Ghana stands to generate US$1.1 billion annual revenue if the Atewa Forest is redeveloped into an ecotourism site.
According to a Green Development Strategy and Action Plan on the Atewa Landscape, ecotourism was a viable alternative to bauxite mining in the Atewa landscape which could increase government’s annual tax receipts by US$154 million.
Additionally, it noted that, redeveloping the forest into an ecotourists site would lead to the creation of an estimated 5,500 direct jobs and 23,000 indirect jobs as well 460 service enterprises.
The Green Development Strategy and Action Plan on the Atewa Landscape, was developed by Tropenbos Ghana, an environmentally-focused organisation, in collaboration with the European Union (EU) Delegation to Ghana.
It identified two other green development pathways including Landscape Emission Reduction and forest botanical harvest for export that were also sustainable and environmentally-friendly alternatives to bauxite mining in the Atewa Forest Region.
Discussing the Strategy and Action Plan at a validation workshop in Accra on Friday, Dr Daniel Kofi Abu, Project Manager of Tropenbos Ghana, said, it was sustainable that the forest was transformed into a national park as a hub of green and circular socioeconomic activities that provide jobsand incomes for communities in the area while protecting its biodiversity.
The park, he explained, could be enhanced by construction of unique tourism infrastructures and services in and around the forest to attract green development projects to make it a climate-smart and sustainable landscape.
He said the Atewa ecotourism project could be modeled on the Central Region Tourism Development Project, undertaken in partnership with private sector incentives and government investments, leading to attractions such as the Kakum National Park.
Dr Abu said a green pathway development roadmap for Atewa could produce superior benefits in the form of jobs, revenue and businesses compared to bauxite mining option.
Also, green pathway development, he stated, would also deliver significant benefits such as securing long-term water supply for residents of the Greater Accra Region.
He called on government to take steps to cancel all plans for bauxite mining in the Atewa forest and gazette the site as national park.
The ecotourism project, which would be a long term, he said, should be private sector-led development with government creating the enabling environment through business incentives and loan guarantees to leverage finance.
Citing Awaso in the Bibiani-Anhwiaso-Bekwai Municipality, where Bauxite mining had been ongoing for years, Dr Abu said Bauxite mining in the country had not led to any development in the area.
He said, developing Atewa forest into an ecotourism site would ensure government generate more revenue while protecting the environment and improving livelihoods.
Director of Tropenbos Ghana, MsMercy OwusuAnsah, said the Strategy and Action Plan had identified realistic opportunities for job creation within Ghana’s green economy, based on skill sets, potential skill enhancement and available financial instruments and mechanisms.
BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS