By Kofi Thompson
Accustomed to turning disasters into new opportunities, instead of viewing it as a disaster, we decided to seize the opportunity to help halt the impunity of the wealthy syndicates behind most of the illegal gold mining and unlawful logging in Akyem Abuakwa - when our cousins, who own land adjacent to ours at Akyem Juaso, informed us recently that tenant farmers on their land had been approached by Hagnela Mining Company to mine gold there.
The subsequent communication between our cousins and Hagnela Mining Company makes interesting reading - and illustrates perfectly the utter ruthlessness and unfathomable greed that underpins the illegal operations of the wealthy criminal syndicates destroying one of the most important ecosystem services providing areas in Ghana's Eastern Region's forest belt.
The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, the Hon. Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, ought to order the Minerals Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out an immediate investigation into the destructive activities of Hagnela Mining Company - which falsely claims to have the requisite permits from the EPA and the Minerals Commission in a letter signed by its CEO - in the area bordering one of the banks of the Akooso stream, adjacent to the P. E. Thompson Estate's property at Akyem Juaso.
(Luckily for our nation, there is documentary evidence of those bogus claims of possessing official permits, made by Hagnela Mining Company, which it cannot possibly deny and disown.)
The question then is: As a society, must we continue to allow a few wealthy individuals driven purely by greed, to end up destroying what is a designated Globally Significant Biodiversity Area (GSBA), which contains the watershed for three major river systems (the Densu, the Pra and the Birim), on which a large part of southern urban Ghana (with a population of several millions - including those of Accra, Takoradi and Sekondi) depends on for its drinking-water supply?
Furthermore, as a people, should we allow ourselves to be saddled with an apocalyptic future nightmare, purely for the private financial benefit today, of a few selfish and thoroughly dishonest individuals - and at the expense of the well-being today of millions; ensuring a sustainable future for the area at a time of global climate change; and guaranteeing a sustainable existence for future generations, in an era of global warming? Most certainly not.
We are actually referring to what is a rare and unique upland evergreen rainforest full of yet-to-be-discovered medicinal plants; which also possesses a wondrous natural beauty that could sustain a world-class eco-tourism destination business; and is an important world-class living laboratory for natural sciences researchers from around the globe - all critical green economic factors potentially making it a trillion-dollar sustainable natural asset.
Why should we allow it to be destroyed by philistines who know the price of gold on a daily basis - but who do not have the faintest idea of the true value of this priceless gift of nature's that Providence blessed Akyem Abuakwa and Mother Ghana with?
Perhaps the Hon. Inusah Fuseini ought to go to Akyem Juaso himself, together with the heads of the Minerals Commission and the EPA - to see for himself the unpardonable and unspeakable crimes against humanity being committed there daily by wealthy criminals, operating without legal regulatory permits: and busy destroying part of a unique and valuable upland evergreen rainforest with complete impunity.
To understand the true significance and import of what is happening - in ecological terms - it is crucial that the minister is made aware of the fact that included in the total freehold landholding of some 14 square miles of upland evergreen rainforest owned by the P. E. Thompson Estate since 1921, is an "admitted farm" on which stands a virgin forest totalling some 99.6 acres, which is inside the official government Atewa Forest Reserve.
With respect, this is no degraded forest now become denuded scrubland that can conveniently be sacrificed in order to increase the personal net worth of short-sighted and callous individuals - who can see no further than the end of their noses.
The Hon. Minister for Lands and Natural Resources must act swiftly before it becomes too late to save this important upland evergreen rainforest - and vital ecosystem services provider that is also a GSBA - from being irreparably damaged by greedy and selfish individuals: who do not care one jot about the effect of their actions on their fellow humans and above all on Mother Nature.
Let him instruct the EPA and the Minerals Commission to order an immediate halt to any further mining by the company - and begin a multi-agency probe into the illegal activities of Hagnela Mining Company and all its "co-operator" business partners at Akyem Juaso now. A word to the wise...
NOTE: Hagnela Mining Company declined to comment on the issue when contacted by telephone.