Line of trees cut to give way to Giffard Road expansion works
A Chinese foreman gives instructions and his Ghanaian subordinates attack a tree furiously. A few metres away, a buldozer digs and levels the red earth.
A dozen logs lay in trenches meant for the construction of drains along the busy road as cars jostle to squeeze into single lanes.
This is the Giffard Road from the 37 Military Hospital to the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel where the construction of the 5.7-kilometre road and Burma Camp phase one and the 4.3-kilometre Burma Camp phase two roads has resulted in the cutting down of a number of trees that lined up the road.
The projects, which commenced in November last year, are expected to be completed in March 2014 but, like most road expansion works in Ghana, a number of trees have been cut down.
The roads in question are notorious for traffic congestion. The projects are, therefore, aimed at providing alternative roads and decongesting the roads linking Teshie, Nungua and the Spintex Road and facilitate movement in the Accra metropolis and suburbs of Accra.
But, sadly, a number of trees have been cut down right from the 37 Lorry Park through the Land Commission to La Wireless.
This appears to be the convention anytime road expansion works take place, but the trees cut are not replanted.
A few years ago, expansion works on the Accra High Street resulted in the cutting down of a number of trees. Interestingly, instead of tree seedlings being planted to replace the lost trees, some sculptures were carved out of some stumps of the trees that were cut down.
The irony of our situation is that each year the government pumps huge sums of money into climate change mitigation measures but it appears there is no deliberate plan to protect our roadside trees from annihilation.
In this part of the world, we seem to take the importance of trees in our cities for granted.
Across Accra, more and more trees continue to fall, to give way to development projects, but sadly enough, the regulatory institutions, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Parks and Gardens, have not done much to ensure that trees cut down during road widening works are replanted.
If what has happened to some major roads that have been completed are anything to go by, then it is obvious that when completed, the Giffard and the Burma Camp roads will be without the scores of trees that went down to make room for the expansion works.
In some instances, as is the case with the Giffard Road, there was the unnecessary cutting of trees that otherwise would not interfere with traffic or the project.
An example is a section of the wood lots close to Burma Camp.
Department of Parks and Garden
With the Department of Parks and Gardens having joined the league of moribund institutions in the country, trees don't appear to be part of the planning fibre.
But speaking to the Daily Graphic, the Director of the department said in most instances the department was not consulted when the need arose to cut down trees to pave way for road construction.
'In the recent past, it was only during the construction of the Achimota-Ofankor road that we worked with the EPA to handle the horticultural part of that project, he said.
Importance of trees.
It is not for nothing that the adage 'the last tree dies, the last man dies' has survived all these years. A cursory look at the Sahara and other deserts across the world tells the storytrees keep us alive.
The potential impact of trees to development projects and the urban environment is substantial.
The need to plant trees, protect and enhance green spaces and wildlife corridors and promote renewable energy (including wood fuel) has never been more prominent.
Trees and woods in development and green infrastructure are regarded as an important community resource that instills a sense of place.
There is a long list of the socio-economic importance of trees ----trees alleviate the impact of climate change through carbon sequestration and local climate regulation in addition to o improving air quality.
Trees can cut down on noise, disturbing headlight glare and fumes for residents living along these highways.
That is not all, trees have a fundamental role in climate change resilience and for conserving biodiversity
Across the world, trees serve as a treasured mitigating role for polluted land and can be a significant component of land remediation projects.
Trees and woods in the urban fringe contribute significantly to landscape, historic, biodiversity and recreational values.
What we need are policies that bind road contractors to replace trees that are axed during road construction.
These strategies ought not only to specify the maintenance of the existing tree stock to high standards, but also commit to the planting of new trees, along with the provision of trees in new developments.
Unfortunately, it appears our development planners are oblivious of how trees bring peace and tranquillity and serve as a buffer between residential areas and highways or, that trees produce oxygen and serve as a habitat for wildlife.
Studies also show that trees beautify the landscape and break the monotony of highway travel.
It is rather disappointing to see the clean cut bald look on the banks and edges of our roads.
While in the developed world, trees have also become an increasingly visible feature of city landscapes, the same cannot be said of our part of the world as the slightest development means that trees have to go.
Trees protection in other countries
In cities like Virginia and Atlanta, wood lots and trees along highways are part of the cities DNA. In Bombay in India, one needs a permit to even prune trees.
In the UK, tree care permits are necessary before one lifts a cutlass to chop off a branch.
Tree permits, according to the UK Forestry Commission is a 'good tool that helps to protect our street trees.'