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24.08.2004 General News

Protect wetlands; they support life - Fobih

By GNA

Accra, Aug. 24, GNA - Professor Dominic Kweku Fobih, Minister of Lands and Forestry, on Tuesday urged Ghanaians to identify resources such as wetlands within their communities and concentrate on protecting them.

"The role of wetlands in protecting unique ecosystems, promoting fresh water and marine fishing as well as eco-tourism potential needs to be highlighted in all our national endeavours," he said.

Inaugurating a 21-member national Wetlands Committee in Accra, Prof. Fobih said the range of goods and services, which wetlands provided, had been taken for granted and gave the assurance that the Ministry would support any community that set itself to protect and safeguard such unique habitat types.

Wetlands refer to a range of habitats that share common features, the most important of which are continuous, seasonal or periodic standing water or saturated soils.

The committee is to review existing legislation and institutional arrangements on wetlands and prepare a national report for the management and conservation of such sites referred to as Ramasar sites. Prof. Fobih said communities living in and around resources such as wetlands could use such resources to generate income that would improve upon their standard of living.

He decried the attitude of some communities that used wetlands as dumpsites and toilets saying: "Our wetlands face an ever increasing onslaught from natural and human disturbances.

"It has, therefore, become expedient to put in place appropriate control measures that will protect this valuable natural habitat from further losses and thereby restore its capacity to fulfil its functions."

He said technological advances might seem to have supplanted the balancing role of nature, but recent environmental catastrophes such as floods, storms and many others with their roots in unsustainable land use practices, suggested otherwise.

Prof. Fobih said out of about 34 contracting parties in Africa to the Ramsar Convention, a convention set out to protect wetlands, only five, including Ghana, had either a wetlands policy or strategy for wetlands conservation.

"We will, therefore, encourage or support any group of persons or any actions that will enhance effective implementation of the strategy to save our wetlands."

Prof. Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu, Chair, Management Board of the Centre for African Wetlands, said international interest in Ghana's wetlands dated from the early 1970s when ornithologists realised that many species of terns were being killed on the Ghana Coast.

She appealed to the Government to put in place a policy that would ensure that community nature reserves got formal and legal recognition in the protected area systems.

"I am convinced that such a policy will encourage more community participation in the management of the country's wildlife resources," she said.

Mr Yaw Ofori Frimpong, Acting Executive Director of the Wildlife Division of Forestry Commission, said perceptions about wetlands as wastelands and obstacles to development had facilitated the inappropriate use of them such as the indiscriminate harvest of fish, reeds, mangroves and thatch materials.

He said the situation if not addressed would result in the loss of all freshwaters and wetland resources, which was a productive life support system.

He said wetlands "are critical to the maintenance of bio-diversity and support of about 60 per cent of our marine fisheries". He said the Ramsar Convention had made the world to recognise wetlands as one of the most productive life support systems.

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