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Forest reserves must remain no man go area - Pastor

By gna

The Most Reverend Dr. Robert Aboagye-Mensah, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana, on Wednesday advocated against mining in forest reserves as the country was gradually losing its valuable virgin forest and timber.

"Again we must, as a nation have to work out in detail the benefits of gold as against crops like coca, orange, coconut, oil palm in deciding to allow surface mining in certain areas,” he said.

"The land that we live on belong first and foremost to God and we are accountable for God for the way we used it," he added in a speech in Accra at the 10th anniversary celebration of Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM).

WACAM was formed in 1998 by a group of concerned citizens to ensure that the rights of mining communities are respected.

It is also to aid communities whose lands have been usurped by mining companies in obtaining adequate compensation packages and to liaise with the government and other stakeholder organisations on issues concerning the effect of mining in the country, among others.

The association has since been assisting 17 communities from the Wassa West District and its environs where activities of mining companies affect their livelihoods.

The Presiding Bishop said although the cultural values placed responsibilities on Ghanaians to think about the welfare of the future generations, we turned not to include them in the planning processes.

He said every generation should in the course of using natural resources, especially non-renewable resources, know that future generations were shareholders of the natural wealth held in trust for God as good stewards.

On Ghana's oil find, Most Rev. Dr. Aboagye-Mensah said everybody must be concerned about whether its exploitation would lead to great blessings or resource curse.

"We have to take certain factors into consideration if we want to turn the oil discovery into greater blessings to us. First, must be able to overcome partisan consideration in appointing people to manage the resources we have at our disposal.

"We need competent men and women with expertise and their appointment must go beyond partisan politics. National interest must be a priority and not political affiliations," he said.

Most Rev. Dr. Aboagye-Mensah said there were competent Ghanaians who wanted to live above political interest and were ready to offer their knowledge and expertise to promote the well being of the country, adding "we need to provide such people the space to give their best for our nation."

Mr. Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, Executive Director of WACAM, said the anniversary celebration had afforded them the opportunity to reflect and recommit themselves to the ideals that encouraged them to form the association.

"We would admit that it has been an eventful decade of bitter struggles of poor voiceless people pitched against power multinational mining companies with enormous financial resources over and above our country's economy," he said.

He said WACAM had been deeply concerned about the fact that Ghana did not have "No Go Zones" in the mining sector.

Mr. Owusu-Koranteng said a recent research by the Forestry Research Institute of Ghana revealed that 85 per cent of Ghana's forest reserves had been depleted by human activities including mining.

He therefore called on them to declare forest reserves and other strategic areas as “NO Go Zones” for mining.