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Press Release: Ghana Institute of Planners calls on Government to Halt the declassification of Achimota Forest Reserve

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The Ghana Institute of Planners (GIP) is an internationally recognized body of professional planners in  Ghana. As the lead institution for promoting high standards of professional planning practice and advocacy in Ghana, and in line with its planning activism, the Institute advocates for the protection and preservation of the natural environment. In the interest of the public and the ethics of the planning profession, the GIP  hereby states its position on the E.I. 144, which declassifies 361.50 Acres of the Achimota Forest as non-forest reserve effective May 1, 2022. 

Evidently, the Gold Coast colonial government compulsorily acquired the total area of land known as the  Achimota lands. The certificates of title dated 16th December 1921 and 17th May 1927 under the Public  Lands Ordinance of 1876 for the establishment of the Prince of Wales College (now Achimota School). A  portion of the land constituted a forest reserve to provide among others, a buffer between the college and the city of Accra, and to provide cheap fuelwood (an important resource at the time) for the college. The forest reserve mentioned above is what is currently known as the Achimota Forest Reserve, a much larger expanse than what is available at present. A Certificate of Title (No. 869/1921) indicates the Owoo Family and the Government of Ghana reached an agreement that led to the payment of four thousand pounds  (£4,000.00) to the Family as compensation. 

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However, on May 17, 2022, a press release signed by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources claimed, “there are no records of payment of compensation for the 1927 acquisition. Also, the statement asserted that, following encroachment on the Achimota Forest Reserve, the Owoo Family (identified as the original owners of the land) petitioned Government for the release of portions of the Forest Reserve specified in E.I. 144. “This led to the publication of the two instruments, the Forests (Cessation of Forest  Reserve) Instrument, 2022 (E.I 144), and the Forests (Achimota Firewood Plantation Forest Reserve)  (Amendment) Instrument, 2022 (E.I. 154).”. Conspicuously, GIP expresses grave concern over the publication of a gazette for the Forests (Cessation of Forest Reserve) Instrument, 2022 (E.I 144) leading to the loss of 361.50 Acres of the over 100 years old Achimota Forest Reserve in Accra, one of the largest urban green infrastructures in the city of Accra. 

Thus, the Ghana Institute of Planners (GIP) notes with concern the following: 

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1. that the decision to declassify the 361.50 Acres of the Achimota Forest emanates from a limited appreciation of the uncompromising benefits of urban forest reserves. The Achimota Forest  Reserve provides important social and ecological benefits for residents of Accra and beyond. This  Forest reservation helps create an aesthetic environment and contributes to keeping the climate stable, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Also, it serves as a home to some species found on land – a rich variety of life that keeps many natural systems running. The entirety of the  Achimota Forest is an important public good and a subject of ecological security that ought to be protected by the Government of Ghana. Any pecuniary cost aimed at protecting this forest can therefore not be a discretionary one. 

2. that the declassified 361.50 Acres of the Achimota Forest Reserve are not peripheral but integral part to maintain the Forest’s ecological integrity. Again, the declassification of the 361.50 Acres of the Achimota Forest Reserve amount to the loss of 146 hectares. What is worrisome is the ecological injury the E.I. 144 inflicts on the over hundred-year-old revered ecologically secured and trusted Achimota Forest Reserve in the city of Accra. Thus, the reserve which has already lost  27% of its cover to developers will further lose 41% to E.I 144, the biggest loss in the history of  the Achimota Forest Reserve. The cumulative effect is that effective May 1, 2022, the Achimota  Forest Reserve has lost close to 57% of its original size to uses other than ecological preservation.  Currently, the original size of the Forest Reserve has reduced from 495 hectares since the year  1927 to 214 hectares with E.I 144 in force in 2022, thereby posing an immediate threat to urban  ecological security and integrity in Accra. Overall, E.I 144 has provoked the national and global  quest for sustainable cities and integrating climate change measures into national policies and  planning. Thus, an action to recover and protect the ecological integrity of the Achimota Forest  Reserve and all other Forests reserves in Ghana is timely and critically needed. 

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3. that the processes leading to change of use of the 361.50 Acres of the Achimota Forest is  inconsistent with the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act 2016, Act 925. While the GIP  acknowledges that Traditional Authorities, Families, and individuals have the right to own land,  the use of such land is determined by an approved zoning scheme [Section 87 (1) under Act 925]  by the District Assembly.  

Thus, as a professional body, the GIP is drawing Government’s attention to the non-negotiable ecological  importance of the Achimota Forest, improving the air quality, managing storm water in a flood-prone city  like Accra and mitigating urban heat islands. These are critical for attaining the Sustainable Development  Goals, particularly goal 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and goal 13 (climate action). Given this  background, any policy that threaten the sustainability of such important ecological resource is a travesty  to the whole idea of sustainable development. It is for this reason that many cities in the global north  consciously and conspicuously integrate green infrastructure into their cityscape. Also, population-green  space ratio is as important as any indicator of development. Thus, our national policies, strategies and  actions must shift towards sustainability, ecological, environmental and social progress. Undoubtedly, as  humans, our insatiable material transaction with the natural environment must not proceed unguarded. 

The GIP is convinced that the Achimota Forest is the only green cover/reserve in Accra that has been  effectively maintained despite encroachment, thus, it must be protected. The GIP is aware of the  Government of Ghana’s commitment to implementing the Green Ghana Project and protecting the  Achimota Forest Reserve and many other forests reserves in Ghana. In so doing, the Institute  recommends the leadership of the Government to take immediate action to suspend the  declassification of the 361.50 Acres of the Achimota Forest Reserve. Thus, the Institute will continue  to engage the leadership of the Government of Ghana and the appropriate agencies both local and  international to recover and protect the ecological integrity of the Achimota Forest Reserve and all other  Forest Reserves in Ghana.

GIP’s Demands from the Government 

First, as a matter of urgency, the Government should immediately halt the declassification of the  361.50 Acres of the Achimota Forest Reserve as non-forest reserve and adequately consult all  stakeholders in compliance with Section 93(4) of the the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act 2016, Act  925. Additionally, the government through the Forestry Commission should roll out programmes to  raise awareness on the protection of Ghanaian forests and particularly engage in policy dialogue on  sustainable forest conservation and uses as a means to achieve the economic, social, cultural and  environmental benefits by minimizing the trade-offs.  

Second, the government should direct sufficient non-discretionary funding and action to recover  degraded areas and maintain the ecological integrity of the entire Achimota Forest Reserve. Other  funding opportunities should be explored by collaborating with civil society organizations to solicit  funds from endowment funds to protect the forest. This aspect is in line with the United Nations’  Food and Agriculture Organization advise to countries to halt deforestation in all its forms and to  restore degraded forests. According to FAO (in 2020), halting deforestation and maintaining forests  could prevent emitting an estimated 3.6 gigatonnes of CO2 annually between 2020 and 2050,  constituting 14% of what is needed by 2030 to keep global warming below 1.5 oC while protecting  50% of the Earth’s biological diversity. Ghana cannot and must not stand aloof in the global fight against climate and environmental deterioration. 

Finally, the Government should publicly commit to enhancing collaboration with stakeholders to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation in Ghana with definite timelines as a matter of intergeneration equity. 

See attached the Press release

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