Wetlands threatened as estate developers invade Sakumono Ramsar Site (May 24, 2016)
One of the few remaining wetlands in the Greater Accra Region, the Sakumono Ramsar Site, has been invaded by real estate developers and encroachers.
As a result, about four acres which was cultivated under the Coastal Wetlands Management Project from 1995 to 2000 has been razed down.
The latest incident took place on May 2, 2016, when a group of people alleged to be under the command of a chief in Nungua cut down more than 100 trees at the site.
Some portions of the site have also been allegedly sold out to unsuspecting members of the public.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission, Mr Samuel Afari Dartey, said this at the launch of this year’s Forestry Week and Greening Ghana Day celebrations at the site near Tema yesterday.
Project to save site
To save the site, Mr Dartey said the commission had developed a concept note, which had been approved by its board for the development of the site into a modern wetland-based educational centre.
To be named the Sakumono Ramsar Site Eco-centre, it would provide urban recreation, nature appreciation and eco-tourism within Accra and Tema metropolis for both local and international tourists. It would also serve as a diversified source of revenue for the commission.
Although located very close to the Sakumono Lagoon, which sometimes floods its banks during the rainy season, it appears people are not deterred from acquiring such lands for development.
Other sites under threat
Other Ramsar Sites under threat are the Densu Delta at Weija in Accra; Muni Pomadze in the Central Region and the Songhor at Ada, also in the Greater Accra Region.
The Ramsar sites are the relaxation and feeding grounds for over 70 water bird species. The sites also serve as the breeding ground for about three marine turtle species.
But Ghana's 1.7 million housing deficit means that increasing demand for housing is pushing the public and real estate developers to invade the wetlands with brick and mortar.
The Forestry Week is celebrated to commemorate the International Day of Forests which falls on March 21, each year.
It is a day set aside by the United Nations (UN) to raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and trees outside the forest.
The United Nations, however, allows its member states to adapt the date of the celebration of the International Day of Forests to suit their peculiar circumstances. In view of this, Ghana chooses the month of May every year for the celebration of the day to coincide with the major rainy season.
The theme for the week-long celebration is “Forests and Water for Sustaining Lives and Livelihoods”.
Other programmes to celebrate the event are a national colloquium on the role of forests in protecting water bodies, which takes place today and a grand durbar and Greening Ghana Day at Agona in the Ashanti Region on Friday.
Drying water bodies
At a time water shortages are hitting even communities that are close to water bodies, Mr Dartey said, the water shortage being experienced in most parts of the country recently were due to the fact that most rivers had dried up.
“Areas which hitherto had been declared as riparian buffer zones where logging, road construction or any other development are prohibited to ensure that water bodies are not exposed to the vagaries of the weather are no longer in existence because all trees have been felled,” he said.
He drew attention to the alarming rate at which forestry guards continued to lose their lives in the line of duty, and said the latest victim was Mr Victor Sesi, who was shot dead by poachers on May 8, 2016 at the Kalakpa Resource Reserve in the Ho West District in the Volta Region.
While rallying the public to plant trees in their homes and workplaces, Mr Dartey said “restoring our degraded landscape is a collective responsibility and I am imploring every Ghanaian, in every small way, to save our water bodies because water is an irreplaceable commodity and a very essential component in everybody’s life.”
Use of chemicals
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Nii Osah Mills, also decried the increasing loss of vegetation along the country’s water bodies.
He cautioned the public against the use of poisonous chemicals for fishing in the country’s rivers, streams and lakes.
“This has very harmful effects on the health of people. Apart from the harmful effects, the use of chemicals has the tendency to kill all living organisms in water, including fish, thus reducing the important functions of the water bodies to the communities they serve,” he added.
The occasion was also used to plant trees along the Sakumono Lagoon.