2 May 2006

Ghana: We Must Help to Protect the Environment From Bushfires

opinion

The survival and development of our nation depends on the preservation of the vegetation which produces our needs, food, medicine, timber, wood for furniture, rainfall, prevention of erosion and checking floods and protecting us from the direct keys of the sun.

Bushfires destroy the creation of God and disturb the harmony and balanced in the environment, such as surviving persons and animals. The indiscriminate and thus uncontrolled burning of the vegetal cover of the earth is not the wisest way by which man should be relating to the environment. Yet, this realization not withstanding, this crazy culture of animal bush burning persists in our country and is perhaps even increasing, bringing in its wake immediate untold tragedies and hardships.

Generally, the causes of bushfires can conveniently be grouped into six broad categories. They are caused naturally, intentionally, accidentally, through carelessness, by arsonists or deliberately. The main objective is to change the focus of the perception of the people and to enhance the attack of solving it.

Bushfires are basically human phenomenon. For the past 10 years some towns and villages in the country are noted for their indiscriminate burnings.

The year 2001 saw one of the worst bushfires in the country. Houses were burnt and a lot of people were rendered homeless. Food and cash crops were destroyed by bushfires worth of millions of cedis. Palm plantations were also destroyed and Forest Reserves were not spared in the country respectively. This Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) law 299 even though, is in existence is not potent enough to bring culprits who set farms and vegetable ablaze to book. There is no doubt that directly or indirectly the indiscriminate burning of the vegetal cover of the earth undermines our very existence and survival. Now because of bushfires, economic problems are rising as agricultural base is violently being disturbed. Bushfires are destroying precious and rare plant trees.

Plant population is being radically reduced by bushfires. Bushfires are now polluting the environment and causing great damage to human, animal and plant life. Bushfires are polluting the environment with dangerous carbon dioxide, which together without other gases are making the world hotter and hotter. I call on the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) to throw more light on educating and creating awareness of bushfire hazards in the country. Yet the more the education, the higher the bushfires. We need a strong crusade against bush burnings. The chief and elders in this country should sit up in the performance of their duties as prevention of bushfires in their communities.

I encourage Christians and Moslems in the country to join hands with fire volunteers to spread the message of bushfire preventions. Currently forest fires are ranked the single most important threat to the sustainable management and utilization of the forests in the country. Following the ravages of the 1983 and 1984 wild fires 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 such as 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 water supply, soil fertility and biodiversity. I stress that the welfare of the country depends on the effective role that Ghanaians play to help prevent and control bushfires in their communities in order to halt the destruc tion and degradation of the environment.

I express the hope that maximum support will be forth - coming from the government, the traditional authorities, district assemblies and stakeholders to curb down the activities of bushfires in the country. I enumerate benefits such as timbers, games and climate amelioration among other things derived from the forests. I therefore advise the people to protect the forests from bushfires to ensure sustainable use of the benefits. I appeal to all fire volunteer squads and forest management committees to do their best to protect our forest reserves and the forest rehabilitation projects from bushfires.

I caution hunters, dry season vegetable growers and palm wine tappers to be extra careful when using naked fires on their farms. Farmers should also create adequate fire belts around their food barns and farms. I call on fire volunteer squads to intensify their house-to-house campaign to sensitize the people on the hazards of bushfires. The District Assemblies within the country also must intensify their educational campaign on bushfires to avoid further destruction.

Some people are deliberately setting fires to bushes, destroying foodstuff on the farms in order to create food shortages.

I therefore urge communities to be vigilant and report such people to the security agencies for the appropriate action to be taken. To discourage people from burning bush for game, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) should support the rearing of grass-cutters domestically to serve as a substitute. I caution towns, villages and communities in the country that the less bushfires they have, the better their rainfall pattern, as more water resources means fertile lands and improved yields. Apart from destroying soils, nutrients, making it infertile and causing erosion, desertification, fires also destroy large quantities of food stuff, not sparing lives and dwellings.

I stress the bushfires with the resultant forest depletion in charcoal production could not be best in ensuring growth of fresh grass for animal fodder and more sheanut production. I warn that indiscriminate bush burning invariably affected the rainfall pattern and food production, and urge all to pay great attention and solicit to government involvement in forest conservation and restoration. Bushfires have led to the drying up of water bodies forcing the people, especially the rural communities, to travel long distances in search of water. Large tracts of land have also been exposed to erosion. I call on the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) to deal with anybody caught engaging in bush burnings should be severely punished.

I entreat members of the District Assemblies within the nation to intensify the anti-bushfire campaigns in their respective areas, especially during the harmattan season. The assemblies should take pains to educate the people on the effects of bushfires on the environment and our survival. I call on the government to put in place adequate measures to help curb the menace of bushfires in the country to ensure the successful implementation of the initiative on cassava and starch productions. Bushfires pose a threat to food security every year, hence the need to draw the attention of policy-makers to the fact that the environment constitutes a large component in any poverty reduction strategy.

Bushfires do not only destroy several hectares of food and cash crops to the detriment of farmers and their dependants, but to the nation as a whole. Bushfires pose a threat to eco-tourism development since most tourists sites are situated in fire prone areas. Bushfires also seriously affect the country's energy sources where fuel wood, which accounts for the nation's energy, is gradually becoming scarce, with hydro-energy in serious crisis.

Bushfires occur mostly through the destructive activities of group hunters and herdsmen, negligence on the part of cigarette smokers, palm wine tappers, honey harvesters and bush burnings by farmers. I call on all Ghanaians to sensitize the public on the dangers of fires. Every tree is life; do not burn them. Help protect the environment from bushfires.

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