Mr Mike Hammah, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, has called for more robust forest protection policies to deal decisively with the growing degradation of Ghana’s forests through illegal chainsaw and mining activities.
He said it was time a hard look was taken at ways to tackle head-on, the impunity of the offenders.
The Minister said this after inspecting some forest reserves in the Nkawie, Tepa and Techiman districts with a team of officials from the Forestry Commission (FC), media and community forest watch groups to see at first hand the massive destruction of the reserves.
Mr Hammah said he was deeply surprised by the extent of encroachment and said this could not be allowed to continue.
He noted that apart from the environmental havoc, Ghana was losing a lot of revenue as well as economic tree species.
The team, accompanied by military personnel, came across some of the illegal chainsaw operators who had even built tents and installed their equipment right inside some of the reserves and sawn large quantities of lumber.
At Mfanti, a forest fringe settlement community near Tepa about 5,000, young people from different parts of the country had invaded the area and were busily engaged in gold mining in the reserve.
The Regional Manager of the Forest Services Division (FSD), Mr Joseph Boakye, said they were handicapped by the lack of logistics and inadequate number of forest guards.
The situation where a guard was supposed to police 10 kilometres square area without either a motorbike or gun was not the best.
It makes it difficult for them to arrest the offenders, who usually carry offensive weapons.