The Deputy Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, Mr. John Allotey, has said construction of the US$1.2billion Accra Eco-Park project, expected to take-off this year, will dramatically improve the Achimota Forest, curtail encroachment and eliminate the domestic and industrial waste being dumped in the area.
Completion of the eco-park project will position the enclave as one of the leading world-class recreational facilities and major tourism destinations in West Africa.
This was made known in Accra during an end of year interaction with the media by top executives of the Commission. It was aimed at deepening the Commission’s relationship with its media partners in the ensuing years.
Mr. Allotey explained that the Forestry Commission is currently reviewing the terms for construction of the Eco-Park project with the investor, and that the decision is part of due diligence it is carrying out to ensure the project is executed and not abandoned mid-way.
Mr. Allotey explained that a special committee has been formed to quickly implement the agreement with the private investor.
“The Chief Executive has formed a committee to see how quickly we can start implementing the agreement. The committee has done some work and presented it. We have reviewed it and presented it to the minister. We are trying to find out which areas need to be looked at by the partner/investor.”
Answering questions about the project’s development, Mr. Allotey disclosed that the Commission has engaged the investor and is trying to do everything possible to ensure the project takes off this year.
“We have engaged the investor, trying to find out which areas we can move quickly. We have not thought of changing the investor; we don’t have any problem with the investor, we are not changing the company. What we are looking at are the things that need to be done to let the project be executed as soon as possible.
“We have to look at what the investor has presented to us to ensure that everything is right. It is not only the bricks and mortar or clearing the forest that is the work. A lot more goes into it, so that when we start we know we are on a good footing and not going to stop,” he said.
The sod-cutting ceremony of the Accra Eco-Park Project was performed on August 19, 2016 to allow for commencement of the project construction.
Aikan Capital Limited won the bid to execute the project, and is investing approximately US$1.2billion it. The lease agreement allows Aikan Capital to design, build and operate the facility for 10 years.
The first phase of the Eco-Park Project, the city’s only green belt, was expected to be completed in 24 months and add to the country’s major national parks – including Kakum in the Central Region and Mole in the Northern Region.
The project involves construction of amusement parks, orchards, an arboretum, wildlife safaris, museums, eco-commercial enclaves and eco-lodges – but with as little disruption to the natural vegetation as possible.
It will also have a spiritual enclave to cater for the spiritual/worship activities which bring more than 180,000 people annually to the Achimota Forest.
Apart from the recreational facilities, the development partners have plans for conference rooms with high-seating capacities targetted at corporate bodies. They will be sited outside the main forest area.
Available data from the Forestry Commission envisages that the Eco-Park project will create about 4,000 jobs during the construction phase, and 2,000 direct and 10,000 indirect jobs when it begins to function.
The Achimota Forest Reserve was gazetted (as a forest reserve) in 1939, with objectives including serving as a field laboratory research for schools in Accra; providing a place for recreation; conserving biological diversity; as well as playing the ecological role of purifying the air in the city.
However, years of unbridled encroachment has reduced the size of the forest from its original 495 hectares to 355 hectares and portions have been turned into waste disposal sites.