Conservation activists on Tuesday accused Ghana’s president of plans to mine bauxite in a forest reserve despite fears it could put access of millions to drinking water at risk.
“There is nothing sustainable and responsible about mining bauxite in a watershed like Atewa Forest,” Daryl Bosu of the Green Livelihood Alliance told a news conference in the capital Accra.
The government is looking at mining in the Atewa Forest Reserve, which contains large deposits of bauxite, an essential component in aluminium production.
The forest has been described as one of the richest places for biodiversity on the planet, home to a range of rare species and Ghana’s key source of drinking water.
The forest is also close to President Nana Akufo-Addo’s hometown of Kyebi, in the eastern region, about 90 kilometres (60 miles) from Accra.
A coalition of non-government organisations and citizen activists said the process to implement the mining project was “shrouded in secrecy”, and called for a halt until a broad consultation and impact assessments were done.
Daniel Ewur, an officer for conservation group “A Rocha” told AFP he saw bulldozers clearing paths into the forest last week.
The Global Forest Watch had already said that Ghana was losing rainforests at the highest rate in the world.
It said there was a 60 per cent increase in primary rainforest loss in 2018 compared with 2017.
“The forest reserves and wildlife reserves are the only hope we have, we think those ones should be protected,” Ewur said.
Last year, conservation activists trekked from Atewa to Accra to show opposition, and Ghana’s Christian Council has also called for the park to be protected.
In May, the US Forest Service which gave technical advice on the mining proposals warned of “potential significant and permanent impact” on the forest as well as its water.
The government has made clear its intention to mine bauxite, which it said will help industrialise and transform the economy, claiming bauxite has the potential to deliver over $500 billion in revenue and create tens of thousands of jobs.
In 2018, Ghana’s parliament approved an agreement with Sinohydro Group Limited of China, to provide $2 billion of infrastructure in exchange for Ghana’s refined bauxite.
President Akufo-Addo has been quoted in local media as assuring Ghanaians that the plans to mine bauxite would not destroy the environment.
Oil and gold-rich Ghana is also eyeing agriculture to diversify the economy.
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