Mr Mustapha Seidu, Director of the Nature and Development Foundation (NDF) has said the country needs to tighten its enforcement regulations to prevent illegal loggers from depleting the forest cover, and appealed for severe punishment for those caught in the act of vandalizing the forest.
Mr Seidu emphasised the need for government to prioritize the passage of the policy on timber procurement, while encouraging the public to desist from buying wood from illegal sources.
He also wants government which is the biggest consumer of timber to ensure that all timber products it procures for public projects originate from legal sources.
Such a move, according to him will help the country save the remnant of its forest cover which has been depleted as a result of illegal logging, mining and other human activities.
It is estimated that the rate of deforestation currently stands at 65, 000 hectares per annum and Ghana’s total forest cover, which stood at 8.2 million hectares, representing 34 per cent of the total land area, at the turn of the last century, had decreased to 1.6 million hectares.
Again, out of the 600,000m³ lumber traded on the domestic market annually, more than 80 percent are illegally acquired a situation.
He made the comments in Accra at a two-day workshop organised by the NDF with support from FAO, SIDA, EU and DFID.
He maintains that illegal logging and disregard for forest laws continue to threaten the forest resources of the country.
He also indicated that illegal logging results in loss of livelihood of millions of people, affects development project of country, causes water bodies to dry up as well as exposes human life to health hazards through the inhalation of dangerous gasses trapped in the atmosphere.
Illegality in timber harvesting, he added, has remained a formidable challenge for managers of the country’s resources resulting in the promulgation of various regulations and policies which are themselves ineffective due mainly to weak enforcement and monitoring.
The Operations Director at NDF, Mr Glenn Asomaning, submitted that the greater part of the country’s forest cover has been lost to illegal logging and with government’s projects being the greatest consumer of timber products, it must take the lead and pass the procurement policy.
Mr Asomaning added, “Due to prevalence of illegal timber products on the domestic market we will not be surprised if there are government projects which are executed with illegal timber. We believe that as the biggest consumer of wood, if government should take this bold step and demand that its contractors use legally-acquired timber, it will reduce the market for these illegal lumbers.”
In his maiden meeting with the management and staff of the Forestry Commission recently, Mr Peter Amewu, Minister for Lands and Natural Resources acknowledged that the forestry sub-sector is one of the key sectors that has a huge potential for driving the economic development of this country
However, he noted, “in spite of the numerous benefits we derive from the forests, Ghana’s timber and non-timber forest resources are being overexploited and continue to decline in both quantity and quality. Perhaps, the greatest challenge facing the forestry sector today is deforestation and forest degradation.”
According to him, the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Ghana are very obvious and need not be over-emphasized. The high levels of illegal logging chainsaw and mining activities, he indicated, are of great concern to all Ghanaians.
He assured, ”First of all, let me assure you that the Ministry under my leadership will reverse the decline of the forest and wildlife resources by addressing vigorously the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.