President of the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), Bice Osei Kuffuor, popularly known as Obuor, and other players in Ghana’s entertainment industry, including Richie Mensah of Lynx Entertainment, have joined the fight against illegal mining activities in the country.
The artistes and a local non-governmental organisation, A-Rocha Ghana, have partnered to undertake advocacy and education activities in local mining communities under a project dubbed ‘Save Atiwa Forest’.
The Atiwa forest is a mineral rich forest reserve in Ghana with deposits of gold and bauxite in commercial quantity.
In recent times, the forest has suffered various activities of illegal mining and cutting of timber which has destroyed the natural forest and affected the Densu, Ayensu and Birim rivers.
The involvement of the entertainers to the project is to educate the general public on the need to maintain and preserve the natural forest.
Speaking to at the launch in Acccra, Obour expressed regret at the alarming rate at which the Atiwa forest was being depleted.
“It is really disheartening when you look at the mess which is created by the activities of illegal galamsey and chainsaw operators in this country. They mine the lands, fell trees and sometimes even set fire on portions of the land where the hunt and farm, and these activities are depleting the forest. It is high time we all came on board as ambassadors to add our voices to help save and preserve the rich natural Atiwa forest. I believe if we do not act now, it will be too late,” Obour stated.
He added that the group would lobby to get the government to pass a legislation to make the Atiwa forest a national park as a measure to help protect the forest.
Other musicians supporting the project include Nero X, Sherifa Gunu and the Patch Bay Band. The group will visit some galamsey sites and interact with the miners. They will also camp at the Atiwa forest to take inspiration from the natural environment and compose series of songs for the campaign.
Read Obour full speech at the launch below:
Atewa till Eternity Press Briefing
Hon Minister of Tourism
Hon Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources
Colleague Creative Artists
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press
All Protocols Observed
Just this Monday the Abesim water works in the Sunyani Municipal District was shut down when the flow from the Tano River cut short before reaching the headworks.
Last year, on World Water Day which falls on the 22nd of March, I was in Nsawam with A Rocha Ghana, and some civil society groups to share our solidarity with the people of Nsawam following the dry spells that hit the Densu basin which was the source of water for the treatment plant in Nsawam. We are yet to get to March and already there is serious water shortages in almost all the regions of Ghana.
Clearly and more than everGhana’s water resources specifically, the sources which comprise of our surface water bodies like streams and rivers are under threat. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research predicts a major water crisis by 2030. Even dreadful is the fact that, as we pollute the surface water bodies, our underground water sources are increasing becoming contaminated and unwholesome, according to research by CSIR. Our attempts therefore to drill boreholes as a substitute for our inability to be responsible to surface water quality, will soon be as grim as the situation of the surface water bodies we find. Residents of Ada have demonstrated in response to severe water shortages, lasting months at a time. We can’t take this issue lightly
We are all witnesses to the carnage happening around us. Our Political leaders see but turn a blind eye in the name of providing jobs. Most traditional authorities ignore the siege as they claim powerless. Our law enforcement agencies have become toothless bulldogs in dealing with the illegal and destructive mining menace, many times secretly conniving for the pittance of hand-outs they get also for turning a blind eye. I am referring to the dynamics of Illegal mining, what we call ‘galamsey’which we can all confidently blame to explain the shutdown of water treatment plants and the loss of Ghana’s closed forest cover which has diminished from 145 thousand square kilometres to just 15 thousand square kilometres since the start of the 20th century, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Sometimes EPA and Minerals Commission approved mining, for reasons of insufficient due diligence, inadequate compliance monitoring and remedial measures results in the destruction of forests and water bodies which provides invaluable support services to our very survival as communities who do not have access to potable drinking water and so depend on the open surface water bodies, treated and purified by the amazing filters of nature.
The damage from unregulated mining in our forests and water towers visible in the short term from destructive human activity is just one piece in the puzzle of a myriad of environmental issues such as variability in rainfall patterns, depleting rivers and streams, and food insecurity, not to mention social thrive resulting from conflict over limited natural resources.
If I may borrow the words of H. E President Nana AkuffoAddo, “…Ours is a beautiful country…” and let me add, also a blessed country. We are endowed naturally with so many river systems, with its tributaries, streams and rivers watering our lands for food, quenching our thirst, cleaning our homes and supporting our industries and businesses.
