The parliamentary subcommittee on Lands and Forestry has condemned the persistent illegal felling and harvesting of rosewood in the Builsa South District in the Upper East Region and other parts of the country.
It again noted that forest guards had become vulnerable to repetitive assaults and attacks by illegal chainsaw operators across the country.
The committee, therefore, recommended that perpetrators of illegal logging of rosewood should be convicted and sanctioned in accordance with Regulation (41) of the Timber Resources Management and Legality Licensing Regulations, 2017 (L.I 2254).
It also called for immediate measures to be put in place to address the life-threatening dangers associated with the work of forest guards by amending the current legislation to allow forest guards to possess arms in the performance of their duty.
These were some of the observations contained in the report of the Committee on Lands and Forestry signed by the committee's Chairman, Mr Francis Manu-Adabor.
The Speaker directed the committee to conduct an enquiry into the illegal felling and harvesting of rosewood and its attendant destruction of the environment in the Builsa South District and to make recommendations to the House.
The directive followed a statement made by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Builsa South, Dr Clement A. Apaak, drawing the attention of the House to the illegal felling of rosewood in the savanna zone, especially in Builsa South, and its effect on the environment.
In order to provide detailed and concise information on the illegal felling of rosewood in the Builsa South District, the committee embarked on a fact-finding visit to Fumbisi and its environs in the Builsa South District to ascertain the facts.
During the visit, the committee interacted with key stakeholders, including the Regional Coordinating Council, Regional Office of the Forestry Commission, district chief executive and technical staff of the assembly, district forestry officer and some traditional rulers in the area.
The report noted that the Upper East Region was the least endowed in the area of forest cover, and indicated that the continuous exploitation of rosewood in the area would pose serious environmental consequences and deprive the region of its natural resources.
"The quality of soil will be degraded and eventually affect the production of agricultural produce. Many animals that depend on the forest for livelihood are also disadvantaged. Climate change will become inevitable, resulting in adverse weather patterns which might be characterised by extreme heat or too much rainfall," it said.
The committee said the concentration of illegal logging in the area in the past two years, which previously occurred only in the off reserves, was beginning to occur in the reserves as well.
That, it said, was because population of rosewood in the off reserves had dwindled and no longer economically viable.
It, therefore, called for a concerted effort by all stakeholders, including civil society, the indigenous people of Builsa South District and law enforcement agencies to win the fight against the devastating activity of deforestation.
Alternative source of livelihood
According to the report, interactions with some of the chiefs of the community revealed that the lack of alternative sources of livelihood within the forest communities was a major cause of the illegality.
It noted that these communities cited within the forest areas were dependent on the forest for their day-to-day needs, including shelter, food and firewood for cooking and were, therefore, unable to resist the enticement of colluding with illegal loggers for monetary gains because of the economic hardship they found themselves in.
"The committee was also informed that some permits were issued in the year 2017 to allow the already lying logs to be salvaged to prevent members of the community from using them as charcoal," it said.