smuggled out of the country, our forest reserves are being wiped out; so, this dialogue must be one for solutions,” he stressed,

He further stressed that “we cannot keep talking; the laws must be strictly enforced in a transparent way, and it should not matter whose ox is gored”.

Dr Ashigbey added that solutions that would be proffered at the dialogue must focus on promoting inclusiveness in natural resource management by ensuring that key stakeholders such as academia, professionals and industry players were involved.

“GCGL is a strong media brand, so the company should sustain this initiative by ensuring that solutions that come out of the dialogue are keenly followed,” he said.

Dr Mireku underscored the need for stakeholders to explore viable ways of addressing the “daunting challenges” confronting the quarry sector.

He said it was worrying that although the quarry sector played a critical role in national development, it had not been properly harnessed.

"The quarry materials are strategic products without which we cannot construct bridges and roads or build classrooms and the hospitals we all need. Without stones, the government cannot undertake development projects, but it is unfortunate that the sector is virtually in coma," he said.

Dr Mireku said the major challenges the over 170 quarry companies were grappling with were massive encroachment activities by estate developers, infiltration of the industry by foreigners and delay in the renewal of licences by the relevant state agencies.

"And the few that are in operation are being crowded out be foreigners who have infiltrated the system and operating against the local laws.

Our worry is that with the way they are extending and taking over what is the reserve of locals, they will soon take over the market and dictate the prices of stones," he said. 

He said some of the quarry operators had sent their licence renewal requests to the appropriate state agency "but for about three years now, the renewals have not been done".

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Climate action 

Ms Adjei stressed the need for policymakers and state regulatory agencies to enforce environmental laws to protect the forest from destruction.

She said it was unacceptable that despite the presence of laws that forbade mining in forest reserves, illegal mining activities were still rife in such places. 

Ms Adjei said given that the forest played a crucial role in human survival, especially within the context of the climate crisis, it was important for the state to ramp up action to halt the drivers of forest destruction, including expansionist agriculture activities, illegal logging and illegal mining.

She said when such illegal activities were controlled, it would facilitate the achievement of the emission reductions targets under the Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+ Programme (GFCRP).

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Background

Environmental crimes such as mining in forest reserves, illegal logging, the harvesting of Rosewood, and felling of economic trees have resulted in loss of land, forest reserves and pollution of water bodies.

Since 2017, the government has taken a number of measures to restore the degraded landscape and forests.

Among those interventions are the Green Ghana project instituted in 2021 as a national day for tree planting.

Two years on, 31 million trees have been planted so far (seven million in 2021 and 24 million in 2022), according to the Forestry Commission.

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A further 10 million trees are expected to be planted this year on June 9.

A national land reclamation exercise has also begun under the National Alternative Employment and Livelihood Programme (NAELP) targeted at reclaiming lands destroyed by illegal miners along river bodies.

Under the Ghana Landscape Restoration and Small-Scale Mining Programme, some degraded lands are being reclaimed.

Additionally, the Ghana Cocoa Forest REDD+ Programme has also been implemented across six regions to reduce emissions and address drivers of deforestation such as galamsey, expansionist agriculture activities and illegal logging.

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