A GNA feature by Professor Alfred A. Oteng-Yeboah/Yaw Ansah, GNA
Accra, Feb. 4, GNA - My first ever formal Geography lessons in school started in 1960 at Abuakwa State College (ABUSCO), Kibi. I was in secondary Form One and the teacher was Dr Kwaku Darko (then Mr Kwaku Darko).
He introduced to us the Kibi landscape including; the Atiwa-Atweredu range of mountains which jotted the outskirts of Kibi, ranging from Apedwa in the south to Asiakwa/ Sagyimase to the north. It was later Mr Adams, our Physical Education Master, who, after getting us to jog every day at dawn from the school compound on the main Accra-Kumasi road towards the outskirts of Potroase near Amanfrom/Wirenkyiren, made us to sketch the road network used for the jogging. The location of At-wa-Atweredu mountains were always featured.
Importance of Atiwa mountain
It was from this time that I drew lots of inspiration for and became closely associated with the beauty of the Atewa landscape, which was always covered in clouds, making it the only remaining upland evergreen and cloud forest in Ghana.
This forest range forms part of the Guinea-Congolean forest stretch that characterised the West African Region until it was disrupted over the last six decades by excessive land-use and land-use cover change including; agriculture and urbanisation.
It was much later in life that I became aware of features associated with this geographically important site: the knowledge about a small tributary of River Birim (called River Bannin) running near Apapam, which is highest in authority of all the river deities mentioned during libation pouring for the commencement of the Ohum festival for the Akyems by the Akyem Tafohene, and which has such historical significance for the heritage of the Akyems in general.
The special rainfall pattern (raining everyday on the hills) which characterises the Akyem Abuakwa area with the attendant microclimatic conditions for food and tree crop cultivation; the source of two other very important Ghanaian rivers, namely; Densu and Ayensu, in addition to River Birim which as students at ABUSCO at that time, there was no pipe-borne water and we fetched water from it every day for our personal use.
The only indigenous and endemic tree fern species whose presence was a result of disjunct distribution of the species along its global range; a number of endemic butterfly and frog species and several others of significant international conservation importance were located in Atewa.
I am narrating all of these to establish my unhappiness and disquiet that Atewa, a globally significant biodiversity area with multiple benefits including; a great potential for ecotourism, is one of the natural resource sites to be exploited in exchange for the US$2.0 billion Chinese money acquired for infrastructural development.
I have no problem with infrastructural development, as has been described and which is good for national development, but I have a problem with the inclusion of Atewa in this deal as I see the Atewa as sacred and embracing the total embodiment of the soul and spirit of the Akyem Abuakwa people.
I ask the following questions: why should a precious, unique and priceless site such as Atewa be destroyed? Who accounts for the endemic animals and plants, many of which are yet to be scientifically discovered and named? Who will follow the removal of rocks, which predate our current age, mark and study them to provide an account of their history? Who will supervise the removal and haulage of the excavated soil of the mountain and make sure that it is only bauxite deposits that are being removed, but not diamonds and gold?
Who will account for and who will authenticate the value of the excavated soils? There are many questions to ask and whose answers may never be found.? I am aware of work done on the ecosystem valuation of the Atewa in terms of its contribution to human wellbeing, which far outstrips any destructive and unsustainable economic endeavour that would involve the removal of the mountain.
This is where the Precautionary Principle enshrined in Agenda 21, which is the forerunner of the current global Agenda 2030 and the AU 2063 should be invoked.
Meanwhile, what the Ghanaian public should know is that once it is exploited, the contributions that this natural resource provides to the people of Akyem Abuakwa in particular and to Ghana in general will be lost forever.
It should be made known that no jobs will be created with the mining exploitation and that there is no scientific mining anywhere without destruction, as quoted falsely by some government officials.
Studies by colleagues in the Birim, Densu, and Ayensu basins in the Eastern and Central Regions respectively, indicate extensive land degradation, pollution and silting of rivers and streams, which have exacerbated extreme poverty for the local people who subsist on peasant farming because of changes in the landscapes.
The climate buffer, which the Akyem Abuakwa people enjoyed over the years, with the presence of the Atewa mountain contributing to climate regulation, is now under threat.
The scenarios point to a bleak future where a place that was once a prosperous production socio-ecological landscape would have been turned into a zero-production area.
I wish to appeal to the President and his cabinet, many of whom come from this area of Ghana, to reconsider Atewa’s future and remove it from the list for exploitation.
I believe this appeal, which is based on scenario predictions, will receive urgent attention as I foresee, in two to three decades time when our present generation would have left the scene.
The places will be in total desolation if the exploitation takes place. It will not be easy for the local people to survive. We would have failed in living to the tenets of sustainability as expressed in sustainable development, whose beginnings were vigorously promoted by Nana Sir Ofori Atta I, the late revered Okyehene, in many of his writings and speeches to the citizens of this country.