A total of 74 illegal miners and illegal chainsaw operators were arrested by the Rapid Responds Team of the Forestry Commission in Begoro District in the Eastern Region last year.
Out of the number, 58 were illegal miners arrested in the Atewa Forest Reserve while the rest were illegal chainsaw operators arrested in the Southern Scarp Forest Reserve in Begoro.
Majority of the suspects have been convicted to varied prison sentences and fines by the Koforidua Circuit Court while others are undergoing trial.
In 2017 for instance, about 100 illegal miners were arrested in the Atewa Forest Reserve.
According to the Begoro District Forestry Manager, Kwame Oteng Awuah, illegal mining, illegal chainsawing, illegal farming and nomadic herdsmen who usually set fire into the forest reserves remain major threats to the conservation of the aforementioned reserves despite strives to safeguard amid inadequate human resources and logistical constraints.
He said the Forestry Commission was discussing with its partners for support to pitch camp into the Atewa Forest Reserve to help curb illegal mining activities in the forest.
“We thought of pitching camps in the Forest Reserve with our rapid response team so that their presence will deter them [illegal miners]. That means we are adopting the preventing measure rather than arrest and prosecute. We are in discussion also to find collaborators who can support us with logistics and finance because it also goes with cost,” he said.
He added, “On illegal chainsawing, we are intensifying patrols with the Forest guards and the YEA staff,” he said.
Forest experts have cautioned that Ghana’s Forest Reserves may be totally depleted by 2040 should the current annual deforestation rate of at 3.2% continue unabated.
It is estimated that Ghana has lost 60% of her total of 9.2 million hectares of forest cover to illegal logging, illegal mining, and farming.
Story: News DESK