The Forestry Commission (FC) has pledged its commitment to continue the fight against illegal logging operations and the chainsaw menace in the country.
Already, the five-member rapid response team set up and deployed to the Western, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions has been successful in carrying out a number of operational measures to combat those activities in the forest and wildlife sector.
According to the Chief Executive Officer of the FC, Mr Samuel Afari Dartey, about 154 illegally constructed hamlets within the catchment area of the Sui River Forest Reserve in the Sefwi Wiawso District in the Western Region had been demolished, while 31 hectares of illegal farms had also been destroyed in the Krokosua Hills and the Tano-Offin Forest reserves.
In addition, 18 chainsaw machines were seized during the operations, about 11,000 pieces of assorted lumber seized, 51 logs confiscated, mostly in the Nkawie and Goaso forest districts, and 45 vehicles impounded for illegally conveying lumber or logs.
Speaking at the FC’s end-of-year party in Accra last Friday, Mr Dartey said by March 2013, a new regulation that would restrict access to illegal timber/timber documentation in the European Union (EU) would come to force, hence the need to strengthen the commission’s capacity to deal with the situation.
According to data from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, at the beginning on the 20th century Ghana’s forest cover was about 8.2 million hectares, but now it was about 1.6 million hectares, with an estimated 65 hectares being lost every year owing to logging and chainsaw operations, as well as other human activities.
It has also been established that the annual cost of forest depletion to the country stands at $300 million.
Officially, there are about 200 licensed timber companies operating in the country and these companies are under obligation to replant areas under their jurisdiction.
According to Mr Dartey, although efforts were being made to position Ghana for the new timber trade regime in the EU, there were still some challenges in that respect. But he was upbeat that everything would be done to ensure unfettered timber export to the EU in 2013.
The challenges, he noted, arose out of the country’s legality licensing system under the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) which, he indicated, would not be ready before the EUTR came into effect.
“The FC is considering implementing an interim strategy to meet this challenge which will be completed and made available for discussion before the EUTR comes into force,” he said.
Mr Dartey added that plans were underway to expand the Wood Industry Training Centre (WITC) to become a full-fledged training school to ensure continuous improvement of the staff of the FC.
Sixteen employees of the commission were honoured with certificates, cash and household items for their dedication and hard work throughout the year.
Source: Daily Graphic