Ghana is a country in West Africa. Home to a bounteous flora and fauna, it is a hotspot for biodiversity. But the country is fast losing that image. Ghana is a convergence of two biomes: Savanna (Guinea and Coastal) and Tropical Rainforest. The once lush Tropical Rainforest is now only patched in the south east and south west of the country. The iconic Savanna Grassland in Northern Ghana, home to a great biodiversity of wildlife is gradually making a way for desertification. It is not only terrestrial ecosystems in Ghana that are witnessing this great shift, aquatic ecosystems are losing its quality and resources every day. One of the most affected aquatic systems in Ghana is the Ankobra River. The one particular reason Ghana is losing its biodiversity is deforestation through mining and clearing for planting.

Illegal Mining in Ghana

Illegal mining popularly called ‘Galamsey’ in Ghana is the greatest threat to Country’s biodiversity and conservation. It has caused massive environmental damage. The Government estimates it will cost US$ 29 Billion to restore. A ban was placed on small scale mining. It is practised by individuals and small companies who do not have the industrial and infrastructural capacity for large scale industrial processing. Small scale mining is harmful when practised by individuals who do not understand or places conservation at the heart of their operations. Heavy metals such as mercury are not properly disposed and this has multiple consequencies on the health and quality of lives of people. Water is used to process ore. After processing, discharged mine effluent, seepage from tailings and waste rock impoundments find their way into the fresh waterbodies.

The Ankobra River

The Ankobra River rises north east of Wiawso, it flows about 190 kilometres (120 mi) south to the Gulf of Guinea. The River is fed by the Nini River. Small ships can navigate 80 kilometres (50 mi) inland, whilst the upper reaches are fast flowing and unstable. Conservation scientists and environmentalists fear that Ghana’s biodiversity and conservation will get worse considering the devastation that has occurred in one of Ghana’s most notable rivers. The Ankobra serve as a source of water for many communities along the river. Several families rely on the river for daily sustenance through fish farming.

The first image shows the current state of the Ankobra River now.The other images shows the nature of the Ankobra River less than 5 years ago. Illegal mining and pollution has taken hold. This have consequencies on aquatic life. The amount of oxygen in the water is lowered and build up of toxic chemicals cause death of important fauna in the water.

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Atewa Forest

Video Credit: AROCHA Ghana

 A part of the 23,000-hectare Atewa Forest Reserve in Ghana’s Eastern Region, home to some rare ecological populations, has been given out for mining. The forest has been included in a $2 billion barter deal with China.  China will mine bauxite in the forest and in exchange, Ghana will receive roads, hospitals, etc. Atewa is home to more than 1100 known plant species. More than 56 species are endangered. The forest also has a great diversity in butterfly populations.There are more than 70 butterfly species at Atewa. The species Mylothis atewa and Anthene helpsi are only know to habituate only at Atewa.

Interesting to Read: Hungry Bumblebees Trigger Early Flowering In Plants

Ghana’s Forest Cover Loss

According to the Government of Ghana’s Forest Commision, the country has lost about 80% of its forest cover between 1990 and 2018. The University of Maryland estimates that there was a 60% increase in Ghana’s primary rainforest loss in 2018 compared to 2017, the world’s highest. Ghana’s western neigbour, Ivory Coast came second with a 28% loss in its forest cover. Clearing for cocoa farming is the leading cause of deforestation in Ghana. Ghana and Ivory Coast are the top 2 producers of cocoa worldwide with a combined output of 60% of the world’s cocoa. In the northern part of the country, constant bush burning and the production of charcoal has depleted large swathes of the Savanna.

Renewable natural resources are essential in the sustainable development of every nation. It is essential that nations protect their ecological resources as a top priority. and maintain balance in the environment. Ghana’s journey to sustainable development is incomplete if the most important ecological resources are not part of the plan.

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