analysisBy Lovelace Opoku - Agyemang
The government of Ghana must make every effort to increase the number of forest rangers, otherwise known as forest guards. They should also be adequately equipped so they can face such challenges as unscrupulous bushfire burnings.
Water also forms the aquatic region of the physical environment. It is a weapon against the outbreak of bushfires. Besides, when there is an outbreak, water may be relied upon for extinguishing.
The involvement of the public in protecting the environment should not be overlooked. There is the need for the general public, including individuals and organizations, to be informed of the harmful effects of their activities on the environment. The mass media, lectures, rallies, symposia, posters, schools and religious organizations should be used to educate the public against destroying the environment. Another common cause of deforestation is the repeated bush burning of forests.
In Ghana, hunters set bushfires to forests to smoke out animals. Little care is given to the destructive effects of the bushfires in terms of its threat to the forests and the environment. Other causes of bushfires are the embers that fall on dry leaves in the process of palm wine tappings, burning of weeds for crop cultivations and the careless disposal of cigarette butts into the bushes without putting out the fires.
The damage regularly caused by bushfires threatens forests and the environment. It seems, however, that gathering of fuel woods while planting nothing in its place, either for the use as firewood or charcoal also harms the development and maintenance of the forests.
Charcoal and firewood are the major fuel for cooking in many rural communities in Ghana. The persistent use of wood from the forests can affect its growth and lead to deforestation. Meanwhile, the need to develop large cities also leads to the destruction of forestlands for estate developments. Besides, the exploitation of mineral resources, construction of roads, railways, schools, hydroelectric projects, and communication networks contribute to deforestation in many countries, including Ghana.
Acid rains are rainwaters mixed with dangerous gases in the atmosphere. These poisonous gases are released into the atmosphere by factories and through other industrial activities. Although, they are predominant in industrial countries, their effects are widespread; they kill plants and forests.
Climatic changes could also affect the survival of plant species. These climatic changes can take the form of persistent absence of rainfalls. It should be maintained that the life of every plant, crop or tree needs some minimum amount of rainfall to survive. Long absence of rain can therefore affect the growth and survival of trees. On the other hand, excessive rainfall that results in flooding could also be a threat to plant growth.
The following are the results of the 1983 and 1984 wildfires that swept through the entire country: the nation has experienced a shorter fire return interval, especially within the transition zone of Ghana. As a result of a combination of factors, including inappropriate farming methods and other forest-based activities like illegal logging and wide spread ignorance about the effects of wildfires, there has been a reduction not only in the productive capacity of the forests, but also in water supply, soil fertility and biodiversity.
Since the welfare of the country depends on the effective roles that Ghanaians play to help prevent and control bushfires in their communities in order to halt the destructions and degradations of the environment, maximum support should be forthcoming from the government, the traditional authorities, district assemblies and stakeholders to curb down the activities of bushfires in the country.
The environment has become a topmost global agenda as a result of exploitation of the natural resources and human's lack of respect for it. In addition to these tendencies is the destruction of life, both human and wild, state and private properties through frequent fire outbreaks, particularly in the bushes and forests throughout the country. The nation's forest that stood at 8.2 million hectares at 1900 had dwindled terribly to some 800,000 hectares at 2001. The devastating rate is said to be going on at the rate of 75,000 square hectares per annum. This is a matter of concern, a grave one indeed.
In order to help arrest this trend, it is necessary that the media carry out an intensive and sustained public education and awareness creation campaign to explain the harm and the dangers that bushfires pose to life, property and the eco-systems. There have been reported cases of rice farms that have been lost through bushfires in the Savelugu/Nanton district of the Northern Region. The Offinso district in the Ashanti Region, which was endowed with rich forest, recorded 49 bushfires in 2001 that destroyed their once plush forests and farms. In fact, no poverty alleviation programme can succeed without vigorously addressing bushfires and environmental issues.
Bushfires in Ghana have also caused loss of about 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Ghana loses 1 billion cedis of agricultural produce annually. Timber and other agricultural products that have contributed immensely to export earnings in the past have been lost to bushfires. There are laws and regulations governing the environment and it is time t these laws were enforced to deter others who would want to destroy the environment.
Bushfires pose a threat to food security and cause degradation of the environment. Meanwhile, Ghana is part of the plan for the planet campaign implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Foundation from the Global Peace and Environment (FGPE).
CAMPAIGN AGAINST BUSHFIRES
The campaign seeks to engage schools, children and countries around the world to adopt specific areas in the cities and communities to plant trees and care for them. In Ghana, the focal point for the campaign is the Earth Service, an environmental non-governmental organization. In this wise, the Earth Service is committed to achieving sustainable development by disseminating information and raising awareness, participation in decision making processes, providing service advice on capacity building, education and influencing attitudes, knowledge and behaviour towards a positive transformation of society to sound ecological and environmental values.
The Earth Service also searches for and disseminates information development, to organize capacity building programmes for civil society groups, non-governmental organizations, and institutions engaged in conservation programmes, to organize conferences, seminars, round table discussions, both locally and internationally, and to share knowledge and information among players in conservation programmes to contribute to global debates on environment and sustainable development.
Last year, it was the only Environmental NGO in Ghana whose activities were recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).