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01.03.2011 Regional News

Fighting The Bushfire Menace

A reader's letter on this page draws the attention of the authorities to the need to protect our forests in the Harmattan season.

It is a clarion call, taking into consideration, the devastation caused by bushfires to the forests during such times.

The environment has become a topical issue on the global agenda as a result of the assault on natural resources, climate change, and the apparent lack of respect for the environment.

Ghana’s forest cover that stood at 8.2 million hectares in 1900 dwindled terribly to some 800,000 hectares in 2001.

The period between 1983 and 1984 saw Ghana going through a horrifying experience when prolonged drought led to raging bushfires, which caused massive destruction to the environment. In fact, forests which served as buffer between the Savannah and the Forest region were affected.

Bushfires were rare in the forests zones before the 1983-84 fires; now, the forest zones appear to be overtaking the savannah areas in terms of bushfires.

Bushfires have, since then, become an annual affair, sweeping through farms, forests and villages, and bringing untold hardships to many people.

The causes of bushfires are varied. They include hunting especially the group form, carelessness, depositing cigarette butts in the bush, and using fire to prepare land for farming.

It also appears the district assemblies have relaxed in the enforcement of laws and regulations on bushfires. All the assemblies have such laws in place but typical of Ghanaian institutions, enforcement has been a major problem.

Consequently, people are emboldened to take the laws into their hands because they see the assemblies as having no teeth to bite.

As part of the control measures, there should be a legislation that would place emphasis on the role of traditional authorities. We believe that if they were empowered to play a central role in bushfire prevention and management, it would yield positive results.

Graphic Nsempa suggests that companies that engage in large-scale plantations should integrate the prevention and control plans relating to bushfires in their projects.

We further call on the police to investigate cases relating to bushfires with dispatch and where necessary, prosecute the offenders to serve as a deterrent to others.

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