We are endowed with precious water towers like Atewa Range Forest Reserve in the Eastern Region of Ghana, seen from KibiTownship and also home to the H.E President Nana AddoDankwahAkuffoAddo. The Atewa Forest is situated in a beautiful mountainous area, also considered to be endowed with biodiversity and minerals. For those of you who do not know what we are talking about. I want to invite to experience the Atewa Forest Reserve which is the source of the Densu River that feeds the Weija Damn and ensures that at least 2 million people in Accra get potable water. Aside this, it is the source of two other important rivers systems known as the Birim and Ayensu which supply water to Winneba through its tributaries and other places in the Eastern. By itself, this forest is the responsible for providing water for about 5 million people both upstream and downstream. This forest and its important water services can only be described in one word ‘Onaapo’
A drive through the KibiTownship and even inside the Atewa Forest is evidence enough of the dire situation in and around the forest. Galamsey operators can be seen operating in the pits of the roadside. Methods used by artisanal miners to extract gold pollute the water with mercury and other heavy metals which are toxic to humans. A study of the Densu Basin by the Water Resources Commission took readings of water quality between 2005 and 2015. Not one gauging station achieved ‘good’ water quality in 2015. Local treatment plants at the Birim River are sometimes not able to treat the water to standards safe for human consumption, and are shut down as a result. Also a threat to Atewa is plans by past and present governments to destroy this water tower for the bauxite that lies beneath it to the detriment of the approximately 5 million people who depend on the water flowing down the hills of Atewa.
During his investiture as President of Ghana and also in the recent State of the Nation’s Address, H.E President Nana AddoDankwahAkuffoAddo indicated the need for Ghanaians to have a reorientation in the way we to things and in his message he stated and I quote:
“We are in danger of destroying our blessed country. Ours is a beautiful country. If we claim to love our country, we must take care of the lands, the trees, the water bodies and the animals. They are part of what makes Ghana.”
We know H. E Nana AkuffoAddo is a man of his words, and even as we trust him to fulfil his promise to protect our water bodies, we want to use our role in society to call on the citizenry and all engaged in acts undermining our water bodies and depleting the forests that provide protection and sources for these important water bodies.
In affirming our support for his concern and passion for the environment, we also want to add our voices, instruments and talents to support the campaign and work of A Rocha Ghana and the Coalition of NGOs Against Mining Atewa and other civil society groups who are working with the Forestry Commission of Ghana to secure the Atewa Forest Reserve by upgrading it into a National Park to assure its security now and the future.
As creative artists we see and get a lot of inspiration in nature. Almost every song or video clip now is shot against a backdrop of beautiful and thriving nature. It is in this light that together with our international collaborators from Green Beats we have come together to support the protection of Atewa Forest Reserve and all other forests and water resources to help Ghana on a progressive cause to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 which is about clean water and sanitation. The goal is focussed on ensuring universal access to safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030 which requires that we invest in adequate infrastructure, provide sanitation facilities, and encourage hygiene at every level. Importantly protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems such as forests, mountains, wetlands and rivers is essential if we are to mitigate water scarcity.We can no longer go about singing and turning a blind eye to the situation as if nothing is happening. For we are aware that if current trends of pollution continue, the water scarcity that we are already experiencing will get worse and worse and the common woman in the village and the child who should be in school, the our sisters who should be at work are those who are going to bear the brunt of this self-induced calamity.It is an issue of social and environmental responsibility and justice.
Our message is simple,
1. The destruction of our forests and water bodies which has gone on for so long, and addressed with piece meal measures and actions must end now.
2. As a matter of urgency we must all rally behind the campaign to save our water towers, especially Atewa Range Forest Reserve and upgrade it to a National so as to ensure long-term security for this beautiful cloud mountain that waters our lands and quench our thirst.
3. We invite you to come with us, as we explore the beautiful tourism potential of this forest and share with you its sights and sounds together with its beautiful people.
4. Finally, we invite you to support the campaign as state agencies and civil groups mobilize resources to promote and support green investments and businesses in the Atewa landscape and districts surrounding it.
We see value and purpose in this cause and like we always do, and now stronger than before, we are using our music and media platforms to not only raise awareness but to inspire all Ghanaians everywhere and the international community to rise up to the occasion and safeguard the Atewa Forest, and all other forests in Ghana and the rivers and streams that they provide for our well-being.
Atewa till Eternity. Atewa for National Park.
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