Investigations by The Chronicle indicates that chainsaw operation, which has been outlawed longtime ago by the government to protect the country's rain forests, has now become a lucrative business in the Western and some parts of the Central Regions.
Chronicle investigations have revealed that the chainsaw operators have invaded most of the forest reserves and cutting down the trees in droves for sale at the local market. The chainsaw operators, this Reporter gathered, usually transport the felled logs in the night. Though they pass through various Police check points dotted along their routes, they “escape' arrest by the security agencies.
Pieces of information gathered by this Reporter indicated that the nocturnal operations of the chainsaw operators are sometimes aided by some Officials of the Forestry Service Division of the Forestry Commission, who have been charged with the responsibility of protecting the forest reserves. Investigations revealed that the government is losing billions of cedis through the illegal activities of the chainsaw operators who do not pay any tax to the state.
The Chronicle further established that currently, the Forestry Services Division charges between 666,000 cedis and 800,000 cedis per cubic meter of trees felled by certified timber contractors as stumpage fees. Trees such as 'asamfra', mahogany and other high quality trees even attract a higher stumpage fee, which is charged by the FDS on behalf of the government as tax.
No tax is paid to the state because chainsaw operation is illegal business. This illegal business is said to be common in Tarkwa and the Sefwi Districts in the Western Region and Assin Fosu in the Central Region.
Though the issue had been reported several times to Officials of the FDS, nothing concrete had been done to curb such a rape on our national economy though it is believed that some of their Technical Officers were behind the illegal business. In the Enchi District, for instance, apart from the illegal chainsaw operations, the District Assembly is also battling with how to deal with farmers who have been entering the reserves to cultivate cocoa farms
A source that spoke to The Chronicle during the investigations, said if those charged with the responsibility of protecting our forests were doing their work, the issue would not have arisen in the first place.
The source said looking at the way the government was losing revenue through this illegal operations, it would have been better if the reserves were giving out to certified contractors to extract the logs and pay the due tax to the state. At the moment felled trees seized from the chainsaw operators are sold to the public and the revenue paid into the government chest.
But it is only tree that are arrested that the government could get the revenue from them. All attempts made by this Reporter to contact the Regional Manager of the FDS, one Mr. Manu, to comment on the issue proved futile. However, the Regional Minister was not available when contacted for questions and answers.
A Police source contacted, however denied that the Service was unable to arrest the illegal operators. According to the police source, they could only move to particular area where the operations were common to arrest the offenders if such report was made to them by the Forestry Services Division. Without that there was nothing they, the Police could do, according to the source.