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COVID-19: Use lockdown to clean our cities, protect Atewa forest – Group urges gov’t

An environmental group, Eco-conscious Citizens, has urged the government to consider the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to reexamine its decisions to mine bauxite in the protected Atewa forest.

According to the group, the pandemic has exposed all the country’s water and sanitation issues and there is an urgent need to do whatever it takes to address the issue during the coronavirus outbreak.

While acknowledging the government’s efforts in fighting the spread of COVID-19, the group believes more needs to be done to safeguard the future.

According to the environmental activists, the campaign for frequent hand washing as a measure to stop the spread of the virus may be thwarted if water bodies are not protected.

It has, however, called on the government to abort its decision to mine bauxite in the Atewa forest, which provides water to over five million people.

Already, illegal mining in parts of the Eastern Region has compelled the Ghana Water Company Limited to suspend operations at its Bunso Water Treatment Plant.

‘Galamsey’ holds back Bunso treatment plant from providing free water for residents

In a statement, the group also calls on government to use the lockdown period to deep clean the cities to rid them of filth.

Read full statement below:

Eco-conscious Citizens commend the President for decisive action regarding Covid-19. Screening at our main international airport has been compared favourably with Heathrow where screening is non existent.

We are confident that the situation will be reviewed, and measures put in place to mitigate the consequences of the partial lockdown. The pandemic has exposed serious issues including water and sanitation challenges, and housing not fit for human habitation. The need for frequent washing of hands under running water is one of the ways to prevent the virus from spreading. The water situation in the country is challenging. We therefore call on the President to show leadership and protect Atewa Forest Reserve from destruction through bauxite mining and instead preserve the source of water to over 5 million people. His wise words, “we know how to bring the economy back to life. What we do not know is how to bring people back to life”, are being shared all over the world. The Global shutdown offers a unique opportunity to rethink everything, let us not squander it.

Forest reserves play a cardinal role in providing a healthy environment which is crucial for our health. We trust the President will put people before profits and use this unique opportunity to press the “reset button”. We can and should develop a Green Economy by prioritising people’s welfare, education and health.

Eco-Conscious Citizens appeal to the President to show leadership in tackling Environmental Vandalism.

Seven areas for action are foremost in our minds:
1. Atewa Forest & protecting water for 5 million people. The corona virus pandemic has brought to the fore the need for Ghana to overhaul its current governance and management of water provisioning services as relevant to SDG 6. Sustainable water supply and access requires sustainable management of watersheds for good water quality and quantity when it is needed. In this regard the urgent need to halt all forms of mining (legal or illegal) in rivers and streams that is polluting our water sources is critical. It is also imperative to protect forest ecosystems that are hydrological gems against all forms of extractive industries that will destroy these water sources. The government is therefore urged to abandon any attempt to destroy the Atewa Forest, whole or in part from bauxite mining.

2. Parks & Gardens and stopping the appropriation of Parks and Gardens Land for multi-storey buildings; and attempts to re-zone the area from green civic to exclusively civic. Empowering Parks & Gardens Departments in regional capitals to educate on the value of parks and gardens so that a city like Kumasi becomes a Garden City again.

3. Taking decisive action to stop Galamsey so that citizens in the area can have clean water and uncontaminated food.

4. Using the lockdown to deep clean our cities and make keeping our environment clean a Civic Duty.

5. Making Housing a priority so that the voiceless have housing fit for human habitation.

6. Enforcing Laws and bye-laws. A toilet in every home is essential. Greedy landlords should not be allowed to build dwelling places without toilets. Our land and spatial laws should be enforced and residential areas protected.

7. Noise levels should be in accordance with EPA decibel levels. “We underestimate to our collective peril the harmful effects of noise, toxic noise and maddening noise.”

We write in the hope that immediate action will be taken on the 7 areas of concern. The Covid-19 Pandemic offers a unique opportunity for overdue action.

Eco-Conscious Citizens
Stay Safe, stay at home
#ProtectOurForestsAndWaters

 

23 Comments
  1. Kofi Dei-Tutu says

    Agreed! By the time they get back there must be well thought our policy programs as to how squatters get integrated back into the system

    1. Patience Boadu-Darko says

      Every step our Prez Akufo-Addo has taken during this corona pandemic has shown him to be one of the rare jewels Africa could find in modern leadership-a leader genuinely concerned and out to seek his people’s welfare.
      Please Mr. President,we plead you will show this same concern when the dust settles on ‘Covid-19’ in all other matters concerning us;our ‘Atiwa’ our ‘Environment’…indeed all else.
      Your leadership in crisis has just put a rubber stamp on qualities we knew you had all along-intelligence and empathy.
      We look forward to more of that.
      Thank you.

