NEWS COMMENTARY DISCUSSES THE ISSUE ON ILLEGAL LOGGING IN NORTHERN GHANA
Barely a year after the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources placed a ban on the illegal harvesting, trade and export of rosewood from Ghana, the loggers are back stripping the northern region bare of its precious trees.
After the construction of the Fulfulso-Sawla road and the Bui Hydro dam between 2012 and 2014, when logging became a free for all activity in those parts of the country, the then Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, with support from President John Mahama, placed a ban on this indiscriminate cutting down of trees.
One year on, the merchants are gradually making their way back into the woodlands of Northern Ghana.
As usual, they are taking their contraband goods past police stops and barriers, sometimes in already sealed containers to the ports for export.
Those that travel on land find their way moving to Togo from Zanware, Walewale; also after going past several police check points.
Currently, logging activities are going on unabated in parts of Daboya, Mankrago, Busunu, Damongo, Sor No 1 and 2, Buipe, and between Gulumpe and Dawadawa No 1 and 2 on the Tamale-Kintampo Highway.
Hitherto, the logs were conveyed by exposed forty footer trucks with canopies for a covering, but these fresh logs, mainly rosewood, Afzelia, africana, and other hard wood species are now conveyed already packed into shipping containers, sealed and transported with ease from the forest to the points of export either by sea or by land. What has not changed are the faces driving this illegal trade.
Just like before, merchants from the south are stationed in Damongo and Busunu and they engage locals to cut the trees. Most merchants also bring along their chain saw operators who ply their trade with impunity.
The President in reiterating that the ban on rosewood was still in force in 2014, called on the security agencies, the revenue authorities and the Forestry Commission to work diligently to ensure full compliance and secure the environment.
Looking at the current situation, one wonders if the presidency has any mechanism or system in place to ensure that these agencies enforce the ban?
Revising the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy is a good move but it could as well end up being another paper work if real commitments and efforts are not made at implementation.
Again, what will become of the National REDD Strategy and Readiness Program, if we continue with business-as-usual and allow greedy merchants and some political and traditional authorities to exploit these precious natural resources to the detriment of the majority of Ghanaians.
Logging in the northern parts of Ghana should not be seen as a problem for people living in the north only, because an unacceptable environmental practice anywhere is a threat to environmental safety everywhere.
We all owe it a duty to be watch dogs of the laws of the land, and as President Mahama puts it in his speech to mark this year's World Youth Day, we should not allow a few people to steal from the system, to enrich themselves, because the resources are for the benefit of every Ghanaian.
These are tough times and we must not allow these merchants to pay their way through from the bottom to the top to subvert national laws and regulations for their selfish interest.
The only assurance government can give to weed out corruption, particularly in the forestry sub-sector, is for it to commit and empower state institutions to adequately deal with individuals, be they traditional leaders, or political elites, who by virtue of their position flout environmental laws with impunity.
It’s about time Government stopped paying lip service to ensuring environmental security and taking firm actions to deal with the numerous environmental crimes.
Ghana, indeed needs strong institutions within the environmental sector.
By Daryl Bosu, A Concerned Environmentalist.