The Western Regional Minister, Dr Kwaku Afriyie has charged traditional authorities and development partners to chart a common path to ensure that rapid urbanisation did not pose a threat to wetland conservation.
He in this regard, he called on developers in wetland areas to follow best practices in land use in a bid to avoid the encroachment of wetland zones.
The District Chief Executive (DCE) for Ellembelle, Mr.Kwasi Bonzo said this on behalf of the Regional Minister to mark the National World Wetlands Day at Ampainu in the Western Region.
It was organised by HEN MPOANO(Our Coastal Lands),in conjunction with the Coastal Sustainable Landscape Project and funded by the United States Agency for International Development(USAID).
The theme for the occasion was "Wetlands For A Sustainable Future: Conserving the Greater Amanzule Wetlands in the Western Region of Ghana".
Dr Afriyie underscored the local and global economic benefits of wetlands hence the need to formalise the wetland conservations of the Greater Amanzule to make it a viable source of livelihood to communities in Ellembelle, Jomoro and the Nzema-East Districts.
The Minister said the Region abounds in about 50,000 hectares of wetlands most of which had been degraded and urged Ghanaians to protect and conserve the wetlands to tap the benefits from them.
The Director of HEN MPOANO, Mr Kofi Agbogah said the Greater Amanzule was now part of the national records of wetlands but lamented that the area was under threat as people continued to cut down the mangrove trees, the expansion of rubber plantation and the presence of galamsey activities and the exploration of oil and gas.
He appealed to the chiefs to stem the tide and added his voice to the Region's 10 percent share from the oil find to support sustainable development projects in the area
Mr Agbogah said an acre of mangrove could fetch US$2,000 hence his outfit would bring all the constituencies together to develop wetlands and protect the mangroves for sustainable livelihood support through cassava and vegetable farms, village savings and loans to empower the communities to make ends meet.
The Director of Coastal Sustainable Landscape Project(CSLP), Dr Steve Dennison said Ghana's mangrove zone was a vast one and asked the government to factor the Greater Amanzule into its development agenda for economic development.
He said his outfit had supported 24 communities in wetland conservation and identified 200 hectares of wetlands in the communities which were losing money to an amount of US$1 million a year.
On the benefits of wetlands, Dr Dennison said they were a form of protection to the communities, source of income, and source of warmth especially during the dry season
Dr Dennison said CSLP was ready to partner all stakeholders to support natural heritage and resources in the country.
The Executive Director of Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, Nana Kofi Adu Nsiah underscored the need for Ghana and La Cote D'Ivoire to close their frontiers in wetland conservation for an economic boost.
Mr Nsiah said Ghana had 500km of coastal wetlands and lauded HEN MPOANO for its efforts in the Districts and encouraged Ghanaians to showcase the importance of wetlands to human survival to boost the Tourism industry and generate more revenue for the nation.
Mr Nsiah said wetlands served as carbon to deal with climate change and also avoid floods, adding that wetlands had suffered in recent times becoming waste and dumping grounds.
Problems such as illegal cutting of trees, open defecation, population explosion have affected wetlands which are vital resources for growth and development.
He said there had been international treaties and action plans to protect wetlands and asked Ghana to enforce the law.
The Chief Programme Officer of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr Shine Fiagome noted the alarming rate at which wetlands were degraded in urban areas with special reference to Tema.
He said in the Western Region, the oil find has brought in its wake of accelerated infrastructure development, adding that urban development should be in harmony with nature.
Mr Fiagome said the EPA had put in measures to deal with eventualities such as oil spillage with series of simulation exercises from the Norwegian government.
The Paramount Chief of Western Nzema Traditional Council, Awulae Annor Adjaye III congratulated communities in the area for wetland sustainability though some indigenes were still cutting mangrove trees without re-planting them.
He said "if we destroy the wetlands, we are destroying our life and appealed to traditional rulers to play a frontline role in wetland conservation.
Awulae Adjaye pledged his support to the HEN MPOANO group to carry out that mandate.