The Forestry Commission has joined forces with the military to combat forestry degradation in the Western Region.
At a press conference held at the commission's premises at Achimota in Accra, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Commission, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie aka Sir John, said the move has become necessary because the forest and wildlife resources in the region have come under serious threats through human activities such as illegal farming, mining, logging, chainsawing and commercial collection of non-timber forest products as well as poaching. He said these activities in forest reserves in the region were causing serious havoc to the environment and forest resources.
He disclosed that during rapid field assessment of the extent of degradation, it was discovered that 24,398.96ha of intact forest has been lost to forest illegalities adding that the development has informed the decision of management on the way forward in terms of using the best approach to tackle the menace.
Mr. Afriyie said, as part of steps taken by the commission to tackle the development, the commission organized a multi-stakeholder consultative meeting on September 11 at the Sefwi Wiawso Distric Assembly Hall which was chaired by the Omanhene of the Sefwi Wiawso Traditional Area, Katakyie Kwasi Bumangama. At the meeting, all participants agreed that there should be a military intervention, together with the Rapid Response Team and the forest guards of the commission to stop ongoing illegalities in the forest. This resolution, he said, had the blessings of the Chief of the Sefwi Wiawso Traditional Area and his chiefs.
“Operation Halt” was one of the series of operations introduced to halt illegalities in the nation's forest reserves in the Western Region; and which has been sustained over the years by the Forestry Commission and the military, the CEO said.
The military, he added, were engaged because the illegal operators are alleged to possess modern sophisticated weapons for their self-defense and also due to the fact that the wildlife reserves were being wantonly destroyed at an alarming rate.
He said since the start of the third phase of the operation, the team had seized some illegal timber in the Krokusua, Sui, Bia North and Moro Forest Reserves as well as Sefwi Buako and Juaboso – all in the Western Region.
About 30 trucks loaded with illegally sourced timber and over 2,000 pieces of doors and uncountable number of beams were arrested.
The Forestry Commission in collaboration with the Ghana Armed Forces had trained frontline staff of the commission to enable them fight illegalities in the forest. They would also be given modern logistics to enable them carry out their forest protection roles effectively.