Sustainable Development

ACCRA, Ghana (PAMACC News) - Hundreds of illegally imported mattresses confiscated by Ghana’s customs authority were recently burnt openly at a landfill site.

The destruction of the impounded goods is in line with laws prohibiting the entry of used mattresses into the country.

It is common place to see thousands of cartons of cigarette, canned food, drugs, wax prints and other restricted or unwholesome goods burnt openly.

Environmental concerns have however been raised about the practice of burning such materials, due to the gases emitted into the atmosphere.

Kwaku Abeeku, who manages Green Energy and Logistics Consults, says Ghana as a signatory to various international agreements on climate change, including the Paris Agreement, must reconsider alternatives to the burning of impounded goods as soon as possible.

“In the case of these open burns, aside the issue of Carbon Monoxide, these imported mattresses are mainly synthetic foams containing petroleum based chemicals and sometimes even fire retardants,” he observed. “Aside emissions, people living in the immediate environments of these burn sites and the country at large are put in a rather bad situation as we commit to global moves in combating climate change”.

Ghana, in its international obligations as a Party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is guided by its own commitments in the nationally determined contribution (NDC) to climate change mitigation.

As an obligation at the multilateral level, Ghana reaffirms its resolve to support global efforts to define a common future that seeks to safeguard the collective interest of all nations by supporting the 2015 Paris global agreement on climate change.

The implementation of climate actions is expected to help attain low carbon climate resilience through effective adaptation and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction.

In 2017, Ghana at the UN Conference of Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany, pledged the country’s commitment to help combat climate change and adapt to its effects.

The destruction of contraband mattresses, clothing, food and pharmaceutical products through open burning is therefore regarded as negating the country’s commitment to climate mitigation.

Kwaku Abeeku has challenged the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and other institutions responsible for best environmental practices to help halt the open burning of materials.

“I believe the time to make climate and environmental concern a culture and environmental responsiveness a mandatorily measured policy is now,” he said.

ASHANTI, Ghana (PAMACC News) - Timeabu, a farming community in the Ashanti region of Ghana, has in the past experienced levels of devastation of cocoa trees as a result of bad weather and poor rainfall with adverse impact on production.

 To protect dying cocoa trees and the local ecology, the Centre for Climate Change and Food Security (CCCFS), a Ghanaian-based non-governmental organization, has adopted the community to pilot a tree planting program.

Since December 2017, the Centre has planted 200 trees on cocoa farms and other areas of the community, in addition to sensitization on best farming practices.

A beneficiary, Nana Dasebere Boama Darko, says the farmers are excited the trees will relieve them of severe weather condition and help provide the needed shade to nourish their crops.

The Centre plans to extend the exercise to other communities across the country.

“Protecting the ecology is very important. We are likely to live a shameful life if trees continue to die everyday,” said Mahmud Mohammed-Nurudeen, Executive Director of CCCFS. “Planting of the trees is also to sequester carbon, and help remove carbon dioxide from the air, which cools the earth.”

Despite their importance to life, humans have cut down half of the world's trees.

“Every year we cut down over 50,000 square miles of forest worldwide for paper, agriculture, building materials and fuel,” observed Mohammed-Nurudeen.

 Several research have proven that carbon release from deforestation accounts for 25 to 30 percent of the four to five billion tons of carbon accumulating every year in the atmosphere from human activities.

 Ghana Bureau Chief of ClimateReporters, Kofi Adu Domfeh, who is among lead supporters of the tree planting exercise, emphasized the need to put the trees back “any way we can, as fast as we can”.

 “What you may not know is that trees also build soil and offer energy-saving shade that reduces global warming,” he said. “We want to create habitat for thousands of different species and also help to reduce ozone levels.”

 The initiative is also supported by the Economy for the Common Good and senior officers of the Ghana Cocoa Board, Fuad Mohammed and Asante Abednago, who have committed to the community outreach to help rural farmers contribute to the government's target of producing one million tonnes of cocoa.

 The CCCFS aims to provide enabling environment for all species, make issues of food security relevant and tackle climate change head-on to make Ghana a better place to live.

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (PAMACC News) - In the face of multiple urban climate challenges with rising temperatures ,persistent floods , drought  and other climate threats that are menacing Cameroon’s major cities , the government  is multiplying efforts for a green city drive as the country prepares to host the 2019 African Nations Cup.

Authorities say they have pledged to steer deforested cities from edge of climate disasters with a multi-facet urban city greening project.

"It is our responsibility to give our cities the much needed environmental facelift and make them safe now and in the future,"  says  the minister of forestry and wildlife , Jules Doret Ndongo , at the launching of the 2018 tree planting season in Bertoua in the East region, May 4th.

 The Minister of Environment, Nature Protection and Sustainable Development in collaboration with WWF and partners, on May 28 2018, on his part mounted the first ever giant biodiversity poster in the 2 international airports in Cameroon to walk the green city talk.

