Int Community raise red flag *Over bauxite mine in Atewa Forest


President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has been urged by a number of international organisations to resist any foreign power(s) to reconsider his decision of giving out the Atewa Range Forest Reserve in the Eastern Region to the Chinese for bauxite mining.

And these are American Bird Conversancy, GUYRA Paraguay, Synchronicity Earth, WWF and SRK Consulting, all international environmental conservationist organisations.

According to these international organisations, which have been kicking against government’s plans to mine bauxite in the Atewa Forest, Ghana risks suffering long-term disadvantages if it proceeds to mine bauxite in the forest.

The organisations indicated that though the country would make some profit from mining bauxite, it was also necessary to appreciate that the Atewa Forest is an important water source for most of the river bodies in the country.

They [the organisations] maintained that Ghana was set to sacrifice irreplaceable forest and water sources for 5 million people for Chinese-linked bauxite mine.

According to them, despite vehement protestations from local and international conservation organisations, the Ghanaian government seems determined to proceed with a ‘destructive bauxite mine’ in the Atewa Forest– a globally important ecosystem that harbours extraordinary wildlife and provides water for 5 million people.

In a statement, they asserted that the recent decision by the government to send bulldozers in to start clearing access roads showed that the powers-that-be have decided to plough ahead with the controversial project.

It mentioned that when completed, the mine would destroy the forest – one of the world’s Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) and home to more than 100 globally threatened species.

Designated as a Forest Reserve in 1926, the statement noted that the Atewa forest is also a critical water source, housing the headwaters of the Birim, Densu and Ayensu rivers, which provide water to local communities as well as millions of people downstream, including the capital city of Ghana, Accra.

“Despite the government’s assertions, bauxite mining would forever destroy the Atewa

Forest, leaving extinct species and dried up water sources in it.”

The organisations with over 15 million supporters worldwide are calling on the government to abandon plans to mine the forest and instead declare it a national park.

They indicated that over 20,000 people have already signed a petition calling on the government to declare Atewa Forest a National Park.

“It is still not too late for the government to stop this disastrous mine in its tracks and instead champion Ghana’s incredibly rich natural heritage and the interests of the five million Ghanaians who depend on Atewa Forest for water,” he added.

Unlike Ghana’s existing bauxite mine at Awaso, which locals describe as a “desert of red mud,” Atewa Forest is teeming with life, home to at least 50 mammal species, more than 1,000 species of plants and at least 230 species of birds and more than 570 butterflies – some of which are found nowhere else in the world.

Mining Atewa Forest for bauxite, the main ingredient in aluminium, would push a number of species even closer to extinction, including the endangered white-naped Mangabey, the critically endangered togo slippery frog, and the Afia Birago puddle frog, which was only discovered in 2017.

The government’s decision to start tearing down the forest comes just a month after a landmark report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and

Ecosystem Services (IPBES), highlighted the threat posed to humanity by the rapid loss of biodiversity and called for urgent global action to reverse the decision.

A recent Global Forest Watch report also estimated that there had been a 60 per cent increase in Ghana’s tropical primary rainforest loss in 2018 compared to 2017, the highest in the world.

“The recent UN biodiversity report was crystal clear: protect wildlife or all life on Earth will suffer, including humans,” said Russ Mittermeier, GWC’s Chief Conservation Officer and chair of the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group.

“The government of Ghana has a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate that it is committed to preserving the country’s natural life support system and ecosystems that are critical for the health of the global environment by preventing mining in the Atewa Forest and instead designating it a national park.”

In 2016, A Rocha and partners published a report that showed that protecting Atewa Forest as a national park with a well-managed buffer zone around it – rather than mining it for bauxite has the highest economic value for the country over 25 years, with tremendous benefits to communities both upstream and down.

A recent US government report concluded that “given the scale, duration, and potential significant and permanent impact of Ghana’s Integrated Bauxite Plan on the Atewa Forest Reserve and water supply of over 5 million people, it was critical to evaluate a range of development and management options (including … alternatives to mining) to protect drinking water and other ecosystem services.”

Funds from the bauxite mine will be used to repay the Chinese company, Sinohydro, for infrastructure projects in Ghana. SRK Consulting, a global company with offices in Europe and the US, has been contracted to develop the mine plan, with initial reports due this month.

“The Ghanaian government must prioritise what is invaluable for the people of Ghana: Atewa Forest is the crown jewel of the country’s biodiversity and the water towers for three major river systems,” said WWF Africa Region Director, Frederick Kwame Kumah.

“Bauxite mining in Atewa will cause unimaginable destruction to the forest and river ecosystems and directly impact people’s basic livelihoods.”

Synchronicity Earth’s Director of Strategic Conservation, Simon Stuart, added that “if mining proceeds in the Atewa Forest, will not only seal the fate of several species, including two endemic frogs, but also set the appalling precedent that mining can proceeded in hugely important places for biodiversity without an Environmental Impact Assessment.

“We call on the Government of Ghana to cancel this project and stop the damage before it is too late.”




Story: Kwamena ANANSE

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