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Nature · Economy

Ghana: Atiwa Forest for sale

September 17th, 2018
in:Nature, Economy
by:Kwabena Adu Koranteng
located in:Ghana
tags:Atiwa Forest, deforestation, Ghana, The Atiwa Forest

The Atiwa Forest, regarded as the biggest natural forest reserve in West Africa is facing its biggest threat after the government of Ghana signed an agreement with China to allow mining of Bauxite in exchange for a US$15 BILLION loan.

The Atiwa Forest is the source of drinking water for about 60% of Ghana’s Population. Apart from the Volta River  and River Ankobra that flow outside the forest, all other rivers and streams flowing from the northern parts of Ghana flow through the Atiwa forest. Some major rivers like Densu, Birem, Pra, Ofing Ayensu, and Mirenpong Abirensu which serve as sources of drinking water for over 5 million Ghanaians flow through the Atiwa Forest. These rivers and water bodies are protected by the natural forest.

During the mid-year budget review, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta stated that the infrastructure deficit, which is in the region of US$30 billion, should be adequately tackled with the agreement that would see government leverage the country's bauxite deposits. Following this intention, parliament passed into law the Ghana Bauxite Integrated Aluminium Industry Act, 2018, which is currently the legal framework to take the opportunity of the vast bauxite resource available to help in economic development of the country.

One of such action to close the infrastructure deficit is the Sinohydro bauxite - infrastructure barter between Ghana and China worth US$ 2 billion to mine bauxite at Nyinahin. This is as part of an earlier memorandum between Ghana and China where Ghana is only going to leverage 5% of Ghana’s bauxite resources to the Chinese who are providing $15 billion over a period.

Atiwa Range of Forest Reserves, in South Eastern Ghana, is the closest rainforest to the capital city, Accra.

It is one of the largest surviving rainforests in West Africa and one of the most important for wildlife. It is regarded as  the jewel in the crown of Ghana’s reserves. The forest has clear running streams, grassland and clearings, holds some of Africa’s rarest plants and animals, such as the Atiwa Dotted Border, a slow-flying butterfly found nowhere else in the world.

Mining at Atiwa could wreak havoc with the water supply of 5 million people. It could also cause landslides, increase air pollution, destroy traditional food and timber sources, and lead to the extinction of many plants and animals

Mining bauxite in the Atiwa forest means that all these rivers and water bodies will be heavily polluted with deadly chemicals and dust and would become hazardous to human health .despite several warnings by civil society organisations in Ghana against granting the Chinese request to mine in the Atiwa Forest, government seems not worried by the mounting protest and seems determined to allow the Chinese undertake the project for the loan.

The Atiwa forest serves as a natural habitat for wild animals like deer, lions, tiger leopard, and hyenas among others. It also serves as a source of medicinal and herbal plants for herbalists who rely on leaves stem barks and roots of trees as medicine to heal various ailments that orthodox medicines are unable to heal.

The bauxite in Atiwa, according to research, can only be mined for 30 years, meanwhile, the bauxite mining at Nyinahin is over 150 to 300 years. Every country has the right to exploit its resources for development; and as such, Ghana too has the opportunity because it has a lot of reserves. However, there is not a national consensus that the country should mine all of its bauxite resources simply because an opportunity exists. 

The estimated impact of the mining in Nyinahin, Awaso, and Tabi Offin will not be as significantly damaging as mining in a watershed Atiwa that provides water for 5 million Ghanaians. Bauxite mining is one destructive extractive industries in the world. The upland ecosystem will first be cleared of all vegetation and rock rocks exploded into bits.

The International Development and Conservation Organisations (IDCO) has called on government to remove Kyebi from its plans of mining bauxite and in the Ghana Integrated Bauxite and Aluminum Development Authority Bill currently before Parliament.

Daryl Bosu, head of the organisation  called on Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to reject any plans of splitting the forest into two, for one part to be used for bauxite mining, stating that the water and biodiversity are actually found where the government plans to mine.

He said this reserve could be named after the Late Nana Sir Ofori Atta I, Barima Asamoah Kofi IV, Abakomahene of the Akyem Kotoku Abohyendwa Kofi Stool and Divisional Chief of Abirem Traditional Area noted in an interview.

He said the conservation of the natural forest would help promote a green economy.

“We agree with the many resonating voices that a future for Atiwa Range Forest should be one that includes its total protection, and the promotion of a green economy in the surrounding landscape is more sustainable than any which involve mining”.

“We want the president of Ghana to invoke an executive instrument to upgrade Atiwa Range Forest into a National Park. This is a major opportunity in pursuing green development for Ghana to effectively demonstrate its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 6, 11, 12, 13, 15, and 17 of the United Nations to which the president currently serves as Co-Chair”.

 “I strongly believe that making Atiwa Range Forest a protected area, will be a major milestone and contribute significantly to progress on a key SDG indicator...”

Article written by:
Kwabena Adu Koranteng
Author
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Embed from Getty Images
Some major rivers like Densu, Birem, Pra, Ofing Ayensu, and Mirenpong Abirensu which serve as sources of drinking water for over 5 million Ghanaians flow through the Atiwa Forest.
Embed from Getty Images
Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta stated that the infrastructure deficit, which is in the region of US$30 billion, should be adequately tackled with the agreement that would see government leverage the country's bauxite deposits.
Embed from Getty Images
Mining at Atiwa could wreak havoc with the water supply of 5 million people.

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