  2. Awula Serwah says

    “If one single good results from this COVID 19 pandemic, it must be the urgent imperative for our nation states in Africa to focus on Water as a fundamental human right and access to potable water for all citizens as a national priority and a sustainable goal. When the WHO and respective governments advise frequent washing of hands ‘WITH RUNNING WATER’ and soap, that advice is given as if it is totally unproblematic for entire populations, whereas for the majority of the population in countries like Nigeria (where I am), running water comes out the mouth of a plastic bottle, or more frequently out of a plastic sachet of what is popularly called ‘pure water’. Eco Conscious Citizens’ insistence on the paramountcy of water preservation and of water in ecological balance is fundamental. I have been having similar arguments with the Niger Delta Development Corporation since 2003. I hope and pray that the Government will heed ECC-GH’s warnings about the dangers associated with the destruction of the Atewa Forest to enable bauxite mining and related industrial activity and reverse whatever licences have been agreed. I hope, too, that it will outlaw illegal mining there and elsewhere as a threat to national security and deploy resources to eliminate that practice with the same vigour that it applies to combating international terrorism.” Prof G.J’s comment is spot on.

    1. Edwin Gyamfi says

      I remember the 70’s and 80’s when I lived in Ghana, we drank water from the taps at home. There were less fortunate families that had to congregate by a central water tap and queue diligently to fill their containers with water for their families. Others in the villages and hinterland did not have that privilege and had to fetch water from streams and brooks. This served a significant proportion of the population. Since the 80’s the mission to provide clean water to all in Ghana has been overtaken by politics, economics whilst the social fabric of the nation has been left to either. Elements that enhance fabric such as greenery, forest preservation and our rivers have been neglected for economics. The government or any government for that matter needs to address this in their manifestos and account for it during their tenure. I welcome the work my friend and classmate Awula Serwah has been doing in this regard. A pressure group that is selfless and has the drive to protect the environment. Well done.

  3. Anonymous says

    Thank you for the advocacy work you do on behalf of so many of us.

  4. Nana Asante says

    Glad to see The Ghana Report following up on this important story. Covid-19 provides a unique opportunity to clean our cities, organise ourselves so every citizen has access to housing fit for human beings. Toilets and running water are not a luxury, they are essential for good health. The pandemic has reminded us of our interdependence: “I am because you are” – we don’t exist in isolation. Ubuntu

  5. Kwaku Ampomah says

    I am hoping that the Ghana Govt will hear and heed the wide ranging suggestions of this important Eco Concious Citizens organisation.
    I cannot believe that we have not completely stopped galamsay in it’s tracks. Yet with lessons learnt and examples of the detrimental effects of bauxite mining, we still consider bad ideas like this one at Atewa.
    We need to have a COMPLETE MINDSET CHANGE regarding our Environment and change the constant and popular phraseology of ‘exploiting our natural resources’ to a new phrase. One that says repeatedly till it sticks in our minds…….’protecting our natural resources’.

    1. Awula Serwah says

      You are spot on when you say “we need to have a Complete Mindset Change” and change the phraseology of “exploiting our natural resources” to “protecting our natural resources.” I am sure the President H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo agrees. At the 2018 Rebranding Africa Forum in Ouagadougou he said “In our quest to develop, our beautiful lands and rivers are under threat. We are degrading our environment at an alarming rate. Once beautiful and thick forests have been denuded of their cover. Once majestic and awe inspiring water bodies have been polluted and many of the animals no longer have safe habitats” at the “Rebranding Africa Forum” in Ouagadougou.
      We need to look at the Green Economy which will enable us to “develop” without destroying the environment.
      #ProtectourForestsandWaters
      We need to look at “Development” without destruction.

  6. Anonymous says

    I don’t recommend communities take the law into their hands and burn the equipment of illegal miners, as we’ve recently heard of in Kwahu Praso in the Kwahu West District of the Eastern Region, where equipment by illegal gold miners were burnt.
    However, what I find interesting is the fact that armed police was sent to the area as soon to maintain law and order. I don’t recall such resolute action in dealing with either the obvious illegal mining activities or when it’s alleged that the galamseyers have used violence to resist their illegal activities.
    Aprll 22 is Earth Day – let’s use that to renew our determination to deal with environmental vandalism, wherever it occurs!

