Accra, Dec. 21, GNA - The first State of the Environment Report, 2004,launched on Wednesday indicates that the weather is becoming warmer with rainfall patterns fluctuating over the last 40 years, with gradual decreases in rainfall distribution in all parts of the country. It also points out that climatic variability held consequences for land use patterns especially in agricultural areas as well as the increasing rate of deforestation.
The report launched by the Ms Christine Churcher, Minister of Environment and Science, in Accra said the environmental impact of land degradation included reduced crop yield, reduced quantity of vegetative cover and reduced resilience of land to climatic variability. The report, which covers nine chapters within 130 pages deals with issues such as atmospheric quality, land use and land cover, fresh water, forestry, coastal and marine environment, bio-diversity, energy and human settlement.
It presents an analysis of Ghana's endowed natural resources, the extent of their use and the resultant effects of misuse and degradation. The report notes that population growth, changes in land use patterns and climatic variability have resulted in dwindling of freshwater resources, with rivers located near industrial areas dying due to the discharge of effluent by such industries.
It said the original forest cover was about 36 per cent of the country's landmass, reducing to 23 per cent by 1972; 13.3 per cent in 1990 and 10.2 per cent in 2000.
The report makes recommendations for the rehabilitation, wise use and management of the natural resources in a way to enhance economic gains, human settlement planning, industrial development, poverty alleviation and a clean and healthy environment.
Ms Christine Churcher, Sector Minister launching the report urged Ghanaians to consider environmental issues as issues that impacted on every sector of the economy, holding prospects or disastrous consequences for the economy.
"The environment holds the natural capital for the sustenance of our economy, and some omission or commission on our part, if not treated with care could hold disastrous consequences for the future generations," she said.
Ms Churcher said integrating environmental concerns into the development planning process based on the knowledge of the status of the environment had far-reaching consequences for the Government and the population at large.
Praising the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for its assistance in the preparation of the report, Ms Churcher said the preparation of the first state of the environment report could have been onerous without the funding support of the UNDP.
She said the support received also culminated in the preparation of ancillary reports under the UNDP/Government of Ghana Environmental Resource Management Programme including Sustainable Development Indicators and the National Sustainable Development Strategies for Ghana: Approaches and Guidance, which were also launched with the State of Environment Report.
Mr Johnathan Allotey, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, producers of the report said the Agency would from this year produce the report once in every three years.
He said the objective of the report was to increase awareness on the state of the environment as well as impact on decision makers at all levels the need to reflect on environmental issues whenever they made decisions for the State.
Mr Allotey said EPA had since 1996 made several efforts to publish a state of the environment report but had been hindered by the lack of comprehensive and definitive information.
Dr Duah Yentumi, Assistant Resident Representative of UNDP, said the use of the nations resources should not cause future descendants to inherit a diminished natural and cultural heritage, less potable water, polluted air, contaminated soils, reduced variety of food and degraded landscapes.
He said suspense did "not mean any lessening in the enterprise of our people or in our goal of improving the standard of living of Ghanaians."
Mr Yentumi said the pursuit of economic growth and social progress as spelt out in the Growth for Poverty Reduction Strategy, must do with a greatly heightened awareness of the significance of the natural environment for the long-term success of endeavours.