Seven Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and four private citizens, have jointly sued the government over the exploration and drilling of deep wells in the Atewa Forest Reserve.
The seven CSOs include A Rocha Ghana, Flower Ghana, Concern Citizens of Atewa Landscape, Ghana Youth Environmental Movement, Ecocare Ghana, Kasa Initiative Ghana and Save the Frogs Ghana. Whilst the private four citizens are: Awula Serwah, Oteng Adjei, Boakye Twumasi- Ankrah and Nana Asante.
Human Rights Legal Practitioner, Martin Kpebu, the counsel for the plaintiffs filed the writ against the Attorney General at the general jurisdiction court (High Court) division.
To the plaintiffs, the COVID-19 outbreak has painfully highlighted how climate change and biodiversity loss hamper humanity’s ability to effectively combat pandemics, and it is clear that preemptively protecting the natural world plays a critical role in controlling future outbreaks.
In their writ, they are seeking an order compelling the government and its agents to declare the Atewa Range Forest (ARF) as a ‘Protected Zone’ and take steps to protect the forest in accordance with its constitutional obligation, as contained under Article 36 (9) of the 1992 Constitution.
The plaintiffs are also seeking a declaration that the mining of bauxite in the ARF violates the right to life and dignity, as enshrined in the constitution, as well as an order directed at government to restore and pay cost for the restoration of damages that have been caused to the ARF.
According to them, the right to life and dignity, as enshrined in the Articles 13 and 15 of the Constitution, included the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of the present and future generations. It is, therefore, praying the court to restrain the government, its agents, workmen, allottees and guarantees from undertaking mining and its related activities in the forest.
In the statement of case, the plaintiffs stated that they were private citizens and organizations involved in advocacy aimed at protecting the environment and they bore the Constitutional duty under Article 41(k) of the Constitution to protect and safeguard the environment.
They also had a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to environmental harm, especially when scientific investigations have found a plausible risk. “Government has a greater responsibility to protect and safeguard the environment and address climate change, as well as secure biodiversity as obligated under two international conventions that it is a signatory to,” the statement read.
The plaintiffs said, the government, however, in 2017 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Republic of China, using the ARF as one of the sources of bauxite. Government commenced with the prospecting of minerals in flagrant disregard of Section 9 of the Minerals Act 2006 (Act 703) as amended.
They said the government, through the Integrated Aluminum Development Corporation (GAIDEC) entered the forest in May 2019 and as at the time of filing the writ, 53 deep wells had been drilled. They averred that GIADEC estimated that there were 900-million tonnes of bauxite minerals across Ghana, with Nyinahin alone, holding 700-million tons (77.98 per cent) while Awaso and Kyebi had 60-million (6.68 per cent) and 160-million (17.8 per cent) respectively.
They hold that only 17.8 percent of Ghana’s bauxite could be found in Kyebi, the area within which ARF could be found, hence more than 82 percent of Ghana’s bauxite could be mined without compromising the existence of the ARF. They held that the ARF was also administratively classified as a Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA) and protective forest reserve, for which all mining activities were to be excluded.