A total of 181 suspects have been arrested in connection with illegal chainsaw operations and 98,566 pieces of assorted lumber seized by a task force in the past six months, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh, has revealed.
He added that 44 chainsaw machines and 34 dredging machines popularly known as ‘Chanfan’ used for illegal mining on river beds in some forest reserves, were also destroyed.
He made these known on Tuesday, 4 December 2018 during an interaction with the media.
This compares with the arrest of 185 suspects and seizure of over 53,600 pieces of assorted lumber and 158 chainsaw machines in 2017.
The strategy of this approach is to be able to combat illegal activities at the field or forest level as well as the transport routes/roads.
The Forestry Commission resourced and deployed 18 Rapid Response Teams to hot spots of illegal mining activities in forest districts and wildlife protected areas to undertake the operations.
These are mobile units that have received military training and are arms-bearing teams within the Forestry Commission.
The minister said the action was undertaken to combat the increasing spate of illegal logging, mining, farming, and other illegal activities in our forest reserves and wildlife-protected areas.
The minister said the other approach adopted in fighting illegal logging is through the implementation of the Voluntary
Partnership Agreement (VPA), which Ghana entered into with the European Union in November 2009.
Under this agreement, all timber consignments are to be issued with legality licenses, which are known under the agreement as Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Licenses and can only be issued after consignments going to the market have been proven to come from a legal source.
He said the technical and administrative systems to fully implement this agreement are nearly done and Ghana is in consultations with the EU, as arranged under the agreement, to assess and finalise the processes that will see Ghana trading under Timber Legality Licenses. Mr Asomah-Cheremeh said trial shipments have already been conducted to The Netherlands, Germany, and Spain.
The strategy behind this arrangement is to ensure that those who engage in illegalities will not have access to the market, whether local or international.
He added that the Legislative Instrument that gives effect to this new regime was passed by parliament, which is the Timber Resources Management and Legality Licensing Regulations, 2017 (LI 2254).