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23.02.2006 Business & Finance

Ghana signs agreement to harvest timber under water


Accra, Feb. 23, GNA - Ghana on Wednesday signed an agreement that would make Clark Sustainable Resources (CSR) Developments Limited Canada, harvest timber from the Volta Lake to improve safety of navigation on the manmade lake.

The project would also promote fishing, tourism and other socio-economic activities on the lake that links the Volta, Eastern, Brong Ahafo, Ashanti regions and the Northern regions.

Energy Minister Professor Mike Ocquaye signed for Ghana with Mr Christopher Addae, Deputy Minister of Harbours and Railways and Mr Joshua Ofedie, Chief Executive of Volta River Authority (VRA). Mr Joe Clark, a former Canadian Prime Minister and Chairman of CSR Developments, signed for his company, which would solely fund the project with between 10 million and 20 million dollars.

Mr Donald J. Bobiash, Canadian High Commissioner and Mr. Wayne Dunn, President of the company, initialled as witnesses. Prof Ocquaye said the project had come as a great relief to Ghana as it would end the frequent fatal accidents on the Volta Lake and open up employment and major opportunities within its catchments. "Over the years, it has been a great challenge to extract stumps from the Volta Lake in a manner that would be beneficial to the economy, sustain the environment and create jobs," he stated.

"However, last year, President Kufuor tasked the Ministry to assist VRA to secure external support to undertake the job and we are pleased that CSR is here with an innovative technology that would meet all our expectations."

The timber, expected to be harvested in three years, Prof. Ocquaye said, would be sold on the world market and Ghana would benefit from the proceeds.

Mr Addae stressed that the project would end the nightmare of the people who lived in the catchments of the Lake and boost trade and other socio-economic activities.

Mr Ofedie said though a contractor won an open bid to execute the job three years ago, he abandoned it because of inappropriate technology. It was, therefore , significant that CSR Developments would undertake the job with a modern technology and make Ghana the first in Africa to harvest timber under water.

A master plan would subsequently be developed to maximize the benefits of a stump-free lake, he added. He said VRA would also address the issue of settlements for those in the catchments in due course.

Mr Clark said his company, which was reputed for its commitment to corporate social responsibility and sustainable environmental practices would not compromise on standards.

"We would ensure that the project is of value in terms of safety, opening up opportunities for trade, training, technology transfer and the timber that is sold," he said.

"We would also endeavour to protect the environment and the ecosystem in general."

Mr Clark explained that the first phase of the project would be used to adapt the technology to Ghana. "Though it has been successfully used in Canada, our waters are cold and the trees are small but Ghana's temperature is warmer and the trees are bigger."

However, Mr. Clark expressed optimism that the project would begin to yield benefits in three years. High Commissioner Bobiash noted that the agreement symbolized Canada's growing partnership with Ghana, saying her assistance to Ghana had quadrupled from 12.4 million dollars from 2001 to 55.8 million dollars in 2005.

Bilateral trade had also grown up by 25 per cent over the past three years to 125 million dollars. "Since the first Canadian missionaries arrived in Ghana exactly 100 years ago to establish a church in Navrongo, friendship between the two countries had become warmer and warmer," he noted. Ghana, he said, could achieve a middle-income status with improved infrastructure that would enable it to take advantage of the world market with its vast natural wealth.

The project, he said, would help Ghana move towards that direction.

Experts say, the new technology was environmentally friendly for harvesting of flooded forests and could increase the overall value generated by such reservoirs. 23 Feb. 06