  7. Anonymous says

    We will all suffer if illegal mining and felling of tree is allowed to flourish. Sooner or later. Let’s be careful out there!!

    1. Seth Appiah-Kubi says

      Indeed if there would be a silver lining in this terrible situation brought on us by the Coronavirus pandemic, it would be the opportunity for governments around the world to re-examine the unsustainable socio-economic paradigm we have lived under so far. Pressing the “reset button” is the right way to put it as indicated by the statement of the Eco-Conscious Citizens of Ghana. China, did not wait till the Coronavirus pandemic to be over. After some self introspection, China is already pressing the “reset button” in some areas of its cultural life which is alleged to have brought misery to the whole world. According to the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, due to COVID-19, China has closed down all its so-called wet markets, markets where live and dead wildlife are sold. Remember, the origin of the Coronavirus pandemic is strongly alleged to have started in one of these soft markets in Wuhan. Also, the Chinese government has already commenced wildlife conservation legislations, legislations focused not only on wildlife consumption but also illegal wildlife trafficking. It’s unfortunate it took the whole world to pay this price for us to learn a lesson on how important it is to live in harmony with nature. According to a CNN report on Thursday 9 April 2020, China has already drafted a list of Animals allowed to be farmed for consumption. It has animals such as chicken, pigs, cows etc.. Curiously, the list has no wildlife, animals such as bats, pangolins, snakes are not on the list. Even though we will not clap for China for attempting to do this, we can acknowledge that they are trying to learn from the Coronavirus misfortune. The government of Ghana can do the same, rethink some of its policies on the environment, especially with respect to any form of mining in the Atewa forest. It is not for nothing that all previous eleven attempts to mine Atewa forest since independence by various governments were stopped after deeper consideration. The current government should do the same, now with a beautiful hindsight offered by the Coronavirus pandemic, the government can indeed press the “reset button” and step back on some of its decisions that offer short term economic gains against long term sustainability.

  8. Anonymous says

    Thanks for this piece! Protecting our environment for now and our future generations, and providing sustainable growth is very necessary!

  9. Ayikai says

    Thanks for this piece. Indeed there is no better time than for our government to do everything possible to protect our environment. This pandemic has taught us that countries must look to protect its citizens because when it gets critical, it almost becomes a matter of “each for himself”. We must protect our environment for future generations,

  10. Sean Simpson says

    The current measures and policies put in place by the government during this Covid-19 period are commendable. However, in tackling the current issue of Covid-19, hand washing is a very important element. And in doing so, the constant supply of water is key. Due to the activities of illegal mining and the problem of water pollution associated with mining, inhabitants of regions where their water source has been polluted are at a far greater risk of the spread of Covid-19 as they may be unable to have access to clean water to wash their hands. Also, plans of mining bauxite in the Atewa forest would affect and disrupt the flow of water to 5 million Ghanaians. In addition to this, the devastating effects associated with bauxite mining such as the reddish soil remains and lack of development in mining communities would continue. And most importantly the loss of rare plant and animal species which will be become extinct. The Atewa forest could be turned into an eco-park/hub to boost tourism in the country and increase revenue for the government as seen in countries such as Mauritius, Seychelles and Morocco. Postponed bauxite mining in the Atewa forest reserve, would ensure the continuous supply of water to 5 million Ghanaians. How long will this postponement last, and what permanent water solution will be put in place for the 5 million Ghanaians relying on the Atewa forest reserve for water? What will be the opportunity cost of this decision, if mining should take place in the Atewa forest? Bauxite mining, provides great economic benefits to the economy, and I’m not against it. But it should be carried out in other areas where bauxite reserves are in abundance and preserve the Atewa Rain Forest as well as its abundance of environmental life.

  11. Yvonne Twum-Barima says

    Especially agree with using this period to ensure all water sources are reclaimed and persevered like the Atewa Forest. Currently the vital need for water provision in poorer areas to provide them the ability to prevent the spread of the virus through simply washing their hands is a luxury for them and in alot if areas non existent. All the measures above are viable and to engage with these implementations I am sure there us a workable balance between protecting our natural resource and mining in a sustainable way.

