‘Rectify stay on Sakumono Ramsar Site’

BY: Seth J. Bokpe
Mr Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie
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.

It said no chief had the right to sell the protected area to anyone.

The Chief Executive of the commission, Mr Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, who was speaking at a stakeholders’ meeting in Accra last Tuesday, said the site was owned wholly by the government and was meant for protecting Sakumono, Tema and their environs against flood and pollution, for the 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.

Besides, they serve as breeding grounds for about three marine turtle species.

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

The Sakumono Ramsar Site was established alongside four other coastal Ramsar sites in 1992.

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It is the only wetland owned by the government, as the other sites belong to stools.

Mr Owusu-Afriyie, therefore, cautioned chiefs selling portions of the site to stay off the property or face contempt of court.

While insisting that the commission had no intention of demolishing existing properties on the site, he warned that the commission would not tolerate any new development in the area.

“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 the Tema Developmenet Corporation (TDC).

“We have also put out a number of publications in the dailies, alerting people that the Forestry Commission had 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

Mr Owusu-Afriyie, therefore, 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 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 Forestry Commission, Rev. David Kpelle, rallied support for an eco-tourism site which, among other things, would involve dredging the lake and constructing water bungalows and an eco-medical village as a tourist attraction.

The Member of Parliament for Tema West, Mr Carlos Ahenkorah, and his counterpart from Kpone Katamanso, Nii Afotey Agbo, 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 Stool 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 the 13.6 kilometre square Sakumono Ramsar Site was part of the lands acquired under theTDC, for which compensation had been fully paid to the Nungua Stool.
It has a catchment area of 222km2 from which water drains into the 1.6km2 Sakumo Lagoon.