The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Buem Constituency in the Volta Region, Hon Daniel Kwesi Ashiamah, has dragged the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources to parliament over the indiscriminate felling of trees by sawmill operators in the Constituency.
According to the MP, the indiscriminate felling of trees in different parts of the Jasikan District is becoming a threat to the livelihood of his constituent as the activities of saw-milling companies destroyed crop farms and water bodies.
A number of huge trees in the Buem Constituency, specifically Baika, Ayoma, Kute and Teteman communities have been cut down in recent time with the pretext of salvaging “dangerously positioned” trees.
At least ten companies have been granted permit by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources as well as the Forestry Commission to salvage or harvest rosewood in the Jasikan District.
Some of the trees cut down
A similar situation is currently being experienced in the Builsa South, Binduri, Garu, Sissala East and West districts in the Upper East and West Regions respectively.
These trees, are not only nesting places for a number of migratory birds visiting the Jasikan forest, but served as protective against windstorm to crops and water bodies as well as animals of all kind.
Unfortunately, the timber dealers who have been eying these trees for long are taking advantage of the unilateral permit by government to salvage falling trees to indiscriminately deforest the entire enclave at the risk of livelihood of residents.
These activities are becoming contrary to the government earlier claims of having banned the felling, harvesting and exportation of rosewood in the country back in February 2017.
Notwithstanding, for fear of more of the forest belt in his constituency falling victim to the hacksaw of the timber operators, Hon Daniel Ashiamah, on Wednesday March 14, posed a question to the minister for Lands and Natural Resources as to what the ministry was doing to curb the menace.
“Mr Speaker, I rise to ask the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources what the Ministry is doing to curb the indiscriminate felling of trees in the Buem Constituency, specifically Baika, Ayoma, Kute and Teteman areas, by Volta Forest Products Limited, a sawmill factory in the Hohoe Municipality,?”Mr. Ashiamah asked.
However, in response to the question, a Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Benito Owusu Bio , said currently, ten (10) companies are operating on salvage permits in the Jasikan Forest District, for which two of them , Volta Forest Products Ltd, and• Edwin Wood Processing Ltd are operating at Baika, Ayoma, Kute, Teteman and Baglo off-reserve areas in the Buem Constituency.
He said per the permit, all the companies are operating under strict supervision of the Forestry Commission, a commission under the supervision of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources.
A river water destroyed by chainsaw operators
According to the Deputy Minister “In order to check illegal logging and indiscriminate feeling of trees, the Jasikan District Manager and his team carry out regular post-felling checks in the felling areas by all contractors. The felling of trees by the companies in the Buem area is therefore strictly guided.”
Mr Owusu Bio admitted that there were illegal chainsaw operators in the area, but expressed the government effort to curb the problems.
” Mr. Speaker, I would, however, wish to state that there is high illegal chainsaw activities in this area which is normally carried out by unidentified chainsaw operators. As part of efforts to clamp down on the illegalities in the area, the Forestry Commission occasionally deploys the Paramilitary Trained Resource Guards and the Regional Timber Monitoring Taskforce to the area to undertake arrests of offenders and in some cases the chainsaw machines are confiscated,” he stated.
In addition to that, the Deputy Minister explained that, the District Forest Office in Jasikan has also been tasked to undertakes routine monitoring and patrol of the forest reserve boundaries to prevent encroachment and illegal felling.
The challenges on monitoring of illegal harvesting activities in the off-reserve areas remained an overwhelming task for the Forestry Commission, but noted that the Forestry Office has therefore established Collaborative Forest Management Committees with communities to assist in the management of forest resources in the area.
Some of the community Committees he said are very active, especially in the Bodada, Teteman and Asukawkaw-Katanga areas, nothing that, “Just a few days ago, the Bodada Collaborative Forest Management Committee assisted in impounding 3 chainsaws and a quantity of illegal wood in the Bowri Amamfrom portion of the Odomi River Forest Reserve at about 7.00pm.”
He said, the forest commission alone could not fight the illegal felling of trees and highly commended the collaborative effort with education and awareness of the danger to lives associated with indiscriminate cutting down of trees.
The Ministry and the Forestry Commission, he said has launched an educative programme in the area, stating, “Mr. Speaker, there is also constant education and awareness creation in the district through community durbars and radio discussions on the local FM stations (Lorlornyo FM, Heritage FM, Sekpelle FM and Buem FM) to educate the general public on the menace of chainsaw operations.” Thecommunities, Mr Owusu Bio said, are also engaged in tree planting activities in restocking degraded landscapes and also in fire protection activities during the dry season.
“Mr. Speaker, we need to acknowledge that illegal chainsaw and Galamsey activities pose very serious threats to sustainable management of forest resources in Ghana and I wish to request Honourable Members of this august House to join us in our efforts to halt this menace,” he said.
Some farm crops destroyed
But Mr Ashiamah said, though he acknowledged the Deputy Minister assurance that efforts were being made to halt the problem, he would be much glad if measures are being taking to sanction the illegal operator.
He also want the affected farmers and residents in general compensated for the loses on their farms crops, stating, that the cut down tress have caused huge loses to farmers of their produces.
The MP further expressed the view that, Buem is one of the food production area in the country and that its forest must be preserved to protect crops and water bodies which remained sources of drinking water to most communities and animals.
While urging the government to help stem the menace,Hon Ashiaman also called on his constituent to exercise patient with high hope that the indiscriminate felling of trees in the area would come to a halt.
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