Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) has suggested that the Achimota Forest should remain as a forest reserve and not be turned into an Eco Park.
He said the country would not derive enough environmental benefits from the Eco Park project, “rather it is the Atiwa and Kakum National Parks which could derive a lot of benefits when it is turned into Eco Park.”
“In my personal opinion the Achimota Forest should remain as a forest reserve, though the government has not yet decided on the issue,” Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said in an interview with The Ghanaian Times on the state of the Achimota Forest on Friday.
The Minister was then visiting the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority (LUPSA), a unit under his ministry in Accra, to acquaint himself with the operations of the LUPSA.
The forest, the only greenbelt in Accra, is rapidly being reduced in size as a result of encroachment and the use of portions of the land as refuse dumps by residents living nearby, leading to the initial coverage area of the forest of 500 hectares being reduced to less than 360 hectares.
He entreated the Forestry Services Division under the Forestry Commission to plant more trees and nurture the old ones, so as to revive the forest, saying the forest could be a learning centre where students could come and learn about trees.
The previous government planned turning the Achimota Forest into an Eco Park to boost tourism.
At the moment, apart from the Accra Zoo which was partly relocated to the Achimota Forest, the reserve is used by mainly religious groups for prayers and meditation.
When The Ghanaian Times visited the Forest in Accra yesterday, it was observed that the forest had been turned into prayer grounds as camps had been created in the forest for prayer activities.
It was also observed that some churches had mounted signboards to showcase their church and also direct people to their prayer camps within the forest.
In addition, The Ghanaian Times noticed a mountain of refuse some few metres away from the security post of the Achimota Forest, even though dust bins had been provided at vantage points.
The Environment Minister said religious groups and inviduals could pray and hold their religious activities in the forest, but should not be allowed to put up structures in the forest because it is unlawful.
“I’m not against any religion or people holding prayers in the forest, but I’m against the illegal erection of structures in the forest,” Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said.
The Minister, accompanied by Lawrence Z. Dakurah, the acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority (LUPSA), visited the Greater Accra and Accra Metropolitan offices of the LUPSA.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said the LUPSA played important role in the development of the country, but the public is not aware of what it does.
The LUPSA is in charge of spatial planning of the country, while the offices at the district level were in charge of issuing permits for the construction of buildings.
He entreated the Authority to establish a communications department to propagate its good works, saying that government had secured a land to construct an ultra-modern head office building for the Authority.