Savanna Cement Company Limited (SAVACEM), a subsidiary of Diamond Cement Company Limited is yearning eagerly to mine more limestone in significant portions of the Yakumbo Forest Reserve at Buipe in the Central Gonja District in the Northern Region of Ghana.
SAVACEM, which has for the past 8 years been mining limestone –raw materials for the manufacturing of cement, is now yearning eagerly for its concession of 2.86 square kilometres of land to be increased to 49.6 square kilometres.
At a stakeholders’ forum in Buipe where an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on SAVACEM’s request to mine limestone in the Yakumbo Forest Reserve was read, some citizens denounced the idea of mining in a forest reserve.
They claimed mining in the forest would lead to the destruction of more economic trees such as shea and dawadawa as well as trigger serious environmental problems.
The Yakumbo Forest Reserve is a habitat for thousands of economic trees such as shea, dawadawa, teak and rosewood. Following the mining of limestone by SAVACEM in recent years, the forest has come under serious threat of extinction or disturbance.
This reporter can confirm that mining in the Yakumbo Forest Reserve further exposes it to more environmental problems such as land degradation, indiscriminate felling of trees, charcoal production, bush burning and fuel wood harvesting.
For instance, the Central Gonja District is one of the leading suppliers of charcoal to towns and cities in southern Ghana. Charcoal production is one of the major economic activities of the people besides fishing, shea butter processing and the sale of fuel wood. In recent years, there have been reports of illegal logging and fuel wood harvesting in and around the forest reserve. Thus, granting SAVACEM a license to further mine in the forest is likely to open the floodgates for more people to invade the area in and around the forest to cut down more trees and increase its vulnerability to climate change effects.
The stakeholders’ forum which brought together the Paramount Chief of Buipe, Buipewura Mahama Abdulai Jinapor II, opinion leaders, citizens, officials of the Central Gonja District Assembly, Lands and Forestry Commissions as well as the media, was meant to collate views, suggestions and concerns for the final determination of granting of license to SAVACEM.
The National Director of Mining at the EPA Michael Ali Sandow, who read the EIA report, stated that excessive dust would most likely disturb communities staying close to the SAVACEM plant.
Mr. Sandow also said the natural vegetation of the forest and areas around it would be affected if permission was finally granted SAVACEM to mine the limestone. Shea trees, dawadawa and other trees he pointed out, would be cut down to pave way for the mining activities.
He however stated that, concrete steps would be taken to prevent any negative environmental disaster or public health problem in the event that SAVACEM was granted license to mine the concession they were requesting for. He gave the assurance that SAVACEM would reclaim the destroyed land after the project finally comes to an end.
He said the company would, on a daily basis, use water to douse the heavy and excessive dust produced as a result of the mining and manufacturing activities. SAVACEM as a company, he added, was also ready to pay reasonable compensation to persons who would be affected by its activities.
Mr. Sandow further allayed fears of any noise pollution in the area, stressing that the EPA would ensure that noise levels remained within the approved levels. Aquatic life, according to him, was safe because the distance between the Black Volta and SAVACEM was over 500 metres and therefore there was no any anticipation of water pollution and destruction of aquatic life as a result of the activities of SAVACEM.
Queen Mother of Buipe Bridge, Bridge Wurche Barchisu during an open forum, complained that the destruction of shea trees and dawadawa in particular, would most definitely deny many women of their sources of livelihood. The activities of SAVACEM in the last few years, she said, had also rendered farmlands close to the forest reserve uncultivable.
Bridge Wurche appealed to SAVACEM to build a market for the women to enable them engage in trading activities on a daily basis. “Here, we have only one market day in a week and so, women who could not sell all their perishable goods on a market day ran at a loss when they have to send those goods back home. This is because we don’t have a modern market with stalls where people can come at any time and any day to buy and sell”, she maintained.
Mr. Nuhu, a resident of Buipe also told Savannahnews that communities that were severely affected by the activities of SAVACEM included Buipe, Alhassan Kura, Old Buipe, Benkura and among others. He said the dust from the factory was changing the colour of all trees from green to brown.
Meanwhile, SAVACEM since it started operations has been able to execute some projects for the benefit of the people. The projects include a borehole, a six-unit classroom block and a 25MW VRA substation which supplies 6MW of electricity to the cement factory while the rest is supplied to homes in the nearby communities.