Environmental degradation costs  over US$11bn annually

Nana Otuo Siriboe II, Juabenhene performing a ceremonial tree planting exercise.

The country loses an estimated US$11billion, as the cost of environmental degradation according to a recent Ghana Country Environmental Analysis by the World Bank, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Kwaku Afriyie, has revealed.

The analysis points to the conclusion that environmental degradation and unsustainable natural resource use, pose a significant risk to future economic growth, as well as a threat to public and ecosystem health.

The United Nations reports that ecosystem loss is depriving the world of carbon sinks, like forests and peatlands, at time humanity, can least afford it. Global greenhouse gas emissions keep rising for consecutive years and the planet is at risk of experiencing an unprecedented impact of climate change.

It also indicates an annual loss of 10 million hectares of forests, while air and water pollution are projected to be killing 9 million people annually – more than six times the current toll of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking at the commemoration of the World Environment Day, at Juaben, in the Ashanti Region, Dr. Afriyie said “These indicate that we are at a critical point of our existence on this planet and we all have seen our ecosystems disappear before our eyes, our glaciers melting and heatwaves being experienced more often than before.”

To this end, he noted that the current generation has the moral obligation to restore and sustainably manage the environment for the next generation to benefit from it. “We may have wasted time, being selfish to an extent but we can turn things around and strive to achieve a better, greener and healthier environment.”

He appealed for “all to join hands in a synergistic manner and collectively put efforts to save the environment,” while directing the Planning Authorities in the various Municipalities, Districts, and the Environmental Protection Agency to spearhead the fight against environmental degradation by enforcing the requisite laws and regulations.

“Let us, therefore, endeavour to restore our relationship with nature by taking steps to do the little we can as individuals and collectively as a community. We can for instance plant trees in our back yards; strengthen the linkage between nature and our cultures, observe traditional laws and promote traditional approaches to biodiversity conservation and restoration.”

Ghana’s sustained social development and economic growth is very much dependent on the sustainable management of the environment comprising mainly of both renewable and non-renewable resources.

In recent years both renewable and non-renewable resources are under serious threat and the country’s environment is currently facing enormous challenges that threaten sustainable future.

One of such major threats to the environment is galamsey, and this Dr. Afriyie said the Ministry will team up with the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and other stakeholders to restore the quality of polluted water bodies, degraded forests and lands.

World Environment Day is the United Nations’ flagship day for promoting worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Since 1974, it has been celebrated every year on June 5, engaging governments, businesses, celebrities, and citizens to focus their efforts on a pressing environmental issue.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Ecosystem Restoration.”  In Ghana, the slogan for the celebration is “Let’s Unite to Save the Environment.”

World Environment Day also serves as an important platform for promoting the environmental dimensions of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Ghana, Charles Abani, acknowledged that “the task of restoring ecosystems is monumental, but everyone can contribute. It is the government, the private sector, the civil society, the traditional leaders, but in reality, every individual man and woman can do his or her part.”

He observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the threat posed by biodiversity loss not just to ecosystem health, but also to the health of humans. “Promoting a green recovery is therefore essential to ensure an inclusive and sustainable future to the future generations of Ghanaians in harmony with nature.”

Mr. Abani underlined the commitment of the United Nations to supporting countries including Ghana in their efforts to promote ecosystem restoration.

The commemoration of the World Environment Day, which coincided with activities leading to the 50th anniversary of the enstoolment of Nana Otuo Siriboe II, as Omanhene of Juaben traditional area, was marked with tree planting activities.

The Juabenhene, who was the chairman for the occasion committed to undertake tree planting exercise periodically within the Juaben traditional area, while planting over 500 trees prior to the event.

He acknowledged the importance of tree plants and against this background encouraged the Ghanaians to embrace the effort to restore the ecosystem.

The Executive Director, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Dr. Henry Kwabena Kokofu, in his address condemned the wanton degradation of wetlands. He called on individuals, groups, and organizations to desist from this practice forthwith.

“We particularly entreat the Agency responsible for managing the Ramsar sites to enforce the requite regulations to protect and conserve those wetlands for posterity. The health of our environment is indispensable to our wellbeing, and to our future,” he said.

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