Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Disaster looms if Achimota Forest Ecotourism Project goes ahead — NDPC boss

By Edmund Smith-Asante
Dr Nii Moi Thompson, D-G, NDPC

The National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) has warned that the development of the Achimota Forest into an ecotourism site, as has been proposed, will result in disastrous consequences for the country.

The Director-General of the NDPC, Dr Nii Moi Thompson, told the Daily Graphic last Tuesday in an exclusive interview on a draft indicative framework for a National Infrastructure Plan, that the plan to develop the only remaining forest in Accra was ill-placed and would only result in more floods.

Describing the development of the Achimota Forest as a disaster waiting to happen, Dr Thompson said, “We need to stop that project from taking place because if we don’t do that, we will have major floods.

“We are actually going to have major floods that will cut off the N1 Highway and spill onto Dzorwulu. People are going to die and it will happen over and over again because the Achimota Forest was meant to help control the runoff during rains and also give us oxygen and health.”

He added that once buildings were put up in the forest, they would reduce the space available for run-off water to be absorbed by the ground, “and we don’t need that”.

“If they want to do ecotourism, we have the Shai Hills; we have so many other places. Why the Achimota Forest, the only forest left in Accra to give oxygen?” Dr Thompson asked.

He suggested that national parks such as the Kakum National Park which were falling apart should instead be injected with capital for any proposed ecotourism project.

He said due to the increase in vehicles on the roads, more trees were needed in the city of Accra, not the cutting down of existing trees, to make room for development.

“So with the Achimota Forest we are actually constructing the foundation for disaster within the next five to 10 years,” he reiterated.

Unappreciated implication
Dr Thompson was of the belief that those who approved the development of the Achimota Forest did not appreciate its implications.

He said if there should be any development, it should not be to the detriment of the environment but maintenance of it.

He said trees were needed along all the country’s highways and streets to mitigate the harmful effects of exhaust fumes from vehicles.

He said already parts of Dzorwulu were beginning to suffer the impact of run-off water from rains as a result of the use of the Achimota Forest as a religious enclave, a development which had tampered with the vegetation.

Dr Thompson was of the view that those whose foresight led to the maintenance of the Achimota Forest would be turning in their graves, as its purpose was being abused.

Court suit
On April 26, this year, four Ghanaians sued the government over its decision to cede the 16.2 square kilometre Achimota Forest Reserve to a foreign investor for ecotourism.

According to filed court documents, the government had signed an agreement with Aikan Capital Limited for the Achimota Forest Reserve in Accra to be transformed into an ecotourism facility.

But the plaintiffs in the suit, Dr Adolf Lutterodt, an educationist; Ms Dede Amanor Wilks, a development specialist; Mr Kwame Dadzoe, a lawyer, and Ms Elizabeth Tettey-Sei Adams, a businesswoman, were of the view that the development would harm the environment and pose health and other risks to the residents of Accra.

A statement of claim accompanying the writ of summons noted, “Plaintiffs are informed that the agreement for the project has the backing of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, the sector ministry in charge of forests, and the Forestry Commission.”

However, the plaintiffs said they were seeking an order “declaring that the removal of the Achimota Forest is inimical to the public welfare, public health and the interest of the people of Ghana.”

They also sought an order to restrain the defendants from interfering with the forest to protect, preserve and enhance its benefits to the environment for the people of Accra, and an order for perpetual injunction to restrain the defendants from undertaking any activity or initiating any step to transform, change or interfere with the forest in any way.

The defendants in the suit are the Attorney-General, the Forestry Commission, the Lands Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This story was first published by the Daily Graphic on June 16, 2016

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