Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Story: Kwame Asare Boadu, Kumasi

THE dry season is with us again and, as usual, bush fires have started taking a toll on the environment in the Ashanti Region.
The region is the centre of food production in the country. Plantain, yams, cassava, cocoyam, maize, among other crops, are found in abundant quantities there.
Besides, cash crops like cocoa are also synonymous with the Ashanti Region. Timber, which is a major foreign exchange earner for the country, is yet another product well known in the region.
It is, therefore, regrettable that the activities of some unscrupulous people continue to put those resources in danger.
Forestry officials in Ashanti have warned of drastic consequences to forest reserves and the environment in general if the rate at which bush fires are rearing their ugly heads in the region are not curtailed.
Year in year out officials lament the effects of bush fires on the environment and the survival of the people but it seems there is no end to the situation in sight.
Just two weeks ago, one of the major forest reserves in the Mampong area was set on fire by some hunters, causing extensive damage to the natural habitation of many species of animals.
Forestry officials sought the assistance of the police at Mampong to look for the perpetrators of the act but no one was arrested, as they managed to escape before the police arrived on the scene.
The police at Mampong told the Daily Graphic that they impounded a number of bicycles belonging to the actors and that they were still looking for them to face the full rigours of the law.
The Mampong situation is not the only one in the region, as reports from other districts speak of similar situations. When one drives along the roads in the districts, one realises the effects of the fires.
Some farms have got burnt, affecting trees of various uses. The end result can be disastrous if the practice is allowed to continue.
The burning of the farms can result in food shortage and the people of the country will suffer in the end, as food prices will rise.
Sources at the Forestry Services Division (FSD) attributed the fires mostly to the activities of people looking for game. At times, palm wine tappers are also part of the problem.
“When at all will people stop this practice of attacking the forest with fire just to look for game?” a senior forestry official asked.
The forestry officials believe the whole problem relates to attitudinal change and the need for the local authorities to enforce their bye-laws on the environment.
All district assemblies in the region have bye-laws on bush fires but a huge question remains as to whether they have the ability to enforce them.
In the rural communities, it is common for a chief or a community leader to go to the police and other authorities to plead on behalf of people who commit various crimes.
This situation must be checked if any headway has to be made in arresting the problem.
The general public must also be watchdogs and be ready to report people who set fire to the bush to the police.

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