Accra, June 22, GNA - Mr Peter Ala Adjetey, Speaker of Parliament, on Tuesday charged three Parliamentary Committees to look into the causes of desertification and drought in the country and submit a report by the middle of July, before the House rises.
The Committees are Food and Agriculture, Science and Environment and the Lands and Forestry.
The Speaker gave the directive following a statement presented to the House by Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, Majority Chief Whip, to mark the UN Day to combat Desertification and Drought.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the effects of desertification had direct bearing on the socio-economic and political development of the people in the areas of poverty, food security, education, health and life expectancy.
He said in Ghana, the causes of the threat of desertification were the result of a combination of climatic and human factors. He mentioned some of the harmful causes as the abusive, unscientific and unsustainable exploitation of plant and forest resources, which exposed the soil to the vagaries of the weather. The Majority Chief Whip said the forest cover of 8.5 million hectares in 1900 had now diminished to about one million hectares by 2000 while some forest had been transformed into savannahs.
"In Ghana today 10,000 hectares of new land under forest cover is cleared per annum for agricultural purposes combined with legal timber felling, bushfires and illegal chain-saw activities... one can predict that if nothing concrete is done to regenerate our forest then over the next 10 years, specifically, by 2015, Ghana would lose its entire forest cover."
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said: "The history of our country is replete with strategies and plans to arrest the threat of desertification. Unfortunately, many of the policies and programmes were confined to only specific sectors. Even then the political will to go the whole hog to implement the programmes has not been garnered."
Alhaji Malik Al-Hassan Yakubu, NPP-Yendi, contributing to the statement, urged farmers who plough their land for farming to replant the land to forestall land degradation, adding that Parliamentarians should be provided with logistics and resourced to tackle reforestation in their constituencies.
Alhaji Ali Amadu, NDC- Atebubu-South, said chiefs and opinion leaders in the communities should be held responsible for charcoal production and bushfires in their communities to deter the people from such harmful environmental practices.
Mr Gershon Gbediame, NDC- Nkwanta, said schools should set aside a day or annual week for tree planting.
The Member condemned farming activities taking place very close to rivers, which usually led to the drying up of these rivers. Earlier, Dr Richard Anane, Minister of Roads and Transport, was in the House to answer questions.