By Maxwell Ofori
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has indicated that mining bauxites in the Atiwa forest of the Eastern Region would not disturb the wildlife in the reserve.
According to the President, per the briefings given him and demonstrations done, he was satisfied that it was possible to undertake the project without troubling the biota.
“…I am satisfied by what I have been told and what has been demonstrated to me that, it is possible for us to get [our bauxite] out, without disturbing the wildlife in the Atewa mountains. This is something that we have to keep our eyes on all the time…,” he asserted.
President Akufo-Addo was speaking last Friday during a panel dialogue in Accra, on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including goal 14; conserve and sustainably use the ocean sea and marine resources for sustainable development.
The event formed part of the Norwegian Prime Minister, Erna Solberg’s visit to Ghana; the first to come to Ghana from her country in that capacity. She, together with President Akufo-Addo were the panelists. They also are Co-Chairs of the Group of Eminent Advocates for the SDGs, appointed by the United Nation’s Secretary General, António Guterres.
The President was responding to a question by the moderator, CITI FM’s Benard Avle, on how the country could exploit its resources, including bauxite, but at the least cost to the environment.
In his response, President Akufo-Addo described the point as legitimate balance, but added that today’s technology is much more sensitive than it was decades ago, thus placing the country in a better position to protect the environment, whilst exploiting its resources for development.
To him, the most important thing is for authorities responsible to be honest to the nation and ensure that people who have been given concessions, whether on the sea for oil, or in the forest for bauxite, were doing the right thing.
“…This is something that we have to keep our eyes on all the time. It is in the same way; what is being done in the sea; a very major part of concession that you give to people to come and look for oil in our waters has an environmental impact.
“It is important that those who are responsible for making that assessment are accurate, they are true, they are honest…So, that in itself is a major concern…,” he stressed.
The discussion comes at a time when civil society groups, as well as the Christian Council, have expressed dismay at government’s decision to use the Atiwa reserve for bauxite to develop the nation.
These groups have advocated that government preserved the forest and made it a national park. The forest serves, as a source of water for some part of the country, apart from its wildlife for tourism.
Ostensibly, genuinely as the concerns may be, President Akufo-Addo, whose mantra has been to industralise the country, with the aim of putting it on a situation beyond aid was convinced that, the only way was to use the natural resources to develop the country.
He was more persuaded, especially when poverty seems to be the beautiful cloth, covering most of the citizens and the need to lift them out of poverty, something his government is desirous about.
“…I think that we have no option. We have to make the best of the resources that we have. We have major challenges. Majority of our people are poor and we have to lift them out of poverty and we can only do so by using the resources that we have.
“Especially, since in my view, the time when we are on our knees, begging other people for them to give us money to [ensure] our development.
“It is something that should belong to a shameful past. So what is important for us is to keep our eyes on both goals. The requirement of development and at the same time the balance we must strike with the nature and environment [with find ourselves in],” he remarked.
Government has set up a body, known as Ghana Integrated Aluminium Development Corporation (GIADEC) to develop its aluminum industry. This followed a barter agreement it signed with Chinese company, Sinohydro, for $2 billion worth of developmental projects, to be paid with ores from refined aluminum to be done in Ghana.
Earlier, the President, together with the Norwegian Prime Minister had held a media encounter after signing agreements to strengthen the bilateral relations that exist between both countries.
Held at the Jubilee House last Friday, as part of the Prime Minis
ter’s visit, the presser created an opportunity for the two leaders who are leading advocates for the implementation of the SDGs to share their observations on the attainment of the goals.
Two journalist each from Ghana and Norway asked the opposite leaders questions on the SDGs, fisheries agreement signed between the countries, and making Accra one of the cleanest cities in Africa.