The event accordingly marked the end of 2018 biodiversity day celebrations and beginning of World Environment Day celebrations in Cameroon.

Environment experts say Cameroon has multiplied  investment efforts in recent years in line with the government’s drive towards economic emergence by 2035 ,triggering rapid  disappearance of its forested areas with  expanding urbanization and population surge in most cities.

"Cameroon is on the move with multiple investments as the country pushes towards economic emergence. Unfortunate this also means sacrificing huge forested areas where these projects are located," says Zachee Nzoh Ngandembou,CEO of the Centre for Environment and Rural Transformation,CERUT, an NGO that promotes rural development in Cameroon.

 A report by Global Forest Watch shows forest loss in Cameroon of 777,000 hectares between 2001 and 2015.

Experts say the deforestation has since 2016 aggravated with heavy investment projects in cities following Cameroon’s preparation to host the 2019 African Cup of Nations Games. Many of these infrastructures in roads, stadia and other sports training grounds,hotels ,urban housing scheme etc have seen large portions of hitherto forest lands sacrificed exposing many cities to  scorching heat and high temperatures and other climate extremes.

 "Forest losses not only hurt ecosystems and drive climate change but put the livelihood of millions of city dwellers in danger,"  says Paul Donfack, a consultant with the African Forest Forum.

The  environmental impact of forest loss is really immeasurable with extreme weather like rising city temperatures, heavy floods, droughts and water shortages thus putting the lives of vulnerable population at risk, he says.

 But the government is hoping  the new urban greening forests project will help cities catch up with the loses.

"The new urban reforestation project will help boost the tree planting schemes launched by the government in 2017," says  Bruno Mfou’ou Mfou’ou, director of forestry in the ministry of forestry and wildlife.

The government in 2017 launched a project to restore 12 million hectares (30 million acres) of deforested land to redress the challenges of dwindling forests and help mitigate the effects of climate change, he said.

"The urban city greening scheme is an addition to boost  what the government started in 2017,"  Bruno said.

The sum of over 600million FCFA annual support  to the selected city councils has been earmarked, he disclosed.

The project will assist councils deal with deforestation, climate extreme problems from flooding,drought and increasing temperatures, to water shortages as most city population and urbanization continue to swell.  

« The city greening project will involve tree planting principlally targeting flood-prone areas, multiple recreational spots as well as the drought stricken Cameroon’s northern regions, » Minister Jules Doret Ndongo said.

The government accordingly has not been left alone in the city greening excercise experts say.

Earlier on March 21, during activities to celebrate International Forest Day forest stakeholders in Yaounde led by Green Peace and international NGO , launched a pilot green space project at the Baptist High School- Awai.

The forest experts called on the government to put in place national policies that will support sensitisation efforts about the importance of trees in urban cities.

" We call on the Cameroon government to institute a national policy that will ensure sustainable tree in cities," said Greenpeace Africa’s Environmental Ambassador, Biakolo Onana Alain.

Greenpeace Africa Forest Campaigner, Sylvie Djacbou emphasised on the need to protect the Congo Basin Forest. “By its sheer size, the Congo Basin Forest serves as a large carbon reservoir of global significance for regulating greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide. Greenpeace stands with local and indigenous communities to protect the forest against illegal industrial agriculture and land grabbing,” concluded Djacbou.

According to the government project plan,the multi-faceted scheme that will also boost the forest in the Congo Basin region,involve not only the planting of some 600.000 trees anually for the next five years but also supporting some water supply projects like rain water harvesting, boreholds as well as draining schemes and sewage disposal began by some city councils like Douala and Yaounde.

Council authorities say multiplying  tree-replete recreational spots in cities will help inhabitants find safe havens against rising city temperatures and set refforestation examples that could be replicated in other coutries in the Congo Basin region.

Environment experts have saluted the scheme to engage city councils on a genuine green economy path that offers solutions for both climate and agriculture challenges.

« It is economically advanatageous if projects like these are owned and run by local councils.This is attractive for green private sector investments more generally, » says Augustine Njamnshi ,CEO of Bio-Resource Centre an NGO on environment in Yaounde.

Many cities in Cameroon like Doaual and Yaounde have recently suffered from water shortages, floods and other climate challenges attributed to disappearing forest.

In 2017 several roads and buildings in Cameroon’s economic capital, Douala were submerged following days of heavy rains, trapping several residents in their homes for days.

 
Experts say this has been a common phenomenon across Africa.

According to a 2017 report by Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings Institute,Africa contains 7 out of the 10 countries that are considered the most threatened by climate change globally.

 Extreme weather events are taking a toll on African cities which are growing rapidly and threatening the livelihoods of millions of people across the continent, the report says

The goverment local councils are however hopeful the green city project will help these cities find ways to combat these climate triggered challenges.

According to the government delegate to the Limbe Urban Council, the Green City project will in the long term make the touristic coastal town even more attractive to tourists and other visitors who love greeneries.

