The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has declared war on illegal logging and chainsaw operations in forest reserves across the country.
Consequently, a team of security persons, forest guards and rangers are to be deployed to forest reserves to flush out illegal operators.
The Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources in charge of Lands and Forestry, Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, said those who would be arrested would be made to face the law squarely.
“We are going to implement strategies, including storming all places where these illegal loggers and chainsaw operators hide. We will burn all equipment if we have to, just to ensure that we halt their operations,” he added.
Mr Owusu-Bio made the declaration when he led a fact-finding team from the ministry and the Forestry Commission to ascertain the veracity of a surge in illegal logging in a forest reserve in Sefwi Wiawso in the Western North Region last Friday.
The forest reserve covers 8,442 hectares, with a total perimeter of 49.5 kilometres.
The team visited Tanoso Shen, Asante Nkae and Kokooso, where it was observed that the extent of destruction caused by the illegal operators was massive.
Hundreds of trees in the reserve had been cut down, with some illegal mining activities still going on.
Three sawmills had also been established close to the reserve.
The minister ordered the immediate demolition of the structures and seizure of all movable equipment.
According to him, the government had given clearance for the engagement of more forest guards to help in the protection of forests, and commended members of the Youth In Afforestation programme for their effort in protecting the forest.
Mr Owusu-Bio further advised farmers to guard their farms against bushfire as the nation experienced dry weather conditions.
“We are in the dry season and, therefore, we must beware of bushfires. To farmers, be sure not to set fires whatsoever, because they can turn into bigger fires that could put our reserves in danger,” he added.
The Forestry Commission District Manager in Sefwi Wiawso, Mr Raymond Obeng Boamah, said illegal logging, chainsaw operations and farming activities were prevalent in the area because operators were mostly armed to the teeth and posed a danger to forest guards.
“These guys who operate in the reserves are armed with all sorts of weapons, including guns and machetes, which they use to perpetrate their crime.
“Anytime our officials confiscate their machines, they go to the extent of beating the officials up and kidnapping them for ransom as a way of getting back their equipment,” he said.
According to Mr Obeng, the illegal activities had degraded the forest reserves, saying if nothing was done immediately, the reserves would entirely be depleted.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN, Ghana is one of the tropical countries with the highest percentage of rainforest loss in the world.
Ghana’s forest cover has been reduced from 8.2 million hectares (20 million acres) in 1900 to 1.6 million hectares (about four million acres) currently.
A 2011 report by the FAO also estimated that between 1990 and 2010, Ghana lost an average of 125,400 hectares of its forest cover, representing 1.68 per cent of forest cover per year.
The remaining 1.6 million hectares of forest cover is being threatened by illegal mining, lumbering and other human activities.
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