World Environment Day in Ghana called for collaboration to preserve forests and tackle galamsey
7 June 2017, Kyebi, Ghana
5 June is World Environment Day. In Ghana, the national celebrations took place at Kyebi, Eastern Region under the theme “Connecting People to Nature from Cape Three Points to Bawku”. The event was hosted by the Okyenhene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori-Panin, and co-organised with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It brought together representatives from the Government, UN and other development partners, traditional and religious leaders, NGOs, the media, as well as youth groups and students – the broad representation was symbolic of the collective effort needed to protect the country’s forests, land, and water bodies.
Government representatives included Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI); John Peter Amewu, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources; Atta Akyea, Minister of Works and Housing; Eric Kwakye Darfour, Eastern Regional Minister; John Pwamang, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The UN was represented by UN Resident Coordinator for Ghana, Christine Evans-Klock.
With the event, Ghana joined the global activities of World Environment Day to raise awareness of the need to preserve and protect the environment. The Ghana commemoration focused especially on challenges related to deforestation, land degradation and water contamination, especially as a result of illegal informal mining (galamsey).
The choice of the location of the event was symbolic as Kyebi is close to the Atewa Forest Reserve, which suffers from illegal mining. It is experiencing the threatening impact on the life of the forest and the livelihoods of people in the area. “When the last tree dies, the last man dies,” was a reminder repeated several times by the various speakers.
The Government has committed itself to address the urgent issue of illegal informal mining. Minister Frimpong-Boateng appealed to the various stakeholders to join forces to not let the situation continue, and which worsened drastically over the past decade.
The UN Resident Coordinator explained that the economic, environmental and social goals of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 are interconnected and indivisible, and used galamsey as an example: “Illegal informal mining threatens forest and water systems, locally and downstream. Through polluting water, public health is endangered. Avoiding legal processes, the informal mining deprives Ghana of tax revenue that should be earned on her natural resources and invested in supporting development for everyone.”
She reminded that with Government having ratified the international Minamata Convention on Mercury earlier this year, it is important to extend its implementation to include all mining activities including small-scale mining, building the awareness and capacity of communities to eradicate completely the use of mercury in mining activities.
The UN system collectively supports the country in its efforts to protect the environment and support sustainable development of its natural resources. For example, UNDP takes the lead in the UN in Ghana to work with partners on environmental protection policies and programmes, FAO supports sustainable natural resource management), ILO is supporting the elimination of child labour in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, and UNESCO is helping facilitate the preservation of forest reserves).
Closing the event, the Okyenhene reiterated the need of a joint commitment to preserve the forests: “All have to be part of the solution.” He reiterated the UN’s call for sustainable development: for solving development challenges today in ways that do not make it more difficult for future generations to solve theirs.
As part of the WED programme, Ghanaian musicians performed their song “Atewa Till Eternity” acting as ambassadors for the protection of the nearby Atewa Forest Reserve, under the campaign “Save Atewa Forest” led by the environmental NGO A Rocha; and a group of students from Kibi Secondary Technical School translated the issues of galamsey into an inspirational theatrical performance.
The Kyebi event brought home the message of UN Secretary General António Guterres: “Without a healthy environment we cannot end poverty or build prosperity. We all have a role to play in protecting our only home.”