The Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo, has downplayed degradation concerns with the Atiwa rainforest reserve in Kyebi, stemming from Ghana’s decision to leverage bauxite deposits on a deal with China, that could see $15 billion pumped into the economy.
Critics have warned that the deal to exploit the about-$460 billion worth of bauxite in the area could potentially pollute water sources, like the River Birim, around the reserves, but speaking on the BBC’s Focus on Africa on Thursday, Mr. Osafo Maafo indicated that the bauxite could be exploited without harming the river.
The Senior Minister also said there could be a scenario where the Atiwa forest was not considered for bauxite exploration.
He noted that “there are two major deposits of bauxite in Ghana, the bigger one is the Nyinahin deposit, and not the Atiwa one. Therefore, what we are talking about can be done without touching the Atiwa [Forest].”
But in the event it became necessary to tap into the bauxite deposits in Atiwa, Mr. Osafo Maafo said this could be done without polluting the Birim.
“You can exploit the bauxite in Atiwa from the north-eastern side without affecting the River Birim… The bauxite deposit covers a very extensive area. The river takes its sources from a particular side and you can do it without affecting the river source.”
The Birim River is already heavily polluted as a result of illegal mining activities.
On the long-term benefits of the deal, the Senior Minister toed the line of the Akufo-Addo administration’s rhetoric on job creation and said the government was “more that satisfied that this will benefit the ordinary Ghana.”
“The creation of employment out the exploitation of our natural resources can only be beneficial to our people in terms of job creation. If you have $460 billion worth of items and you need $10 billion to access it and create employment in the region of over 100,000, then what you must be mindful of is the price at which you barter this product for the $10 billion.”
After the Vice President returned from China with news of the $15 billion commitment from the Asian powerhouse, the Director of the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEDC), Dr. Steve Manteaw urged cautious optimism with respect to the conditions of the deal.
The Vice President had indicated that the China deal would leverage heavily on Ghana’s untapped natural resources such as bauxite and iron ore.
The environmental angle soon came to the fore when an opposition MP and former Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini warned of far-reaching implications on Atiwa, which has been declared a global biodiversity area because of the presence of exotic species.
Also, A Rocha Ghana, a conservationist NGO, said Ghana risked a severe water crisis if it sacrificed its bauxite resources in the Atiwa Forest Reserve.
The NGO said more than 5 million Ghanaians including residents in some parts of Accra may not have access to potable water when the move is initiated.
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(Via: CitiFM Online Ghana)