By Samuel Akapule
Bongo (UE), April 13, GNA - The Asolompiiro Forest Reserve, one of the largest forest reserves in the Bongo District of the Upper East Region, has been turned to a charcoal production centre and a grazing place for cattle.
This was discovered by the Paramount Chief of the Bongo Traditional area, Naba Lemyaarum Baba Salifu, who caused the arrest of the perpetrator, Mr Azure Akara, a 52-year-old man, for destroying the ecosystems of the forest reserve as so many trees had been destroyed.
The culprit who had been granted a police bail was re-arrested on Tuesday by the District Directorate of the Forest Commission after the District Director of the Commission and his team cum the Fire Service and some Journalists visited the reserve to assess the level of damage caused by the culprit and his accomplices.
The District Director of the Commission, Mr Gabriel Agana, who expressed worry about the level of destruction, said many of the trees that had been cut for charcoal production were planted and grown by the Commission and some community members some years back.
The Culprit who had built a house and was staying in the reserve with his family, had also made himself a chief of the forest reserve and had given portions of the reserve to Fulani herdsmen to also settle with their families and cattle.
Apart from the large number of trees that had been fell for the charcoal production, large portions of the reserve had also been affected by erosion as a result of overgrazing by the cattle.
To worsen the situation of the forest, the stumps of the tree that had been cut down were burnt to prevent re-growth.
Speaking to the Media, the Paramount Chief indicated that all attempts by him to drive away the culprit together with his accomplices who had been settlers in the forest reserve for the past two years had proved futile.
He said not only had the culprit undermined his authority as a Paramount Chief of the Bongo Traditional Area, but had caused huge destruction to the forest reserve by turning it into a charcoal production centre and collecting animals such as cattle, sheep and goats from the Fulani headsmen as tax.
The Paramount Chief said as an Environmentalist who had initiated a number of projects and programmes, such as the Green Bongo for Sustainable Environment and Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration Projects to help curb desertification in the area, he could not overlook the destruction.
“With the current bad climate conditions here I will not relent in my effort to collaborate with the Forest Commission and the Security Agencies to weed out people who would want to damage the environment for their personal gains,” he said.
The District Deputy Fire Officer, Station Officer Baba Atule Ibrahim, who gave the assurance that the security agencies would act swiftly to deal with the issue, stated that if the degradation of the forest continued the whole reserve would be depleted completely within the shortest time.
He attributed the spate of bush fires in the Region largely to the activities of charcoal production and warned that it was criminal under the laws of Ghana to engage in indiscriminate bush burning.