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Press Statement of Coalition of NGOs against Mining in Atewa Forests

A Rocha Ghana
20 June 2012 | Press Statement

Urgent appeal to Government to rescind plans and abrogate all contractual agreements of prospecting and turning Atewa Range Forest into a mine.

20th June, 2012. Prominent conservation organisations in Ghana, in solidarity and under one identity called 'Coalition of NGOs against mining in Atewa' (CONAMA), today made an urgent appeal to the government of Ghana to as a matter of national heritage and the long-term interest of the people of Ghana to rescind all plans and decisions to turn the Atewa Range of Forest Reserves into a mine. They subsequently called on government to abrogate whatever prospecting and mining contracts they have entered into with Vitmeco Ghana (Bauxite) Ltd, at whatever cost it takes.

In their statement, the coalition expressed that, global development trends, experiences and current state of the human society and environment clearly highlights an urgent paradigm shift from aggressive economic development to a green focussed sustainable development agenda. Sequel to this, world leaders and development agencies over the world are meeting in Brazil to mark the 20th Anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit in a conference dubbed Rio +20. Prominent among the objectives is 'to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development'.

The coalition recognises the risks and challenges confronting Ghana, especially when economic development becomes more demanding and the fear arises that the new paradigm could be used to reinforce protectionist trends, enhance the conditionality associated with international financial cooperation, and unleash new forces that would reinforce international inequalities.

According the coalition, the economic ambition of Ghana notwithstanding, government should not trade the nation's natural heritage and the future of generations to come. The coalition also indicated that, mining activities in the country is putting great pressure on Ghana's forests and critical life-support systems. The coalition further indicated that the current intention of government to turn one of only two up-land forest reserves (i.e Atewa and Tano-offin Forest Reserves) into a mine, is inconsiderate and not in the best interest of the natural heritage of citizens of Ghana today and generations to come. The action, according to the group aggravates the already alarming rate of decline of our forest reserves due to degradation and deforestation.

The coalition, who are not oblivious to the benefits of mining and are also not against mining, stated that the action will bring untold hardship to communities living in the catchment of Atewa. The already strained water supply system in Accra will eventually become even more critical, considering that Weija dam gets is supply from the Atewa Forest Range. Also to be affected are all persons whose livelihoods depend on the invaluable services that Atewa Forests provide.

The coalition therefore called on government to renew its commitments the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (1968); The Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (1972); The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992), its principles and its programme of action also known as Agenda 21; The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (1992); and to the United Nations Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (2000) on the conservation of biodiversity.

They further called for independence and efficiency of forestry sector institutions in their mission of protecting and securing the nation's natural heritage for today and for the future. The group called on government to diligently pursue actions and investments that secure the ecological integrity of our Atewa Range Forests and all forests in Ghana.

The coalition made proposals to government on alternative uses of Atewa Range Forest, mention of which are:

• Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES)
• National Park Development
• Community-based eco-tourism and community carbon sequestration projects.

• Other potential alternative-income industries could include butterfly farming, beekeeping, farming of native ornamental fishes for aquarium trade, harnessing products for the tourist trade and alternatives to bushmeat hunting, such as raising other types of animals for meat, including grasscutters and snails.

The coalition stressed the fact that the environment is our first right as a people and subsequently urged the government of Ghana to protect the fundamental rights of the people of Ghana, by doing whatever it takes to protect and secure Atewa Range Forests. Ending their appeal the coalition made a call to the general public, corporate organisations, faith based institution to work with them and support the call against mining in Atewa Forest Reserves.

The future we want is for our forests to keep on delivering biodiversity, climate, livelihoods and quality life services and benefits to the people of Ghana. Save Atewa Forest Now for the Life of Ghana!!

For more information on the 'Save the Atewa Forest Now' campaign and the activities of the coalition against mining in Atewa, Contact A Rocha Ghana on Email: [email protected] or Telephone: 0200810144. Join our campaign, add your voice and let your actions be felt for Atewa Forests. Love Forests, Love People.

Press Statement of Coalition of NGOs against Mining of Atewa Forest

________________________________________
Urgent appeal to Government to rescind plans and abrogate all contractual agreements of prospecting and turning Atewa Range Forest into a mine.

In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals, which sets the development agenda for both developed and developing nations will expire. This necessitates the development of a new paradigm to serve as a guide for nations to act to sustain and accelerate economic growth where necessary, ensure environmental security, improve the quality of life of its citizens and contribute to poverty alleviation in a sustainable world. It is therefore imminent that the world charts a new road map for a sustainable world.

From today the 20th to the 22nd of June 2012, nations all over the world, development organisations and corporate agencies are meeting in a conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to mark the 20th Anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit dubbed Rio + 20. This comes in the wake of the decline of many ecosystems and critical life-support systems as a result of the current global economy based on patterns of consumption and production. Ranked high among the objectives is to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development.

In its bid to accelerate economic growth and to draw more value from its natural resources the government intends to develop its struggling bauxite industry into an integrated one. This is what the government seeks to do with the help of Vimetco Ghana (Bauxite) Ltd. a 100% owned subsidiary of Vimetco. N.V., (an international industrial group that focuses on the aluminium industry). No doubt, mining remains a key industry for the growth and development of the country. It is an important industry with the sector credited with bringing in significant amount of foreign exchange earnings, employment generation, mineral royalties, employee income taxes payments etc. Ghana is the second largest producer of gold in Africa after South Africa and it is among the world's five top producers of manganese ore. It is noteworthy that mining's contribution to GDP increased from 1.3% in 1991 to 6.16% in 2007. The industry also performed quite well in 2010 and the 6.8% GDP growth recorded by the economy was in no small measure on account of the impressive performance of the industry in terms of fiscal contributions to the state. According to Oxfam, mining accounts for 5% of Ghana's GDP, meanwhile, the environmental destruction of Ghana, which mining has contributed to in no small way, is estimated at 10% of Ghana's GDP.

