By Kofi Adu Domfeh
A civil action has been instituted against the government of Ghana over its plans to exploit the Atewa Range Forest for bauxite.
The action intends to protect and safeguard the environment pursuant to the constitutional duty imposed under Article 41(k) of the Constitution of Ghana, 1992.
A coalition of NGOs and individuals, led by A Rocha Ghana, filed the notice with the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Gloria A. Akuffo, in pursuant to Section 10 of the State Proceeding Act 1998, Act 555.
Several institutions including EcoCare Ghana, Ghana Youth Environment Movement and Save the Frogs Ghana have affirmed their support to ensure governments, both now and in the future, respect the right of Ghanaians to a safe and healthy environment.
“It is unfortunate that we have to fight our own government to protect the environment,” said the groups in a statement.
“We being good citizens, support government’s quest to develop Ghana and, as part of such efforts, to raise funds through various endeavours including exploiting the country’s resources. However, it is the case that Ghana does not need to exploit the Atewa Forest bauxite reserves since there are far richer bauxite reserves according to information available to government and to the entire Ghanaian populace. Also, considering the critical importance of the Atewa Forest Range to Ghana’s water supply system, biodiversity and natural climate change adaptation, it would be best not to exploit the Atewa Range Forest”.
The Atewa Forest has long been recognized as a nationally important reserve because its mountains contain the headwaters of three river systems – the Ayensu, Densu and Birim rivers – which serve as the source of domestic, agricultural and industrial water for communities in parts of Accra, Oda, Kade and Koforidua.
The Densu River Basin has an area of 2,490km2 and spans 11 local government assemblies in the Central, Eastern and Greater Accra regions.
There are about 200 settlements situated along the Basin with a total population of over 600,000, equivalent to 240 persons per km2 whose livelihoods depend directly or indirectly on the resource.
A number of local and international civil society organizations have in the past embarked on series of campaigns to steer government away from its decision in mine in the area.
In the same spirit of environmental protection, a petition has been presented to both the Presidency and Parliament but the Government of Ghana consistently demonstrates no interest in these actions.
The notice for civil action has been served bearing in mind several constitutional actions to draw government’s attention to the fact that mining in the Atewa Forest would be very detrimental.
The intended Reliefs of the notice include:
1. Declaration that the right to life and dignity as enshrined in the Constitution of Ghana, 1992 which includes (a) the right to a clean and healthy environment and (b) the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations.
2. A declaration that mining bauxite in the Atewa Forest violates the right to life and dignity enshrined under articles 13 and 15 of the Constitution.
3. An order, compelling the Government of Ghana and its agents to take the necessary steps to protect Atewa Forest Range in accordance with constitutional obligations as contained under article 36(9) of the constitution.
4. An order, restraining the Government of Ghana, its assigns and agents, servants, workmen, allottees and guarantees whatsoever and howsoever described from undertaking mining and its related activities in the Atewa Forest Range.