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12.06.2005 Business & Finance

FC Board kicks against mining within forest reserves


Akyawkrom (Ash), June 12, GNA - The Forestry Commission (FC) board on Sunday expressed worry about the situation where mining companies are allowed to operate within forest reserves.

Mr Francis Addo-Ashong, the Chairman, said only 16 percent of the country's land had been permanently reserved and said "if we should allow mining within this area, we are not doing the right thing". He was speaking at a day's joint seminar held by the commission and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands, Forestry and Mines at the Wood Industries Training Centre (WITC) at Akyawkrom in the Ejisu-Juaben District on Sunday. It was meant to provide a forum to brainstorm on forestry laws, competitive bidding and other related issues pertaining to the protection of Ghana's forests.

Mr Addo-Ashong said it was about time serious efforts were made to put more land under reservation and mentioned those around the Volta Lake, Accra Plains and the Central Region. He said the major constraint the commission faced in carrying through massive reforestation was the lack of funds.

The Board Chairman said the target of 20,000 hectares of land that is required to be planted yearly under the President's Special Initiative on forestation could not be met this year because of this. Only 10,000 hectares could be planted. He spoke of plans to introduce the planting of pines, saying, its long fibre is good for production of paper and that could provide a solution to the polythene menace as there would be more paper for use as carrier bags.

Mr Addo-Ashong also touched on the continued dwindling of the country's forest cover and blamed that on poor protection leading to encroachment by illegal chainsaw operators, farmers and some timber men. He appealed to the government to help the Commission with resources that would enable it to effectively resist the chainsaw operators who are usually armed with deadly weapons.

Mr Kwadwo Wereko-Brobbey, a Member of the FC Board, said although some measures they have introduced were hurting the industry, they were necessary for the sustainability of the country's forestry sector. He cited the example of the requirement for legal validation and said this would help to track and trace the source of timber and thereby help check illegal operations.

Mr Wereko-Brobbey said it was important for Parliament to assist to ensure that laws on forestry that are not working are made to work. Mr Adjei Darko, the Deputy Minister in charge of Forestry, asked that all stakeholders worked together to meet the revenue generation target of 170 million dollars set for the sector.

Mr Ofosu Asamoah, Chairman of the Committee, said from their tour of the Northern and Brong-Ahafo regions, they were impressed by efforts at replanting the destroyed forests. He said, "We saw that the 414.4 billion cedis approved for the ministry is being put to good use".