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10.10.2005 Regional News

Forestry Commission assisting timber companies to destroy Abrumase Forest

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Tamale, Oct. 10, GNA - The Forest Services Division of the Forestry Commission is conniving with illegal timber companies to fell trees on the Abrumase forest, which is in the East Gonja District. Despite several agitations and interventions from the community, the District Chief Executive and the Regional Minister to stop the timber contractors from destroying their environment, officials of the Commission had remained adamant.

This was made known at a press conference organised by Forest Watch Ghana, an environmental NGO and addressed by Mr Ben Bawa, a member of the NGO in Tamale on Monday Mr Bawa said the officials of the Forest Service Division of the Commission had resorted to the use of Timber Utilisation Permit, (TUP) to the East Gonja Assembly to allow one Messrs Logwood Industries Limited to fell trees on the Abrumase skin land. He said the use of the TUP in such circumstances was an invalid document issued illegally, saying, "The timber resource management regulations of 1998 states that, a TUP can only permit communities, district assemblies and NGOs to harvest a specific number of trees exclusively for social purposes."

Mr Bawa said in 2001, the then Minister for Lands and Forestry, Professor Kassin Kasanga suspended the issue of commercial logging contracts (Known as Timber Utilisation Contracts or TUCs). Mr Bawa said to circumvent the ban, the Forestry Commission's officials illegally issued over 750 TUPs to logging companies, adding that, the penalty for such violations of Timber Resources Management Act 1997 is two years imprisonment without the option of a fine. He said due to the intense logging activates in 1990, only 1.6 million hectares of tropical forest cover remained, mostly in the Western Region and these were even in state protected forest reserves. "This intense and insane competition has been facilitated at every stage by corrupt politicians and forest officials, who have the primary responsibility for conserving Ghana's forest resources and yet, who have profited directly from its destruction", Mr Bawa added.

Mr Bawa demanded among other things, the immediate cancellation by the Forestry Commission of the TUP issued to Messrs Logwood Industry Ltd, that the Abrumase forest be declared a biologically significant area and as such, should be protected. In addition, the Abrumase community should be assisted to develop alternative livelihoods equivalent to initiatives underway in other globally significant biodiversity areas and that the Abrumase communities should be involved in the design and implementation of the protection of the area.

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