Published On: Fri, May 5th, 2017

Gas price hike a threat to Ghana’s forests

Ghana’s forestsfrom MASAHUDU KUNATEH in Accra, Ghana
ACCRA, (CAJ News) – THE price hike in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), a major source of fuel for Ghanaians is hitting locals hard in the pockets as well as threatening environmental preservation gains made by the West African country in combating deforestation.
The price surge has forced Ghanaians to revert to the use of charcoal and firewood.
A massive increase in petroleum products announced by the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) has seen gas shoot up from GH¢65 (about US$16,25) to GH¢100 for a standard, 14,5 kilogramme.
In addition, subsidies on the price of LPG and other petroleum products in the country were withdrawn in the just ended year -2016.
In the 1980s, the subsidies used to serve as a measure to get majority of the population to shift from charcoal and firewood to LPG, with the aim of conserving the forests and mitigate global warming.
Kojo Yeboah, a mobile money agent at Lapaz suburb in Accra, expressed worry if the LPG price continues to skyrocket, Ghanaians would have no option but to completely shun their LPG cylinders and turn to charcoal or wood.
“Imaging earning GH¢500 a month and spending GH¢100 on 14,5kilogramme cylinder for some weeks. You will have GH¢400 for feeding and transport, among others,” he stated.
An economist, Emmanuel Nii Abbey, concurred.
“It is going to be difficult. Households will stop buying LPG but opt for charcoal and firewood,” said Abbey.
George Tetteh, a public servant who works at one of the ministries, said he stopped using LPG for cooking because of the recent hike.
Marry Issahaka, a native of Tumu in the Upper West Region, who sells charcoal at North Kaneshie in Accra, is one of charcoal entrepreneurs cashing up.
“Of late the charcoal business is profitable than before. Most people come for the charcoal because of the recent LPG price hike,” she said.
United Kingdom-based Ghanaian economist and consultant, Kwame Adjei,emphasized, “Rational consumers always look for cheaper alternatives and that is exactly what they are doing.”
While the move by consumers to quit gas for wood and charcoal appears a “rational” one, analysts and environmentalists warned of consequences.
“Of late most homes are going for charcoal because of high LPG prices.
This has effects on the forest,” said Abbey.
“The effect of the price increase means if you are going to cook something that will take time, use charcoal or firewood,” added Nii Abbey.
Charcoal sellers are cashing in on the LPG price hike, which is detrimental to forest and the environment as whole.
“Not only depleting the forest is a problem, there are climatic concerns.
There is also emission of carbon dioxide to the environment,” Abbey indicated.
Environmental campaigners and have warned if care was not taken, the over 3 million rural Ghanaians who depend on the forest to survive will lose their livelihood.
Apart from the provision of food, fuel, clothing, shelter, furniture,natural medicine, potable water supply sources and bush meat for the rural dwellers, Ghana’s forest sector has for several decades been a major foreign exchange earner for the country, contributing between 4 and 6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
The forest area of Ghana is estimated at 9,17 million hectares, accounting for about 40 percent of the total national land.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), in 1992, it was estimated that only about 1,5 million hectares of “intact closed forest” were remaining in Ghana. The annual rate of deforestation was said to have slowed in the 1980s to about 22 000 ha.
Environmentalists therefore project the gains made to be reversed amid a surge of locals aborting gas for wood.
Forest fires and logging are exacerbating the situation.
However, residents are oblivious.
“I was able to take care of my five children through tertiary education because of charcoal production,” said a resident in Madina, Accra.
Such is the defiance that by-laws authorities enacted to protect economic trees such as Shea, Dawadawa, Sapele, Wawa and Mahogany are disrespected. “In our line of duty, we do not care about the by-laws,” said a charcoal producer.
Officials of the Forest Commission have blamed successive governments for lacking the commitment to protect the forest.
They mentioned several reasons besides fuel wood and charcoal that contributed to the alarming depletion rate of the forest.
These include illegal mining activities at forest reserves. Illegal felling of trees and construction of highways through forest reserves have also reduced forest resource base.
Government has however played down the issue.
In its Strategic National Energy Plan, 2006-2020, government said it was possible to meet the wood demand required for firewood and charcoal production “under moderately high economic growth scenario.”
This would see the expansion of the nation’s artificial forest plantations from the current 750 000 hectares to over 6,5 million hectares by 2020.
These plantations would be complemented by nationwide promotion of energy efficient stove and conservation programmes to reduce the wood demand by at least 1 million tonnes annually.
Government is also confident of the massive forest plantation development programme that aims at planting about 20 000 hectares of trees per annum.
The Forest Commission has established a Rapid Response Team deployed into hotspots to deal with illegal chainsaw operators.
“The commission has obtained approval from the Attorney General to carry out prosecution of forest offences which was hitherto handled by the police,” said a spokesperson.
CAJ News

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