Wa, June 19, GNA – Large numbers of illegal chainsaw operators have invaded some parts of Nadowli and Wa East districts in the Upper West Region felling mahogany and other trees along river banks and valleys.
The operators, who are from Techiman in the Brong-Ahafo Region, had found a lucrative market in neighbouring Burkina Faso where the demand for timber products is high.
This came out at a meeting of stakeholders to discuss the illegal chainsaw operations at Tabiasi in Wa on Thursday.
The Forestry Department organized the forum to educate members of the community to protect the environment from the activities of illegal chainsaw operators and other human behaviour which help to degrade the environment.
It is alleged that timber dealers either from the region or elsewhere are sponsoring the chainsaw business in collaboration with landlords (Tendambas) and some community members as well as Fulani herdsmen stationed in those communities and hailed from Burkina Faso.
The operators undertake their activities deep in the night and bring in vehicles to load them for Burkina Faso through unauthorized routes thereby outwitting the security personnel on the roads.
Some landlords have instituted fines on community members who would report the activities of the operators to the officials of the Forestry Department and the police, aimed to protect and encourage the business for a fee.
Some community members alleged that the Landlord of Tabiasi in the Nadowli District had instituted a fine of one cow, two fowls, two goats and two sheep to deter any community member who would report the activities of the operators to the authorities.
“We always see truck loads of timber products from the community to Burkina Faso but we fear to report to the authorities because of the fines,” they said.
They said some of the drivers come with lorries and parked them on the road side as if they were spoilt and pretending to be working on them but when night falls they load the timber into them and move away.
The members alleged that the operators were using funeral occasions and market days where many of the people are always busy to transact their business.
They urged officials of the Forestry Department to give them the mandate to arrest persons involved in the chainsaw activities to help manage the environment.
Mr. John M. Ocansey Upper West Regional Manager of the Department of Forestry, said reports about the activities of illegal chainsaw operators in the region reached his office in May but he could not mobilise the police to the communities to help arrest the people because of inadequate funding.
He said he organized a team of policemen and personnel from the department to the community and they went into the bush where they saw the operators felling trees and they ran away.
Mr. Ocansey said the team saw some trees with marks printed on them waiting to be cut down. They also observed a lot of destruction done to the environment, creating a desert condition in the area.
They arrested one of the operators who led them into the bush in search of his colleagues but they could not reach them.
Mr. Ocansey said during interrogation, the man (name withheld) mentioned the involvement of the Village Chief, the Iman, Assembly Member and the Unit Committee Chairman but because of darkness, they could not go to the village to effect arrest.
Mr. Ocansey said 4,671 acres of farm land in the region were washed away in last year's floods, 3,000 houses collapsed and 1,500 people displaced.
He appealed to district assemblies in the region to enforce bylaws on environment and sanitation to help save the region from becoming a desert.