Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Could Ghana's Forests Be Saved By Plastic Lumber Manufacturers?

It has been reported that Ghana's ministry of lands and natural resources intends to upgrade the status of the Atewa forest reserve to that of a national park. It is a decision that will be applauded by all nature lovers in Ghana and around the world.

A Rocha Ghana must also be commended for its new initiative to protect the watershed of the three major river systems that most of southern urban Ghana depends on for its drinking water supply: the Densu, Ayensu and Birim rivers.

The idea to extend A Rocha Ghana's "Living water from the mountain - Protecting Atewa Water Resources" initiative to cover the other forest reserves in Ghana is laudable and must be encouraged.

The Atewa Forest Reserve is one of only two upland evergreen rainforests in Ghana - and is a designated Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA). Readers can access an online report of a rapid assessment survey carried out by Conservation International in 2006, by googling: RAP Bulletin No. 47.

As someone whose family has owned a total of some 14 square miles of freehold forestland in the Atewa Range since 1921 from the colonial era, it is an area we are actually very familiar with - and the conservation of which we are committed to. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on the surface of the planet Earth.

A concrete pillar with the letters GSBA etched on it was erected by the Conservation International researchers on our land. Extreme hikers wanting to see it are welcome to do so.  They can contact M&J Travel and Tours for a trip to the fringe forest cocoa-farming village of Akyem Juaso to hike up to the top of the P. E. Thompson Estate's forest property to see the GSBA pillar.

Readers must note that it is extreme hiking that is recommended only for physically fit individuals. It is not for the fainthearted - but offers perfect hiking for national endurance competitions between teams of regional keep-fit clubs. Ditto competitions between interservice  teams from the military and the other security agencies, to test their endurance and map-reading skills hiking to the top of our forestland.

They will be breathing pure mountain air into their lungs. A change from the pollution of urban Ghana. They can also purchase pure mountain honey and natural soap made from cocoa husks, from the female farmers in the community. Akyem Juaso is ten minutes by car off the Accra-Kumasi highway at Osino junction

Luckily for Ghana, if the Dutch government is willing to provide funds,  the leading global forest canopy builders and installers of ziplines, the Canadian company, Greenheart Conservation, is happy and willing to partner the ministries of lands and natural resources and local government and rural development, to renew the Kakum National Park's canopy walkway.

Greenheart Conservation is also willing to build new canopy walkways for the proposed Atewa National Park and the Achimota forest eco-park. Ditto install ziplines and build canopy walkways in all our other national parks, if the various stakeholders request that - and the Dutch government is willing to provide funds.

To remove an existential threat to  the Atewa Forest Reserve, we must get our political class to look to a partnership with Guinea, in which Guinea supplies Ghana with  the bauxite needed for a west African integrated aluminium industry. All forms of mining must be banned from the Atewa Range.

We must also be creative in solving the menace of illegal chainsaw operators cutting trees for chainsaw lumber in forest reserves countrywide once and for all - by empowering Ghanaian waste management companies like Zoomlion to recycle plastic waste by manufacturing plastic lumber from it.

For that  purpose, Zoomlion and the other waste management companies can collaborate with overseas plastic lumber companies like:  the Rochester, Minnesota plastic lumber manufacturer, Envirolastech; the Nairobi, Kenyan plastic lumber manufacturer, EcoPost; and the Leicester, UK company Eco Plastic Wood.

By flooding the market with plastic lumber, which in many ways is a far superior product than lumber from trees,  companies like Zoomlion will help stop illegal logging  by chainsaw operators - who collectively pose one of the biggest threats to  the remainder of Ghana's forests.

Would it not be ironic, if it turned out that plastic lumber manufactured from the plastic waste that is slowly engulfing urban Ghana, helped to save the remainder of Ghana's forests? Now that would really be "cool and green" - as Ghana's younger generation would put it.

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