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General News Wed, 3 Dec 2003

Ghana loses $24 million yearly through bushfires

Nsuta (Ash), Dec 3, GNA- Ghana loses about 24 million dollars annually as a result of bushfires, Prof Dominic Fobih, Minister of Lands and Forestry, has said.

The figure, he said, could even be higher since most of the bushfires are not reported.

Professor Fobih said on Tuesday in a speech read for him at the joint inauguration of Wildfire Clubs in 18 second-cycle schools in the Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo and the Eastern regions at the Nsutaman Catholic Secondary School at Nsuta in the Sekyere West District in Ashanti.

The Minister said the contributions of the country's forests to the growth of the economy are being threatened by wildfires.

Timber is ranked third after minerals and cocoa in foreign exchange earnings, contributing about six percent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and about 11 percent of the total export earnings.

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Professor Fobih said the aim to check revenue losses and the degradation of the environment, prompted government to seek for assistance from the Dutch government to support a wildfire project now being piloted in some communities in Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo and the Eastern regions.

The project seeks to form community-based organisations such as wildfire clubs and fire volunteer squads in the rural communities to help reduce the incidence of wildfires.

The Minister told members of the clubs to lobby people to join the village fire volunteer squads and assist the communities to embark on tree planting and clean-up exercises.

Professor Fobih said the absence of clear-cut policies has led to inconsistencies in the implementation and enforcement of wildfire laws.

He said his ministry has developed a draft policy that would ensure consistency in the formulation of legislation and byelaws at all levels of governance to deal with issues of wildfires.

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Mr Kwadwo Wireko-Brobbey, a member of the Forestry Commission, said efforts at restoring the integrity of some of the destroyed forests under the President's Special Initiative (PSI) on forestation is being threatened by bushfires.

He, therefore, called for a more vigorous anti-bushfire education campaign and asked the students to get actively involved.

Oheneba Amponsah Agyeman, Co-ordinator of the Wildfire Project, said the project would raise public awareness on the ravages of wildfire, implement knowledge and warning systems for fire risk and hazards and provide incentives for reduction of wildfires.

Source: GNA