5 September 2005

Ghana: Minister Alarmed Over Forest Depletion

IF stringent measures are not put in place to protect our forest against rampant depletion, the nation is at risk of losing its forest reserves and the values we enjoy from them.

Mr. Daniel Dugan, the Deputy Minister of Fisheries said this when he addressed a joint meeting between the Ghana National Canoe Carvers' Association (GNCA) and a section of fishermen.

The meeting was held to first find a lasting solution to a growing rumpus among the members of GNCA and also ease the tension brewing between some members of the GNCA and a section of fishermen in the country.

The paper learnt that allegations and counter allegations were mounting tension between the two bodies.

While some fishermen were accusing some canoe carvers of distortion by taking huge money from them with the aim of carving canoes but failing to deliver, some fishermen were also accused of reneging on payment for the canoes they purchased from some canoe carvers.

Following these claims and counter claims, the Ministry of Fishery's attention was drawn to the rumpus, which prompted it to bring the two bodies to a round table to find a lasting solution.

Addressing the group, Mr. Dugan observed that, due to the brouhaha, valuable trees that could have been carved into canoes to bring economic benefits to the country, were left to rot in the forests.

Still on the depletion of the forests, the minister warned that if steps were not taken to protect them, the consequences of the indiscriminately felling of trees would be unbearable to the present and generations yet to come.

We should be worried about the harm the wanton depletion of our forest is causing us," he said.

He therefore appealed to the members of the association to streamline their activities to make GNCA accountable to its stakeholders.

Mr. Dugan gave two weeks' ultimatum to the members of GNCA to settle whatever differences existed among the members and report the outcome to the ministry.

"We would not sit unconcerned for the personal differences or somebody's selfish aim to destroy the fishing industry," he said.

Both fishermen and canoe carvers depend on each other for survival, he reminded, and expressed the hope that the intervention of the ministry would bring an end to the mistrust that had engulfed the two groups.

He promised that the government would do everything possible to protect the interest of the fishermen and canoe carvers besides training the canoe carvers in the new technology used in manufacturing canoes in advanced countries, to meet the challenges ahead.

The minister warned both parties not to take members of their groups for granted and rather allow peace to prevail.

He noted that, nobody was above the law, so the association should put its house in order, for sanity to prevail in the fishing industry.

"We are ever ready to come to your aid whenever you call on us but all we are asking you is to put your house in order, to avoid a situation where the name of your association and its executives are brought into disrepute," he advised.

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