‘Increased tree felling poses danger to air quality’

BY: Seth J. Bokpe
Professor Godwin Aflakpui, Dean, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Methodist University College Ghana, delivering the 2018 Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences lecture in Accra. Picture: GABRIEL AHIABOR
Professor Godwin Aflakpui, Dean, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Methodist University College Ghana, delivering the 2018 Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences lecture in Accra. Picture: GABRIEL AHIABOR

The increasing felling of trees in Accra to pave the way for construction poses danger to air quality, the Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences at the Methodist University has said.

Prof. Godwin K.S. Aflakpui said trees were important in urban planning because they ‘modify the micro climate for you to enjoy. Don’t cut down everything, leave some to protect you.”

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Delivering the 2018 Annual Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences lecture on the topic “Plants and Human Development,” he said the country’s planners and developers needed to be up and doing about balancing construction and the need to have more trees.

In a lecture that touched on a number of plants and their benefits, Prof. Aflakpui said most people appreciated the value of trees only when there was heat and they found comfort under shades provided by trees.

Across Accra, more and more trees continue to fall, to give way to development projects. However, the regulatory institutions, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Parks and Gardens, have not done much to ensure that trees cut down during these projects are replanted.

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With urban space at its premium and competition for urban land resources being intense, experts say it is extremely important for local authorities to quantify the value of green infrastructure that trees provide.

According to experts, trees serve multiple functions as “nature's air conditioners” by cooling urban heat spots and shading buildings, as well as the uptake of carbon dioxide from the environment.

Atewa Forest

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Earlier, Prof. Aflakpui, while falling short of speaking to the government’s decision to mine bauxite in the Atewa Forest, said the forest was very important to the country because it protected four rivers that were a source of water supply to a number of regions.

He, however, said the views of a mining expert were needed to explain whether the exploitation would benefit Ghanaians.

The government, this year, passed into law the Ghana Bauxite Integrated Aluminium Industry Act, 2018, which is the legal framework to take opportunity of the vast bauxite resources to help in the economic development of the country.

Plants and industry

Prof. Aflakpui said plants provided opportunity for the auto industry and cited for example that in 2013, Ford and BMW, in an effort to make vehicle production more sustainable, produced some materials for some automobile body parts from kenaf, a fibre crop.

“The use of kenaf is anticipated to offset 30,000 pounds of oil-based resin per year in North America and should reduce the weight of the door bolsters by 25 per cent,” he said.

Turning attention to the opportunities in biofuel production, he stated that in 2010, worldwide biofuel—ethanol and biodiesel-- production reached 105 billion litres, contributing to 2.7 per cent of the world’s fuel for road transportation.

On drug manufacturing, Prof. Aflakpui said nearly one quarter of all prescription drugs came directly from or were derivatives of plants.

“Additionally, four out of five people around the world today rely on plants for primary health care. Green plants are the source of many of our orthodox medicines.

“By promoting sustainable exploitation, we can attain some of the sustainable development goals aimed at poverty reduction, food security, promotion of health for people of all ages, sustainable and reliable water supply, making cities and human life livable, resilient, as well as combating climate change,” he stated.