As a group (Coalition of NGO's Against Mining in Atewa - CONAMA) we are therefore not oblivious of the benefits of mining and do not stand opposed to mining, except when it has to do with arguably 'Ghana's most valuable' and ecologically sensitive forest reserve like the Atewa Forest Reserve.

The aggressive pursuit of intensive mining, as means to accelerated economic development is putting great pressure on Ghana's forests and critical life-supporting resources. The current intention of government to turn one of only two up-land forest reserves (i.e Atewa and Tano-offin Forest Reserves) into a mine, is inconsiderate and not in the best interest of the natural heritage of citizens of Ghana today and generations to come. The action also aggravates the already alarming decline of our forest reserves due to degradation and deforestation. The action will bring untold hardship to communities living in the catchment of Atewa, people in Accra who depend on the water supply of Atewa for sources of potable drinking water. Also to be affected are all persons whose livelihoods depend on the invaluable services that Atewa Forests provide.


The maximization of mining benefits should not upset the environmental and social services that our forest reserves have to offer, especially by not paying sufficient attention to environmental or social concerns.

There are so many reasons why Atewa Forest should not be mined no matter what for today and in the future.

1. Atewa is one of Ghana's two upland evergreen forest reserves which, assumes a great role on the landscape as repository of biodiversity, forests, wildlife and water resources of local, regional and international appeal. Atewa supports an exceptional number of plant species not found elsewhere in Ghana. Atewa also has over 150 different species of ferns. One of these (i.e Cyathea manniana) is never found anywhere in the world.

2. Atewa forest is endowed with rich fauna diversity in the various taxa.

3. Atewa forest has long been recognized as a nationally important reserve because its mountains contain the headwaters of three river systems, the Ayensu, Densu and Birim rivers. These rivers serve as the source of drinking water to a large number of people in some parts of Accra, Oda, Kade and Koforidua. These three rivers are also the most important sources of domestic, agricultural and industrial water for these communities.

4. The culture of the people living around the reserve is inextricably linked with the existence of the forest. Locally the forest is referred to as Kwaebibirem (which means the dark forest) typifying the dense and lush vegetation that once characterised the area. The forest has traditionally been regarded as the home of ancestral spirits who provide protection, success and progress to the Abuakwa Stool and the people of the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area.

5. Atewa provides invaluable sources of NTFPs for the people living close to its catchment.

Clearly the above non-use values cannot be ignored in terms of Atewa's relevance to the nation's quest to achieve sustainable development in ways that secures the environment while contributing to poverty reduction.

We hereby propose the following alternative economic uses as they secure biodiversity, provide climate and livelihood benefits as well as contribute to poverty reduction in a more sustainable way.

• Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES): The economic values of the services provided by Atewa would be calculated and payments for these services made to the communities as a mechanism to protect the forest and watershed.

• National Park Development: Within the Atewa Range Forest Reserve, the Government of Ghana could delimit and establish an integrally protected area with high protection status, such as a National Park (just as was done for Kakum National Park), that includes all remaining intact Upland Evergreen forest, especially on the plateaus.

• Community-based eco-tourism and community carbon sequestration projects.

• Other potential alternative-income industries could include butterfly farming, beekeeping, farming of native ornamental fishes for aquarium trade, harnessing products for the tourist trade and alternatives to bushmeat hunting, such as raising other types of animals for meat, including grasscutters and snails.

We therefore wish to impress on government to ensure full compliance to the following conventions, and non-legally instruments which as a nation we have acceded to, ratified and ascribed to.

• The African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (1968);

• The Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (1972);

• The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992), its principles and its programme of action also known as Agenda 21;

• The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (1992);

• The United Nations Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (2000); to the convention on biodiversity.

We are calling on the government of Ghana (now and the future) to their renew commitments to protecting our forests against all vices and diligently pursue actions and investments that secure the ecological integrity of our forests and here in particular Atewa Forest Range.

We also urge government to ensure the independence of forestry sector institutions so they can play their role efficiently in contributing to sustainable ecological development. We want to discourage using forestry sector institutions as pawns to satisfy the economic interest of the nation.

Our forests constitute critical resources in our environment. Our environment is our first right as a people. We therefore urge the government of Ghana to protect the fundamental rights of the people of Ghana, by doing whatever it takes to protect and secure our human rights. The mistakes made early on in granting prospecting and mining concessions to turn Atewa forest into a mine, should be reversed at whatever cost. We urge government to do whatever it takes to ensure that ecosystem functions of Atewa forest are conserved for today and for the future.

As the world deliberates on 'the future we want', the Coalition of NGOs against mining in Atewa wishes to invite the general public, corporate institutions, faith based organisations, the legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary, together with public sector institutions to resound with one voice and work with us for a future that safeguards our forests against mining and all degradation and deforestation vices for biodiversity, livelihoods, climate and quality of life for the people of Ghana.

Save Atewa Forest Now for the life of Ghana!!

This is the future we want!

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