9 people to be prosecuted for indiscriminate bush burning

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has arrested nine persons, comprising three adults and six juveniles, for allegedly indiscriminate bush burning.

The nine culprits, whose names had not been disclosed for security reasons, were burning the bush in search of bush meat and are to be put before a Tamale court for prosecution.

Speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency on Friday, Mr. Abu Iddrisu, Northern Regional Manager of the EPA, said those individuals were busted during a joint operation between the police and EPA late January 2011, and had since been granted bail.

“We are almost through with the documentation and our evidence is ready now so hopefully they will face the law,” he said.

Mr. Iddrisu said as part of their field inspection, about 24 bicycles and one motorcycle had been confiscated from people who indulged in such activities.

“According to the Environmental Protection Agency, any form of abuse of the environment contravenes the EPA act, Act 490. The law disallows anybody from setting up fire in any kind of bush,” he explained.

Mr. Iddrisu noted that the EPA in collaboration with the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives had set up an Environmental Management Committees in all the districts to educate and ensure that people who start bush fires were brought to book.

He called on government to review the regulation on bush burning and make it more proactive to ensure that offenders were punished to serve as a deterrent.

Mr. Iddrisu said there was the need for government to train some of the police prosecutors on environmental law to be able to defend environmental issues, especially in law courts.  “This will help government prosecutors to be more conversant and be able to present environmental cases well in court.

“Again we need a stronger and effective collaboration with other stakeholders including the various districts, the Ghana National fire Service, EPA and the Police Service as stipulated by the EPA Act 490, to be able to stop the canker”, he said.

On what EPA was doing to support the National Afforestation Programme, Mr. Iddrisu mentioned that his outfit often distributed seedlings to schools to be planted on their compounds.

He expressed worry about the rate at which the environment was being depleted due to excessive bush burning, saying the economic conditions in the Region were unfavourable and that indiscriminate bush burning was escalating the poverty situation in the three northern regions.

Mr. Iddrisu said that every year farmers in the Upper East, Upper West and the Northern Regions lost much of their produce to bushfires and had to lean on donor support for survival.

He said apart from farmers losing their produce, wooden electricity poles were also being affected by bushfires, especially in the remote areas.

“It is very sad that our Region is very poor and we are not acting responsibly to protect the environment, which we all depend on for our daily bread.”

He urged the people not forget the adage “When the last tree dies, the last man dies.”

Source: GNA

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