Mr Benito Owusu-Bio, the deputy minister of lands and natural resources for Ghana, has announced that the ministry will soon demolish all buildings on the central portions of the Sakumono Ramsar Site in Accra. He disclosed that the ministry is currently engaged in ongoing discussions about how to reclaim taken-over areas of the Ramsar site with stakeholders, including members of the regional security council.
Although the minister was unable to estimate the number of acres that had been encroached upon, he did declare that every structure that was within the waterway and the new boundary that would be established would be demolished.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority both own property parcels in Accra, and neither has escaped the developers’ indiscriminate encroachment rampage. Developers have been openly disregarding sites that serve as floodplains when encroaching on state-owned territory in recent years.
On June 22, the Greater Accra Regional Security Council demolished all unauthorized buildings on CSIR-owned property. On July 8, Messers Aynok Holding Limited, a private company hired by the government, razed all buildings on state land in Mhepehuasem, an Accra suburb that housed properties owned by Ideal College.
Another bone of contention involves allegations that Kwakwo Owusu Afriyie, a former chief executive of the Forestry Commission, left his family members a “5.07-acre” land he acquired at the Sakumono Ramsar site when the Accra-based The Fourth Estate leaked his will after the government declassified the Achimota Forest in an effort to return some land to the original family, the Owoo family.
In the midst of the anger, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources informed Ghanaians that no land in the Ramsar site included in the late New Patriotic Party General Secretary’s will would be given to the alleged beneficiaries.
After that, the Special Prosecutor’s Office froze the late CEO’s assets while it started looking into the details of the will. However, on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, an Accra High Court presided over by Her Ladyship, Justice Afia Serwaa Asare Botwe, declined to approve the asset freezing decision by the OSP. The office has declared that it will review the judgment.
Sakumono Ramsar Site comprises a coastal brackish-saline lagoon and the surrounding floodplains, freshwater marsh, coastal savannah grasslands with thicket vegetation, and a narrow sand-dune connection to the sea. Over 70 waterbird species, estimated to number 30,000 individuals, depend on the Site’s resources during migratory and reproduction periods.
Notable species include waders such as the spotted redshank and common greenshank (Tringa erythropus and Tringa nebularia), the collared pratincole Glareola pratincola, sandpipers, curlew, little stint Calidris minuta, the black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa and the black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus, as well as terns such as Sterna albifrons and Thalasseus sandvicensis.
The wetland is important for marine and freshwater fish species including the blackchin tilapia Sarotherodon melanotheron, which represents about 97% of the fish population. Hundreds of local communities rely on the fishing industries for their livelihoods. The Site is also used for agriculture, industrial development and recreation.
The major threats are rapid population growth, urbanization, and the presence of sewage and domestic waste. “There is a previous boundary, that boundary has been encroached so much and we are trying to draw another boundary. The middle of that boundary will be treated as the core area,” Mr Owusu-Bio assured at a press conference on 12th July in Accra.
“Those who are constructing in the waterway, this is a warning to them, very soon, we will be coming there with the regional security council. If we determine that you are in the water, yes, your building will be brought down. And if you fall within that core area, then their buildings will be brought down.,” he added.
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