« Limbe is a town of friendhip and we are hopefull the creation of new green spaces will come to swell our visitors especially those who love greeneries, » says Andrew Motanga, government delegate to the Yaounde city council.

NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - This year’s World Environment Day (WED) comes when the ogre of corruption, threatening to tear apart the fabric of our society is dominating the national debate in Kenya.

The World Environmental day celebrated on the 5th of June every year, seeks to raise consciousness and rally people across the world on the importance of a clean environment.

Thousands of activities, including tree planting, clean-ups, workshops, conferences and rallies are held, depending on the context in various parts of the globe.

The theme of this year’s WED, is “Beat plastics pollution”, and is being hosted by India. This year, we focus on the environmental challenges we face due to the piles of plastics produced and dumped on land and sea every hour, and their adverse effects on the beauty of the earth and the oceans. The global focus on this theme brings the issue of policy making and intervention to the centre-stage, with a view to “doing something” to arrest the problem.

Thousands of trees will be planted during this day, while tons of plastics will be collected and piled at some safer place away from people and water. The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) will join several partners, led by the City County of Nairobi, to plant trees at Kikuyu Springs, one of the main sources of the water we drink in the city, which is threatened by encroachment by private developers, illicit tree poachers and degradation.

Planting trees and collecting garbage in front of cameras, as many leaders have done during this rainy season, is one commendable thing. And tending those trees to maturity and stopping garbage gettingpile-up should be a process rather than an event. These symbolic gestures by the top leadership should be followed by a more sustainable effort to harvest this goodwill by institutions entrusted to guard our environmental with preservation and protection.

But due to the runaway corruption which has passed the red line, any effort to reverse the damage visited upon the environment will likely be futile. Indeed, the report of the taskforce appointed by Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary KeriakoTobiko exposed the rot in the Forestry department and recommended drastic action against forest officials who have plundered this important national resource. One of the chilling revelations of the report is the fact that a whooping two billion shillings earmarked for a school forestry programme, was misappropriated. This is in addition to thousands of tons of trees which were felled by unscrupulous merchants in collusion with people who were entrusted with the responsibility to keep watch over our forests across the country.

It will therefore be a pointless attempt and narrow way of seeing things if we plant trees without minding whether the land on which we are planting will be a target by marauding land grabbers and speculators. It will also be waste of resources and valuable time if we collect all that garbage just for the camera, and when we go back home, we are the first to throw away that kitchen left-overs and bottles without thinking about their immediate impact on their destinations – land and ocean.

Tackling corruption of any magnitude calls for consciousness beginning from the individual level and our individual actions on the environment, as it should start with “me”. And that is how we should tackle corruption. If we resist that bribe, small or big, to stop the marauding land-grabber, we will see our trees growing.
 

The war on corruption cannot be won by the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and allied Agencies if individual citizens remain indifferent. Whether in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, or the entire system of the government, the dragon of corruption will only be slayed if all people, the poor and the rich, the powerful and the powerless, the haves and have-nots, accept and join hands in all the spaces of work, whether in public places and or in private homes.

Transparency and Accountability are key provisions of the Paris Agreement, the global Pact to combat climate change, which poses the biggest threat to the survival of humanity and health of the planet. Plastics, which are also known as polymers, are produced by the conversion of natural products or by synthesis from primary chemicals generally coming from oil, natural gas, or coal. Science tells us that the fossil fuel-based energy sources such as oil and coal, as well as land-use and land-use change, are the main causes of climate change.

As we seek to fight one time plastics, as per the theme of this year’s WED, we are contributing to the goal of the UN Climate Change Convention and the Paris Agreement, which seeks to limit greenhouse gases which are the primary causes of climate change. The Paris Agreement, to which Kenya is a signatory, envisions the challenge corruption, lack of accountability and transparency would have in the achievement of its overall goal, and particularly when implementing policies and mitigation and adaptation actions.

All climate response programmes supported by Donors, such as the forest management supported by the World Bank and which is supposed to be implemented by UNDP and the State Department of Environment, require high degree of transparency and accountability.  In addition, it goes without saying that respect for the rights of forest communities like the Sengwer of ElgeyoMarakwet County should be upheld at all times. This will removes any barriers to project implementations to such noble ideas as the Shs.360 Million Programme, whose commencement has been delayed due to various issues, including disagreements with indigenous communities.

Many opportunities abound as the country readies itself for the implementation of its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), a set of actions under its Paris Agreement obligation. This will however be derailed by the nauseating reports from corruption, not only from the department of Forestry, but also other Agencies of the Government, the most blatant being the National Youth Service, as well as the National Cereals and Produce Board. The dragon of corruption should not be let to eat the yoke of future generations, nor should it be let to cannibalize the very sources of livelihood of the people of this great nation.

The writer is the Executive Director, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (www.pacja.org)

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