By Eunice Hilda Ampomah and William Fiabu
Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and innovation (MESTI) Monday appealed to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to grant Ghana specialised funds to fight illegal mining and its related problems on cocoa production and environmental resources.
Prof. Frimpong Boateng said Ghana needed extra funds to execute a comprehensive strategic programme that would effectively deal with illegal mining, water pollution, unstable cocoa production, land degradation, deforestation and disposal of plastic waste.
He explained that the $9 million granted by GEF (Star Allocation) every four years was inadequate to resolve the major environmental challenges Ghana faced today.
The Minister was speaking at an Environmental Developmental meeting, in Accra, between the Ministry with its agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and a delegation from the GEF.
Ms Naoko Ishii, the Chief Executive Officer of GEF, who led her side, welcomed the request.
Prof. Frimpong Boateng explained that at the turn of the last century, – around 1900 – Ghana had about 8.8 million hectares of primary forests but by 1950, the cover had been reduced to 4.2 million hectares, and further to about 1.5 million hectares by 1999.
Ms Naoko Ishii, the Chief Executive Officer of Global Environment Facility recommended that Ghana put together an integrated programme to make it easier to access the kind of assistance that would address the challenges in a holistic manner.
She said the integrated programme would make it easier to attract significant resources to solve the problems of illegal mining; promote sustainable production of cocoa; deal with water pollution from illegal mining.
“We are happy to help Ghana with its vision of having a sustainable programme from illegal mining to cocoa production,” she said.
Ms Ishii urged the Government to take a critical look at the problems associated with cocoa production, adding that cocoa was an important profit yielding commodity produced mainly in Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Prof Frimpong Boateng had explained that in 2010, the Food and Agriculture Organisation estimated Ghana’s annual deforestation rate at 135,395 hectares.
However, the combined rate of afforestation and reforestation annually was about 20,000 hectares.
“With these figures, one could compute when there would be no primary forest in Ghana,” he stated.
He pointed out that illegal mining destroyed the land, forest and water bodies and, consequently, affected the growth and production of cocoa.
“Illegal mining cuts away the production of cocoa since the activities destroy the cocoa plantation,” he said.
This year, Japan rejected 100,000 tonnes of cocoa exported from Ghana because it was contaminated by illegal mining activities.”
Prof Frimpong Boateng said this was among the reasons that the President placed a ban on illegal mining so that the Sector could be improved by training the operators in sustainable mining activities to prevent water pollution and the destruction of forest reserves.
Additionally, he said, the task force by the Government was commissioned to fight illegal mining and mercury pollution, destruction of coca farms and pollution of water bodies.
“The government last year also took a decision to reduce or eliminate the use of herbicides because they contaminate the cocoa itself. We are also doing hand fertilisation of trees so that the yield would improve from about 700,000 tonnes a year to 900,000 tonnes,” he said.
The Minister also mentioned plastic waste as a menace, saying the Government was implementing a comprehensive policy to aid in managing plastic waste.
“We would, therefore, set an office called the ‘Resource Recovery Centre’ that would coordinate activities of all stakeholders, including the Ministries of Local Government, Sanitation, Education and Chief Executive of the District Assemblies of the Coastal Cities – Accra, Cape Coast, and Takoradi,” he said.
They would also involve the private sector, including Coca Cola, Nestle Ghana, PZ Cussons, Fan Milk Limited, and Guinness Ghana Limited, which were stakeholders, he said.