THE management of A.S. Halabi/Fanj Limited, a Kumasi-based construction firm, has refuted allegations that the area it is developing on the Ahodwo-Kaase road in Kumasi to establish an assembly plant for the mining and oil industries was illegally acquired.
It said the land was acquired from the Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC) and all the neccessary legal papers including a lease from the Asantehene’s Land Secretariat had been acquired.
“It will therefore be an act of ignorance for anyone or group of people to describe the company as an illegal developer,” Mr Jamil Fanj, a Director of the company, told the Daily Graphic in Kumasi last Saturday.
Reacting to a story in the August 8, 2009 issue of this paper that the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) Chief Executive, Mr Samuel Sarpong, had ordered the company to stop the development because the area was a water course, Mr Jamil Fanj, said the development going on was not to reclaim any land as being portrayed.
“The material heaped on the land is intended to reinforce the edge of our property and the flood plain reservation.
“It is also to compact the floor intended for the foundation of the building we are going to put up, and raise the floor of our intended factory,” he said.
Mr Fanj, whose business investments in the country spanned 38 years, explained that where he was developing the land was 79.5 metres away from the Subin River and it was therefore not true that he had been dumping laterite into the river.
The director stated that actual construction work on the factory, which would employ about 800, had not started and that what was going on was only to get the land ready “while we await the drawings for the factory.”
He said the KMA itself by a letter to the company dated July 30, 2009, and signed by Mr A. Amoako Asiamah, Development Control Officer, indicated that they were awaiting the drawings for the factory for approval.
Mr Fanj stated that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had done all the environmental assessment impact on the proposed project and had given the company the go-ahead.
He said currently his companies in Ghana employed over 900 people “and it is our wish to continue to help reduce the employment challenges facing the nation.”
“But in doing so we don’t aim at using illegal means like what we are being accused of,” Mr Fanj said.
Recently the Kumasi Metropolitan Chief Executive (MCE), Mr Samuel Sarpong, ordered an immediate halt to all clandestine activities by private developers to reclaim and develop buffer zones, watercourses and flood-prone areas in the metropolis.
He expressed deep concern about rampant reports of attempts by some developers on watercourses and flood-prone areas, and warned that encroachers would not only have their structures demolished, but would also be surcharged with the cost of any remedial works to be done in the affected areas.
Mr Sarpong specifically ordered Messrs A.S. Halaby Limited, a Kumasi-based firm, to immediately stop its current work to reclaim a portion of the buffer zone lying close to the Ahodwo-Kaase road in Kumasi.
The company, about a fortnight ago, started reclaiming a vital part of the buffer zone, a valley adjoining a piece of land owned by it by erecting concrete fence poles and dumping boulders and heaps of laterite there.
The MCE's order followed claims by some private developers and certain influential individuals in the metropolis to the effect that once they had acquired parcels of land, be they on watercourses or in flood-prone areas, nothing would debar them from developing them.
Describing the claim as preposterous and outrageous, Mr Sarpong made it clear that no developer would be allowed to flout building regulations and other laws of the KMA with impunity.
"If your development activity is illegal or considered detrimental to the wider interest of the people, we will stop it. It is as simple as that," he stressed.
The buffer zone in question shelters a section of the Kumasi-Takoradi rail line, Subin River and suburbs within the metropolis.
It is, therefore, obvious that the encroachment by the company will worsen the situation along the Ahodwo-Kaase road, which is currently in a deplorable state because of the recent floods.
Friends of Rivers and Water Bodies, an environmental non-governmental organisation, raised the red flag on the encroachment, prompting an inspection of the site by the MCE, his confirmation of the encroachment and the subsequent halt order.
The NGO's President, Nana Kwabena Dwomoh-Sarpong, leading a group of some members of the organisation, laid siege at the site for several hours in protest against the encroachment.
The NGO asked the KMA to involve the Water Resources Commission (WRC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other stakeholders in whatever decision it intended to take in relation to the encroachment and the private development of the land adjoining the buffer zone.
It noted that the involvement of the WRC and the EPA would ensure a transparent and fair assessment of the impact of the encroachment or any development activity on the fringes of the buffer zone.
Considering the significance of the buffer zone to the eco-system, the NGO said nothing should be done to disturb its continued existence.
It commended the MCE for showing ample commitment to the protection and conservation of water bodies and the enviroment in general.