FWG concern about the general lack of knowledge and appreciation of the values of biodiversity

Biological diversity represented by the various ecosystems that depict the interdependence of living organisms and their physical environment is vital to all life-forms on earth. They (ecosystems) provide clean air, fresh water, food, resources and medicine.

Experts say healthy ecosystems are naturally resilient enough to adapt to gradual environmental changes. In other words, there is active regeneration in which existing species may evolve or new species move in – in response to the least change – so that the entire system does not collapse.

This also means that in situations where the range and variation of life in an ecosystem are being abused and destroyed, the system loses its integrity and can no longer function normally…and might eventually collapse.

It for these reasons that experts and activists are greatly alarmed at the current lack of knowledge among the general Ghanaian populace, and their lack of appreciation for the value of biodiversity and the services it provides which make life possible on earth.

These experts and activists, including members of Forest Watch Ghana (FWG), are concerned because they are of the view that the prevalent attitude of indifference – backed by ignorance, selfishness and greed – is a fundamental cause of the destruction of the nation’s biodiversity. FWG is a civil society group and a coalition of NGOs and community based orgnisations in the forestry sector. The group sees the general ignorance of ecosystems’ values and services as the underlying element in all other causes of ecosystem and biodiversity destruction in Ghana – driven by rapid population growth and unprecedented consumption patterns.

Consequently, FWG has issued a communique expressing deep concerns about the general lack of concern for the nation’s environment, describing the situation as disturbing. “This attitude underlies the careless abandon with which people treat the environment,” the communique stated, adding, “this is a disturbing state of affairs”.

The group is particularly concerned about government’s silence and inaction on ace journalist Anas’s latest exposé, which focused on the people behind the escalating ‘galamsey’ or illegal mining situation in the country. “The silence is sending an impression that the Executive is unperturbed with top government officials, including presidential staffers, being behind the destruction of water ecosystems, farms and livelihoods,” the communique stated.

FWG described government’s stance as a trivialisation of criminal acts. “This posture trivialises these criminal acts and is endangering the lives of ordinary people – and eventually the entire nation. It is also giving perpetrators the audacity to challenge Anas’s revelations with the aim of discrediting his findings.”

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The communique said civil society therefore “calls on the government to act with the same alacrity with which it responded to the exposé in the sports sector, since the galamsey menace is wreaking havoc on the environment and destroying the very foundation of the people’s lives”.

The group again observed the lack of response from the general Ghanaian populace on ace journalist Anas’s latest exposé, and in the communique noted that this “has revealed a deep lack of knowledge and appreciation for the values of biodiversity”. Indeed, this stance is in direct contrast to that on the Ghana Football Association – which drew a diversity of passionate crowds wherever it was shown nationwide.

The issue was passionately discussed at the group’s March, 2019 Annual General Meeting in Accra. Members wondered what will eventually become of the nation if the current crop of youth who will lead the country in future have no knowledge about the importance of our biodiversity and ecosystems.

In view of this high level of non-appreciation for biodiversity among Ghanaians, FWG is calling for a deliberate national debate on the issue. “We therefore call for a deliberate national agenda to raise awareness on the importance of biodiversity, and to also educate Ghanaians on the need to consciously protect our biological resources,” the communique stated.

This call is in line with similar concerns raised by the Ghana Connect Team and its partners at one of its meetings in Accra. Connect Ghana’s main focus is to assemble potential data providers and end-users to develop appropriate biodiversity information products that address specific demands for information in the sector. The aim is to package data in formats that are easily available, accessible, understandable and usable for policy decisionmakers.

And to ensure that biodiversity is appreciated in the lives of Ghanaians, the Chairman of the Ghana Connect Project, Dr. George Essegbey, is calling for branding the importance of biodiversity and natural ecosystems. He said the branding should be such that people will become bonded to biodiversity and would naturally want to protect rather than destroy it.

The FWG communique also touched on other areas of concern – such as the gradual conversion of Kalakpa Nature Reserve from a wildlife protected area to a logging hub for rosewood and ebony. The communique said, by law, a wildlife protected area cannot be logged or mined because of the unique occurrence and endemism of flora and fauna in the area. Besides, the destruction of these ecosystems will have dire consequences for human life. The group therefore called on the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to investigate the on-going logging in Kalakpa Nature Reserve and bring the perpetrators to book.

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The communique mentions the on-going harvesting of rosewood and its implications. It said the unrestricted harvesting of rosewood will have dire consequences for the environment and also for the Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between Ghana and the European Union under the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) initiative, which seeks to ensure the legality of timber products among other things.

FWG praised the sector minister for placing a ban on the logging and extraction of rosewood, but reminded him and all stakeholders to ensure that the ban is in place and enforced.

Another key concern of FWG highlighted in the communique was the country’s current policy of borrowing from China, and urged government to be prudent in that wise. According to the communique, experiences from other African countries indicate that the Chinese do not take kindly to defaults, and will confiscate national assets of defaulting countries.  The communique cautioned that since the Chinese funds are not for free, Ghana should not give undue concessions at the expense of enforcing national laws.

Thriving biodiversity and healthy ecosystems can be ensured when natural resources are sustainably exploited. They are the basic requirement for clean and fresh-air free from pollution. In recognition of this, this year’s World Environment Day celebrated on Wednesday, June 5th, was devoted to Air Pollution, as one of the most pressing environmental issues of the 21st century. Nations are expected to tackle this huge problem through measures including cutting greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change. It for this reason that countries like Ghana need to urgently address forest and land degradation issues.

All of these have bearings on and are relevant to the discussion of whether or not to conserve the nation’s forests. This will be the focus of this writer’s next piece, which will be the second in her series on the theme.

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