28 March 2006

Ghana: Protecting the Last Tree to Save Ourselves


Several years ago, Ghana as a nation launched a massive campaign against deforestation and the indiscriminate felling of trees, with catchy slogans that included, 'when the last tree dies, the last man dies'.

The awareness created by that campaign and its immediate impact was tremendous. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous persons who depended on the forest for a living have resorted to breaking all the ground rules in their business.

To make matters worse, some officials of the Forestry Commission, whose duty includes protecting the forest and ensuring that there is sustainable development through replenishing the forest, are in collusion with these law breakers.

Unfortunate again is the involvement of some security personnel, who are also known to collaborate with these illegal activities, and rather escort the criminals to escape the law.

The situation where after promoting the use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) the price of gas has shot up so high has not helped matters.

This, coupled with the fact that a majority of the people in the northern half of the country depended on wood fuel as their major economic activity, has not helped matters either.

But when a whole chief, who is a professional teacher, leads his people to hew down trees, following the advice of a supposed man of God that they would not see any development unless they did this, then we have a long way to go and so much work to do as we come to the realisation that enough is far from done where education or awareness creation on the problem of deforestation is concerned.

The fight against deforestation is not going to be easy unless we go back to the drawing board to find out what has been missing in the struggle; such that some would flout with impunity laws put in place to safeguard our very existence; such that even those supposed to enforce the laws are at the helm of the flouting.

Perhaps the pulpit, considering the level of belief and trust people have in their pastors, can serve as a platform for driving home the message about the dangers of deforestation to let people feel obliged to protect God's creation.

Every inch of our forests lost, increases the dangers we are exposed to, as beyond giving us shelter, trees have served as windbreaks, preventing erosion and the devastating effects of rains.

There is the need for us to join hands in the enforcement of the laws protecting the environment to secure our own future.

But the fight cannot be won if culprits who are caught invading and destroying forest reserves are not seen to be punished.

The Chronicle believes that the Forestry Commission has to take measures to undertake do a house cleaning, if they want achieve their set objective of ensuring a responsible behaviour towards our forests. For indeed when the last tree dies, the last man too surely will die.

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