Forest guards in Ashanti Region are abandoning their duty posts as Chinese illegal miners and Fulani herdsmen invade forest reserves.
The Forestry Commission is seeking support of state security to ward off the illegal miners and nomads whose activities pose a threat of the country’s forest resources.
Regional Assistant Manager, Isaac Noble Eshun, wants stakeholder support and co-operation to address the challenge.
About eight hectares of forest land have been lost to exploitation, even in restricted areas, spearheaded by Chinese nationals.
Illegal mining in forest reserves costs the Forestry Commission in excess of Gh¢ 250,000 annually in its effort to ward off perpetrators in Ashanti Region alone.
Efforts to protect and conserve forest resources are being hampered by activities of farmers, hunters and Fulani herdsmen.
Forest guards working in the Bumfuom Forest at Kumawu where re-afforestation is being undertaking, are persistently being attacked by armed Fulani herdsmen.
Mr. Noble Eshun says the lives of the guards are under constant threat.
“They [Fulani herdsmen] drive their cattle through our forest especially those areas where we are replanting and these cattle trample on those seedlings that we’ve planted as well as chew off the top of these seedlings. They even drive away our forestry officers. Very, very much life threatening. Now most of our forest guards have left the community”. Worried Mr. Eshun complained.
In the Atwima Mponua as well as Nwabiagya, Amansie Central and West Districts forestry personnel are going through hell, trying to execute their mandate.
Armed Chinese illegal miners, deploying sophisticated equipment, including excavators, with tacit backing of people considered powerful in the country continue to act with impunity.
The Forestry Commission says it is overwhelmed by the trend.
“On our way here you saw the kind of damage done to the outside forest reserve area. Total is stripped of all vegetation; river channel is virtually also blocked. It’s only this forest that is affecting the climate over here and if we sit down for this forest to be also mould down, then it would be a terrible thing for us”. Mr Eshun has warned.
Residents in communities affected by illegal mining activities, especially in the Amansie Central District, predominantly farmers, who have, for years, depended on the Oda River for survival, can no longer drink from it. They are forced to buy sachet water for use on their farms.
Ashanti Regional Coordinator of the Forestry Monitoring Team, WO1(retired) Prince Isaac Boamah says it will take over 100 years to restore the stream to its lost state.
“We have about 150 villages around this Oda River where they have been taken water from. This river is no more a river. It will take 100 years before this river will be a river all because of illegal mining. If we sit here and allow the Chinese to do this to us and nobody is talking about it, then its something else”. WO1 (retired) Boamah lamented.
Ironically, these Chinese miners, riding allegedly on the back of some government officials, are either granted bail or receive low court fines, a situation forestry officials describe as frustrating.
Five of them were who were arrested on last Saturday for operating in the Apamprama Forest in the Amansie Central District have been granted bail.
WO1 (retired) Prince Isaac Boamah wants alleged involvement of officialdom investigated.
“Those who bail them [Chinese], they are in government. You see. If we chase them and we send them to police and within not even an hour; some 30 minutes one hour they [Chinese] are gone.