From Richard Owusu-Akyaw, Kumasi
The beautiful environment of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) is fast fading, following the felling down of trees on campus. The development by the authorities is affecting the climate of KNUST and its environs, The Chronicle has gathered.
Investigations conducted by this paper in the last two weeks at KNUST established that about 50% of the vegetation cover has been degraded, resulting in the destruction of the ecosystem, with the climate on campus likely to change in the near future.
During the visit to the university, the vegetation along the Wewe River, close to the Casely Hayford block, was being cleared, which development had forced dwarf crocodiles, which used to have the place as their habitat, to migrate to the other side of the said river
Areas affected by the tree felling exercise are Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB), the staff bungalows, Natural Resources Faculty (NATSU), Mango Road, KNUST Maintenance Department, and the commercial area near Cal Bank.
It also came to fore that the felling down of trees in KNUST has been quite phenomenal since Prof Kwasi Obiri-Danso took charge as Vice Chancellor of the institution, who has been accused of deploying engineering landscape policies, instead of environmental solutions.
Some environmentalists who spoke to The Chronicle on condition of anonymity noted that the population of the university keeps growing year in and out, which increases the amount of carbon dioxide on campus.
According to the source, this mono oxide gas, which produces heat, can only be emitted out of the system by trees, which are ironically being felled by the varsity authorities. The experts also revealed that the trees were quite educative to the students, since they had their botanical names embossed on them. One of them asked: “Why would you fell down trees, only to replant them again?”
Speaking to one of the NATSU students, who did not want to be named, he confirmed to this paper that there were some dwarf crocodiles on campus and revealed that these reptiles used to be all over, but now are virtually extinct.
The student mentioned Mecca Road near the Caseley Hayford block as one of the places where these crocodiles are found. The environmental student complained that the clearing of trees along the Wewe River bank by the KNUST authorities has affected the ecosystem of these animals.
He confirmed that some students sometimes kill these animals when they come into contact with them. Asked how long these reptiles have been on campus, he noted that he cannot give the exact time, but the reptiles have been on campus for years.
Another student, who also added her voice to the loss of trees on campus, explained that about 40% of the KNUST vegetation cover has been destroyed by the school authorities. She stated that the authorities started this anti-tree exercise, with all the trees along the streets, particularly, those behind Indece Hall and around the Faculty of Engineering area.
She asserted this development will have a very negative effect on campus, emphasising: “Currently, the climate on campus has changed entirely; we are experiencing more heat than previously, because of all these developments.”
She opined that the vegetation cover of KNUST has been absorbing majority of carbon in the areas, so when you demarcate Kejetia, Adum and other places, all the carbon being released is absorbed by the KNUST cover.
She noted: “We are currently undertaking some project to analyse the impact of the felling of trees on the ecosystem and the faculty.”
Asked about how they reacted to the loss of vegetation on campus, she explained that they were really surprised, because this deforestation started last semester, and that on resumption from recess, they realised most of the trees were no longer there, but when they asked questions about the disappearance, no tangible answers were forthcoming.
Speaking to Mr. Kwame Yeboah Jnr, University Relations Officer, he admitted that some trees were felled, but swiftly noted that they were done to improve security on campus.
He mentioned the entrance of KNUST, where students were at the mercy of hoodlums, as an example which necessitated the clearance to ward off miscreants.
Mr. Yeboah, who drove this reporter round the KNUST campus to have a look at the re-planting of trees exercise currently going on, revealed that they have had thousands of seeds from the Forestry Commission and Nana Dwomoh Sarpong of Friends and River Bodies to plant trees on campus.
He was emphatic that Prof Kwasi Obiri-Danso, Vice Chancellor, is an environmentalist and would not do anything that would harm the environment of KNUST.
Commenting on the engineering landscaping approach, he stated that the landscaping was done to protect pedestrians, who are largely students.
In a further interaction on phone about the killing of dwarf crocodiles on campus, he told this paper he was unaware that some students have been killing these animals upon seeing them.
He was emphatic that it is not a policy of the institution.
According to him, “as a people, because we do not know the value of these animals, we mistake them as enemies.”
Mr. Yeboah refuted that school authorities have felled trees around the Casely Hayford area, and explained that they cleared the area for greening, adding that the trees were felled long ago, and can be traced back to the days of Prof Adarkwa as Vice Chancellor of KNUST.
He was emphatic they did not clear the place, but to make the place look good such that people cannot hide over there to rob students off their belongings.
He said: “We would not want a situation where people can hide in vegetation and harm people. We have put up some coconut trees, royal palm to green the place. I hope we do not harm these animals and drop them where the habitat is good for them.”