The Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, in collaboration with the Forestry Commission and other stakeholders, has celebrated the International Day of Forests on March 21.
It is a day set aside by the United Nations (UN) to raise awareness on the importance of all types of forests and trees outside forests.
The UN however allows member-states to adapt the date of celebrating the International Day of Forests to suit their peculiar circumstances. The global theme for the International Day of Forests 2018 was ‘Forests and Sustainable Cities’.
Ghana chooses the month of May every year for celebration of the Day, to coincide with the major rainy and planting season.
This year’s celebration, the seventh since its inception, will be observed in May, 2018. Ghana has however carved a theme out of the global one to suit its peculiar circumstances. It therefore chose ‘Maintaining the Balance Between Urbanisation and Forest Conservation’.
Urban forestry is the care and management of single trees and tree populations in urban settings for the purpose of improving the urban environment. Urban forestry advocates the role of trees as a critical part of the urban infrastructure.
Urban trees are excellent filters for urban pollutants and fine particulates. Trees provide food, medicine and other household needs. Spending time near trees improves physical and mental health by increasing energy levels and speed of recovery, while decreasing blood pressure and stress.
When trees are properly placed around buildings, they can reduce air conditioning needs by 30% and save energy. Trees provide habitat, food and protection to plants and animals, thereby increasing urban biodiversity. Forests in cities help absorb industrial fumes and emissions, creating a healthier atmosphere for both humans and animals – thereby reducing the cost of medical expenses.
These benefits notwithstanding, the increasing population growth and its corresponding rapid urbanisation prompted by demographic shift from rural to urban settlements appears to have overwhelmed the planning and carrying capacities of metropolitan, municipal and district administrators.
This is what is believed to have manifested in the destruction and shrinking of green spaces in urban settlements to give way to infrastructural development. The Achimota Forest in Accra, the Dechidaw Forest Reserve in Tema, the Tamale Town Plantations in the Northern Region, the Kabakaba Hills Forest Reserve at Ho in the Volta Region are some examples.
Indiscriminate tree-felling in our urban settlements also accounts for sure environmental challenges such as erosion, flooding, devastating rainstorms, collapse of buildings among others.
Major interventions being pursued to address these challenges include policy and legislative reforms, law enforcement, restoration of degraded landscapes through the National Forest Plantations Development Programme, and promotion of wood-lots establishment.
The choice of theme for the celebration is therefore to provide an opportunity to educate the general public on the tremendous potential of forests toward the sustainability of our cities. This is imperative to engender an appreciation for the need to strike a balance between increased physical urbanisation and environmental sustainability in general.
The Forestry Commission will collaborate with Metropolitan, Municipal, District Assemblies, Estate Developers, the Town and Country Planning Department, Ghana Institute of Architects and the public to plant more trees in our cities in realisation of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo’s agenda of achieving greener cities.
Activities earmarked for this year’s week-long celebration are:
Tree Planting along major roads in the cities; Inter-schools quiz competition on Maintaining the Balance Between Urbanisation and Forest Conservation, with Tree Planting Exercises.
It will also include a launch of 7th Forestry Week & Greening Ghana Day Celebration, Stakeholder Forum on Maintaining the Balance Between Urbanisation and Forest Conservation.
The general public is kindly invited to join in the celebration of this important event, as it is our collective responsibility to sustain our forests while we continue developing our cities for present and future generations.