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23.02.2005 Regional News

Drama unfolds at fire prevention workshop

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Obom, (Ga West District) Feb. 23, GNA - Drama unfolded at Obom a village in the Ga West District on Wednesday when fire officers, participants and community members at a fire prevention durbar ran helter-skelter to contain a bushfire supposed to have been started by primary school pupils.

The durbar, which marked the end of a weeklong workshop, had to be halted for about 30 minutes to enable the fire officers present, including the participants and the school pupils to find ways and means to contain the fire from spreading.

Unfortunately, the raging fire through its ambers jumped over an eight foot wall and in the process razed a summer hut belonging to a Roman Catholic Chaplain, whose house is situated close to the durbar ground.

The pupils who were reported to have started the fire were said to have set it to burn a heap of refuse close to the bush, about 30 meters away from the durbar ground.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) organised the durbar under the auspicious the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to train over 60 participants from 30 communities in the District on fire prevention, control and management.

Commenting on the incident, the District Chief Fire Officer, Mr Kofi Simons said the coincidence of the fire and the occasion must send a clear signal to the community about the dangers of bushfire and the need to sensitise the children playing with fire.

He said fire caused by refuse was a potential to cause serious and devastating havoc if not checked, especially when the area was undefined.

Mr Simons asked the school authorities to do something about their refuse dump to avoid future occurrences noting that they could save the situation by always ensuring that the surroundings were cleared of weeds.

Mrs Lucy Ntim, District Forestry Manager said although the degrading effects of bush fires were felt by all, it was the poor that were mainly at risk because they depended on the environment for their livelihood and often lived in fragile ecosystems.

"Thus bush fire management is an essential part of strategies towards poverty reduction and wealth creation," she said.

Mrs Ntim said about 65 percent of bushfires outbreak were attributed to human error through carelessness or by accident and about 34 percent was due to deliberate or conscious acts while only one percent was as a result of natural causes.

Explaining the effects, she said bushfire had had immeasurable impact on the nation during the past decade saying areas that were affected included disappearance of vegetation cover, loss of habitat and foliage for animals, drying of water bodies, loss of soil fertility and erosion.

Mr Akwasi Agyeman, ADRA Field Project Officer for Greater Accra said the Densu River, which was the source of drinking water for over two million people was today the most polluted river in the country because of excessive deforestation along its banks and tributaries. He said the destruction of the river had tended to entrench the poverty situation in most the communities and today farming activities in terms of yields continued to fall.

Mr Agyeman said ADRA in recognition of this had mobilised communities to plant million of trees around most of the country's water bodies as well as trained community residents to better manage water resources.

He said ADRA had planted about 600,000 trees along the banks of the Densu River through a series of planting exercises. 23 Feb. 05