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15.05.2007 General News

Forest Reserves Diminishing - Owusu-Abebrese

Forest reserves in the country are diminishing under pressure from the boom in the building industry and expansion in educational facilities, especially the construction of school desks.

The Acting Executive Director of the Forestry Services Division (FSD) of the Forestry Commission, Mr Matthew Owusu-Abebrese, who made this known, said the two developments had created a huge demand for wood products, which the current supply market could not meet.

He said chainsaw operators had taken advantage of the situation to destroy the country's forests. He, therefore, urged the government to take a second look at the Temporary Utilisation Permit (TUP), which allowed chainsaw operators to fell trees for community projects but which had now been abused.

Mr Owusu-Abebrese was speaking at a two-day workshop on forest management planning at the University of Ghana, Legon, yesterday.

The workshop, organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the United States Government, is to build the capacity of forest managers of timber companies and Forestry Commission (FC) officials on the development and implementation of management plans for forest reserves and timber utilisation contract (TUC) areas.

Mr Owusu-Abebrese cautioned that if the nation was going to look on unconcerned while the forests were being destroyed, then in a few years, Ghana would cease to have forests.

He called for stringent measures to check the activities of people who destroyed the forests to serve their selfish interests.

A Deputy Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines, Mr Andrew Adjei-Yeboah, said forests and wildlife resources were declining at so fast a rate that they were being replenished or regenerated.

He said the situation, if not reversed, could pose a serious threat to the economic, social and biological wealth of the country.

Mr Adjei-Yeboah intimated that a reversal of the practice was necessary in view of the fact that the forestry sector, including logging and wood processing, constituted six per cent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employed 120,000 people in the formal sector.

The sector, he added, also directly supported the livelihood of an appreciable number of the rural population.

“In spite of these benefits, inadequate and lack of comprehensive management planning of forest and wildlife resources remain a major constraint on optimising expected benefits from these resources for development and poverty alleviation,” he added.

Mr Adjei-Yeboah said since the President, Mr J.A Kufuor, launched his special initiative on plantation development, the policy direction had focused, among other things, on conservation and development of biological resources, rehabilitation of degraded forest reserves through vigorous plantation establishment, community involvement in collaborative resource management and institutional capacity building of the Forestry Commission and its divisions.

He said the Forestry Commission was, however, faced with many setbacks in achieving excellence in sustainable forest management, the most serious being its weakness to rapidly respond to changes in the technological environmental, economic and social needs of society due to lack of adequate financial resources and inadequate capacity of personnel and logistics.

“This lack of capacity is manifested by the fact that some reserves do not have management plans, while those which have are yet to be updated to meet current demands,” he added.

Story by Mark-Anthony Vinorkor