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24.02.2005 Regional News

Lack of national policy on bushfire is thwarting efforts - Forester

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Obom, (GAR), Feb. 24, GNA - Bushfire legislations and byelaws have failed to yield needed result in past because there was no coherent national policy in place to provide direction towards attitudinal change.

Mrs Lucy Ntim, Amasaman District Forestry Manager, who said this on Thursday noted that, "Past experiences have demonstrated that bushfires cannot be managed through legislations, byelaws and annual launching of bushfire control educational campaigns alone".

She said the challenge to policy makers was to formulate a national policy that would give direction and change peoples attitude to adopt more sustainable approaches in order to minimize the incidence and impact of bushfires.

Mrs. Ntim was addressing over 60 participants drawn from over 30 communities at a closing ceremony of a fire prevention durbar at Obom, a village in the Ga West District of the Greater Accra Region. The Adventists Development Relief Agency (ADRA) under the auspices of the United States Agency organized the durbar, which was to climax a weeklong workshop on fire prevention, control, and management.

Mrs Ntim said the culture to burning is entrenched in the socio-economic life of the Ghanaian therefore, a solution must be found in traditional culture and education to influence human behavior. She said the current PNDC L 299 on anti-bushfire control does not give any legal protection to fire volunteers during arrest and prosecution of culprits.

"Medical insurance and compensation schemes have not been provided to cover the medical bills due to injury, illness or death of a volunteer during the performance of bushfire prevention and control activities," the Forestry Manager said.

The law, Mrs Ntim noted, does not recognize traditional rulers in the management of bushfires.

She said the District Assemblies that were to draw up byelaws have no capacity to take up that responsibility.

Mr Akwasi Agyeman, ADRA Field Project Officer the Greater Accra Region said there was an urgent need to intensify efforts being made to check deforestation especially along the banks of water bodies. He said besides, ensuring that water projects were carried out as early as possible for communities to have access to portable water, it was equally important to check the gradually drying the country's water bodies.

"If our water bodies are not check by enforcing laws to stop farming, sand weaning activities along the river banks, pipes will be constructed but they will be empty because there will not be water to carry," Mr Agyeman said.

He said the durbar therefore, was to equip participating communities and schools with the skills to properly protect and manage the remaining vegetation along riverbanks.