  12. Sorsey Lartey says

    I am often filled with pride and awe when our President H.E. Nana Akuffo-Addo address Ghana’s environmental issues, for his grasp of the subject matter. Just like him, I share the truism that the protection of our environment and the prudent utilisation of our natural resources is both necessary and essential to our development.
    All of our natural resources need protection, but priceless amongst the many are our forests and water resources. We will only know their real value if we allow ourselves to lose them. Certain economic activities degrade our environment, viable and profitable as they seem. It’s undeniable that certain mining and land-use activities are doing just that, degrading our environment, and we need to take action now.
    That is why I support the Eco-Conscious Citizens Group in it’s campaign to protect our environment and eco systems.
    We hereby urge our President to take the action required to ‘Save’ our environment in his strive to take our country forward.

  13. Daryl Bosu says

    Galamsey fight neglected even as we all focus on Covid-19.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=share&v=xGGhrWcvLsk

  14. Dzodzi Tsikata says

    The action points about the protecting the Atewa and providing decent housing for all are especially important in the context of COVID-19 and beyond. We can do much better as a nation.

  15. Kofi Thompson says

    Bravo to the Eco-Conscious Citizens group. May God bless, protect and guide all its gallant members, always. And thanks to the brilliant Sefanam Agbobli, for the  words of wisdom contained in her very well-written article. Cool.

    And,  hopefully, in light of the fact that  today,  the vast majority of  Ghanaians have seen the important  role the availability of  potable water, in communities nationwide, plays, in ensuring the health of the citizenry (demonstrated so vividly, in the advice given by the authorities  tasked to ensure  public health across Ghana, that hand-washing under running tap water, helps prevent people from being infected by the dangerous and highly infectious COVID-19 virus;  and reinforced by the government’s dramatic and unprecedented lifesaving decision, to bear the cost of water for households across the country, for the next three months!); the government of President Akufo-Addo, will now finally come to  understand,  clearly, why they must no longer risk the well-being of the millions who depend on the three major river systems, which  take their watershed from the Atewa Forest Reserve, and are sourced by the water treatment plants of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), for their  potable water supply, in many towns and cities  across southern Ghana:  and act swiftly, to  rescind the terrible and amoral  decision, to allow the mining of bauxite in the Atewa Forest Reserve. 

    Finally, it is important that all the members of our country’s political class, understand clearly, that  forced-regime-change can actually result from this burning-issue, if President Akufo-Addo  does not ignore all his advisors, and personally take action  to rescind that foolish and shortsighted decision, immediately. Yooooo. Hmmmm. Eeiiii, Oman Ghana, eyeasem ooooo – enti yewieye paaa enei? Asem kesie ebeba debi ankasa, oooo. Yooooo…
    .  

    Sent from Samsung tablet.

  16. Henry Gbedemah says

    As a nation this would be an opportunity to start cleaning our cities and continents to keep them pclean after the pandemic. With the reduction in human activity due to the Covid lockdown the stress of pollution of the environment is greatly reduced and this should be a starting point for us to protect our environment. It will not be easy, but definitely not impossible, we need to start at the grassroots and get individuals to a point where they feel responsible for keeping their surroundings clean. This is not a foreign concept to us I.e. look at how villages are kept clean.
    On the front of mining my opinion is if we do not have a sustainable way to mine, we should pause and figure out sustainable methods that will also protect the environment.

  17. Baba Giwa Dan Fodio says

    There’s a need for the government of Ghana to ensure that we protect and persevere our forest and water bodies because business as usual is not an option. What’s of a great need to pay attention to no body is willing and ready to do so. Let’s think about our future generations. Just imagine the devastating impact of our activities on the earth. This leads to the climate crisis we are witnessing today. Climate change is threatening food security and agriculture, education among others. This is the time for action. ACTION NOW.

  18. Anonymous says

    I believe as a Christian it is our responsibility to look after our environment. It is important that the government of Ghana does all it can to preserve water supplies for future generations. I do hope they take this seriously and stop bauxite mining at Atewa.

  19. Akosua Adomako Ampofo says

    C-19 has shown us –if we were blind before–the sharp divisions in our realities as some cry ‘keep the lock down’ and others, ‘lift the lock down’. It should show us that if we neglect to ensure safe habitation, a clean environment and access to water for ALL, it will ultimately mean unsafe habitation, a wasted environment, and no drinking water for all. If we and our elected and other office holders won’t address the action items because it is morally right to do so, we better do so out of a sense of self preservation.

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