Kumasi — PAINSTAKING investigations conducted over the week at Pinting forestreserve in the Offinso District,have revealed thatthe one time evergreenwhich is protectingboth the Offin River and Barekese Dam from drying up is fast being depletedas a result of rigorousfarming activitiesand intensive illegal chainsaw operations in the area.
A visit to the forest, which spans across 479 acres (approximately two square miles of green cover) of fertile land showed that though farming and chainsaw operation in the thick forest was banned several years ago, natives of Pinting, the custodians of the land have disregarded the ban and were seriously farming in the forest.
As a result, the Offin River and Barekese dam are likely to be affected by evaporation.
In an interview with the people, they disclosed that some 30 years ago, the Government recognising the need to protect the river bodies mentioned above against exposure and evaporation because of its socio-economic value, banned farming and chainsaw operations in forest covers along the catchment area of the two river bodies.
They said it was with the agreement that compensation would be paid to the affected communities including Pinting.
The people complained that over the years, successive Governments had refused to honour the terms of the agreement and indicated that their intrusion into the forest was a demonstration of their displeasure over the unfair treatment of past and present Governments.
The aggrieved people said the "seizure" of their land has caused them untold economic hardship.
They have declared that they would continue to farm and fell trees until the Government takes steps to pay accumulatedcompensation of about ¢78 billion as at 2003 as per the existing agreement.
According to the Secretary of the Unit Committee, Mr.Samuel Quarcoe, the Government was cheating on Pinting since neighbouring communities like Nkwantakese, Yutuase, Ayewua, Pampatia among others which share common border with Pinting have had their compensations fully paid.
According to the Unit Committee Scribe, several complaints by the community through their MP, Mr. Kan Dapaah had not yielded any positive result even though he pledged during electioneering campaign to solve it for them. The people are also angered by the fact that they do not enjoy potable water while the forest, which is being conserved at the expense of their welfare, protects River Offin and Barekese dam, as the main source of water supply for the Ashanti Region.
Pinting's main source of water supply is boreholes and other unsafe drinking sources. Currently, the community is grappling with Buruli ulcer, which has become a common phenomenon of the community the past eight years. About 10 people are currently infected.
Meanwhile, The Chronicle has gathered that the Regional Police Command is readying itself to clamp down on illegal chainsaw operations and farming activities in the forest to secure the amenities