Mr. Asher Nkegbe, Acting Upper West Regional Director of Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) has advised Ghanaians to effectively protect the environment towards the promotion of tourism and the development of its resources.
He said Ghanaians need to establish strong links between tourism and biodiversity by changing their attitudes, behaviours and practices from negative to positive so as to sustain the future for the benefit of all.
Mr. Nkegbe made the call on the at the 2010 United Nations World Tourism Organisation Day Celebration at Zukpiri, in the Nadowli District, after a tour of the Zukpiri Integrated Wildlife Reserve, at the weekend.
He said Ghanaians must understand that human wealth and economic development are derived from the resources of the earth and that there is only one earth for our use.
They must, therefore, acknowledge their inter-dependency on the resources on earth and recognise that in the long run depletion of water resources, reduction in biodiversity and disruption of ecosystems would have disastrous consequences for all.
Mr. Nkegbe reminded the people in the Upper West Region that celebrating the Day at Zumpiri is to let them know the importance of the Black Volta River towards the sustenance of their economic, social and environmental prosperity and progress.
He said the catchments area of the Black Volta River is home to rare animal and bird species, such as hippopotamus, antelopes, monkeys and crocodiles, as well as partridges and wild guinea fowls, which could be conserved for the development of eco-tourism.
The EPA Director noted that despite the huge potentials, there were clear signals that the people were making excessive demands on the environment.
Mr. Nkegbe mentioned bushfires, indiscriminate felling of trees, destruction of biodiversity, farming along river banks, and causing siltation of water bodies, are some of the common practices in the region, which needed to be addressed.
He announced that since 1998, the EPA has collaborated with the Tourist Board and the Wechau Hippo Sanctuary to protect a 42 kilometre stretch of the Black Volta River, in the Wa West District.
The Agency has also collaborated with the Zukpiri Community to initiate the Zukpiri Integrated Wildlife Sanctuary as a way of promoting eco-tourism.
The Zukpiri Integrated Wildlife Sanctuary is managed by 16 communities along the Black Volta River with assistance from Global Environment Facility and Small Grants Programme.
Mr. Nkegbe said the EPA, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Regional Environmental Management Committee and the District Assemblies were implementing a five year CIDA sponsored Ghana Environmental Management Project (GEMP).
The project would help to strengthen institutions and rural communities to enable them to reverse land degradation and desertification trends in the Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions to promote the adoption of sustainable water and land management systems that would improve food security and reduce poverty.
He said the implementation of the project would also help to promote land use and soil management, management of vegetative cover, wildlife and biodiversity management, water resources management and energy resources management.
These socio-economic environmental improvement approaches would assist in poverty reduction.
Mr. Nkegbe announced that 30 pilot communities were already benefiting from GEMP in the region and entreated individuals and non-governmental organisations involved in the implementation of the environmental projects to intensify their efforts to help complement the hard work of GEMP.
He said the Agency would expect project proposals from such individuals and NGOs to ensure that the region benefits fully from the GEMP.