The Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Mr Akwasi Opong-Fosu, has, as a matter of urgency, directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce regulations that require individuals and institutions to obtain permits before they can cut trees in their communities.
He said the directive was to curtail the indiscriminate cutting of trees in such areas, particularly in Accra, for various development projects.
“Under the country’s environmental law, it is an offence to undertake any activity that is likely to impact significantly on the environment without obtaining the necessary environmental permit,” he said.
Mr Opong-Fosu gave the directive in Accra last Wednesday at a news conference on measures that the ministry, in collaboration with its stakeholders, was taking to ensure adherence to environmental laws.
The meeting was also to provide update on measures that the ministry was putting in place to enforce the various environmental laws and regulations in the country.
Mr Opong-Fosu said the ministry had noted with great concern the continued environmental degradation in the country, particularly those relating to illegal mining, unapproved developments on lands, urban tree cover removal and destruction of green belt, among others.
He said those environmental challenges were serious in areas reserved as greenbelts, open spaces, buffer zones around water bodies, among others.
To that effect, he said the ministry, in collaboration with the EPA, would effectively prosecute all offenders identified to be involved in the commitment of environmental crimes because of their negative effects on national development.
Mr Opong–Fosu said as part of the direct principles of state policy, it was also the obligation of every citizen to safeguard the environment for prosperity, adding, “I am, therefore, calling on the citizenry to ensure that this requirement of the constitution is enforced”.
He said the ministry would collaborate with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to address institutional lapses and constraints to sound environmental management.
Answering questions on the encroachment of lands designated as green belt zones in the country, the Chief Executive Officer of EPA, Mr Daniel Amlalo, said the agency, together with the ministry, was working with the Town and Country Planning to rectify the situation.
He said, “In the meantime, we are using environmental assessment regulations of 1999 where people, before initiating development, apply to the agency for permit”.
He also said the EPA was working closely with the office of the Chief Justice to set up green courts to help expedite the prosecution of environmental cases.
On the issue of air pollution, particularly the burning of cow hide with car tyres into “wele” (edible hide) at the Mallam Junction in Accra, Mr Amlalo said the issue could be solved with the support of every member of the society.
“If we all take a decision to stop buying ‘wele,’ if we all take a decision and say that this is wrong and as Ghanaians we should stop it, then we will make a headway because the EPA is not everywhere but Ghanaians are”, he said.
He said though the agency had gone round with the support of the police to stop the menace, it was still going on and, therefore, urged all to stop buying ‘wele’.
Mr Amlalo also urged the media to help propagate the messages on the effect of environmental pollution.