Friends of the Earth-Ghana and the Green livelihood Alliance have reiterated calls on the government to reconsider its plans to mine bauxite in the Atewa forest in the Eastern Region of Ghana, insisting that the plan poses a threat to the integrity of the Atewa Forest and therefore is not in the national interest.
The two organisations told the media recently at a press conference in Accra that, “Since the announcement of the intention of the Government to mine Bauxite in the Atewa Forest, we have made numerous calls to Government to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to understand the full impact of this development for people and the environment.”
“We regret to say that this still has not been done.We urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to demand this study is undertaken as a matter of urgency. This will enable the communities and the government to then determine if bauxite mining at Atewa is really in the interests of the country and its people in the long run.”
Addressing the media, Mr Nehemiah Tettey Odjer-Bio, Project Coordinator at the Friends of the Earth (FoE) who spoke on behalf of the Executive Director drew the attention of the Government to the apparent conflict and contradictions that bauxite mining will have the country’s Forest policies management.
Mr Odjer – Bio raised concerns over little information available to the public on the agreements made on the proposed bauxite mining in Atewa Forest. Access to information, he said, is a fundamental right of Ghanaians and most especially the communities living close to sites proposed for development.
He noted that Principle 7 of the UN Framework Principles on Human Rights and the Environment necessitates that states provide timely access to environmental information and also make it affordable to any individual or groups of people. Our government has also failed in this regard.
On Forests and biodiversity, Mr Odjer Bio pointed out that Strip mining for bauxite removes all vegetation, habitats and top soil, damaging the forest and all the biodiversity it supports. Awaso bauxite mine shows clearly the environmental devastation caused to forests by bauxite mining, which is now a desert of red mud that replaced once thick forest.
He said the Atewa Forest, an ‘environmental crown jewel’ and one of Ghana’s last remaining intact forests harbouring many ‘Critically Endangered Species’ will be fragmented to the extent that it can no longer support this level of biodiversity.
“These endangered species include the globally threatened White-naped Mangabey discovered very recently in the Atewa Forest, and several other endangered species of wildlife found nowhere else on Earth. The Ghana government has responded to these concerns by promising to mine Atewa ‘responsibly’ but it is well known that it is not possible to mine Atewa’s bauxite in a ‘responsible’ way.”
He said mining in the Atewa forest will have negative impact on water supplies.
“The clean water sources from the Atewa Forest which serve most of the communities within the catchment area will also be disturbed. The bauxite mining will most likely pollute the water source with dangerous heavy metals that leach out from the soil during mining. These metals cause serious damage to people’s health including cancer, nervous system damage, and dementia.”
He said Friends of the Earth-Ghana believes in environmentally sustainable development that will serve Ghanaians better.
“We demand that, in the interest of Ghana,that a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) or a sustainability analysis be carried out urgently so that the nation can properly assess the overall benefits and costs of the proposed integrated bauxite development agenda in the Atewa forest landscape.
“As citizens of Ghana, we reiterate that we should not be denied access to information on any agreements relating to the proposed integrated bauxite mining development agenda for Ghana. Communities and civil society across the country have the right to know what exactly is proposed for the planned bauxite mining in our forest and the exact locations of these proposed mines.
“Overall, we demand that the government considers all these issues raised and the value of the Atewa Forest for water provision and water cycling, livelihoods, biodiversity and climate change mitigation, and reverses its decision to mine bauxite in the precious Atewa Forest.
“We have every confidence that a government championing the interest of its citizens will adhere to our humble request.”
Mr Daryl E. Bosu, Deputy National Director of Arocha – Ghana bemoaned the country’s natural resources are depleting at very alarming rate and there is the need to preserve the remaining ones.
According to him, the indicators of water, forestry and biodiversity are not looking good, adding that Ghana needs to choose the pathway of green development agenda, while urging government to act responsibly relative to the Atewa Forest.
On his part, Professor Alfred Oteng- Yeboah, a lecturer at the Department of Plant and Environmental biodiversity of the University of Ghana who chaired the event reiterated the need for the SEA to be conducted because it is an International requirement.
He advised that government should not go ahead to destroy the Atewa forest which he described as something that is priceless to the nation.
By Mohammed Suleman