“Equipping the District Assemblies would enable them to conduct feasibility studies on the forest reserve as well as determine which area should be used for legal mining activities and a reserve area” he added.
Prof Oteng-Yeboah made the call on Thursday in Accra at a stakeholder’s workshop on the value of the Atewa forest range and its river basins.
The Workshop was organized by A Rocha Ghana, in collaboration with the Institute for Environmental Studies, WOLFS Company, Forestry Commission, Save Atewa Forest Campaign and the National Committee of the Netherlands.
The professor was of the view that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should have their presence felt in the assemblies, and that, the officers be equipped to identify projects and offer advice on where to mine and where to be used as a reserve.
He said due to the absence of the EPA, the district assemblies are handicapped, paving way for individuals and institutions to undertake project in the area without recourse to due process, affecting the ecology.
Prof Oteng-Yeboah said the Atewa Forest was an important source of water for the Central, Eastern and Greater Accra regions, and that, there is the need to ensure its management for long term sustainable development.
He noted that the Atewa forest reserve has watersheds of the three most important rivers in the country- Birim, Densu and Ayensu that provides Accra with 70 per cent of its primary source of water.
The Professor stressed that, the public should be aware of the importance of the forest reserve, since most of the country’s natural resources are over exploited, calling on government to develop the area into a national park for effective investment.
A speech read on behalf of Mr Samuel Afari Dartey, the Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission said conservation of the ecosystem is key to the country’s development since it gives economic viability to natural forest.
He said the Commission is keen on partnering environmental NGOs and development partners to conduct environmental capital evaluation study of the Atewa forest.
Mr Dartey said the study would provide sufficient information to improve biodiversity policy, provide information to prioritize and guide the design of new policies and provide solid base information for integrating biodiversity into cross sectorial policies.
Mr Fred Smiet, First Secretary of the Netherlands Embassy in Ghana, said their outfit was elated to be part of the workshop, since the protection of the environment was a necessary tool for national development.
Mr Smiet said the rivers in the Atewa forest are crucial sources for domestic, agricultural and industrial water, and that, there was the need for its protection from water pollution and environmental degradation.
Mr Seth Appiah Kubi, National Director of A Rocha Ghana, said the organization had instituted a campaign dubbed ‘Save the Atewa Forest’ to improve the knowledge base of the forest through economic valuation for decision making.
He said the campaign was to address the immediate threat to the Atewa forest and would work with partners to raise the status of the forest into a national park.