A few days ago, the world celebrated International Youth Day. The theme, “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production,” focused on how young people can lead the way in Sustainable Development with a special focus on the Sustainable Development Goal 12, “Ensure sustainable consumption and production pattern”. Goal 12 has 8 targets.
These aim at overcoming food insecurity, post harvest losses, youth unemployment, indiscriminate disposal of waste chemicals, deforestation and land degradation, ensuring sustainable use of natural resources and reducing waste generation. However, the story in Ghana is not one that makes it easy for the achievement of this goal within the next fifteen years.
Currently, our country is losing the fight against deforestation and the negative effects of small scale mining. International Youth Day 2016 and its theme must cause civil societies and youth advocates to sit back and ask questions about how we seek to achieve Goal 12 in the light of indiscriminate logging and mining that goes on under the watch of policy makers and authorities. There are more questions than answers to this matter. Sustainable Development is driven by the desire to ensure that development is a life-sustaining process. Thus sustainable development encompasses economic development, environmental protection, social reforms and people’s empowerment. Do we as a people exhibit this desire?
Well, this is a question that any discerning person will not have to fail. The International Youth Day was held with all the accompanied fanfare and speeches. What next? This day should have been a moment for the Ghanaian youth to ask the questions, what has the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Forestry, and the Parliamentary Select Committee on Mining and Energy done to ensure that illegal mining and logging is reduced to the to the barest minimum?
Again, why do we have the issue of deforestation and illegal mining going on brazenly under the watch of the Forestry Commission and the Minerals Commission? What is really the problem on the ground? Fifteen years is not forever. It will be with us soon. As young people, we must begin to worry about how duty bearers do or don’t take seriously the issues that have the potential to render the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 12, a difficulty or impossibility. Quite recently, so much about has been written and discussed about deforestation going on in some parts of the Upper West Region. Districts such as the Sissala East and West, and Wa East and West have had their forests taken over by individuals and Logging Companies. These companies are indiscriminately felling trees with impunity. According to reports, one of the trees that the chain saw operators are interested in is the Rosewood. This tree species is very strong and is on high demand. So many allegations and rumours are peddled around about the involvement of very influential politicians in the region.
But, what is most intriguing is that in spite of the dangers of this trend, the act is still going on in these parts of the Upper West Region. This is a matter the Parliamentary Select Committee on Lands and Forestry must look at carefully. The committee must get its acts together and work assiduously with the responsible agencies in dealing with this issue. This phenomenon can spark off food insecurity and make climate change an insurmountable situation. On illegal mining, the least said, the better.
Mining in this country has not been handled sustainably to prevent the compromise of future generation. In a documentary, “Children of the Pit,” Joy FM’s Latif Iddrisu reports about the negative effects of small scale mining on the indigenes of Ekorso, a village in the Eastern Region of Ghana. In that documentary, the Minerals Commission is aware of the activities of small scale miners. The activities of these small scale miners are leading to the degradation of fertile farm lands, pollution of water bodies through the use of mercury, child labour and various forms of social vices.
How then can we achieve Goal 12 when these conditions exist under the watch of the regulatory bodies? The theme for this year’s International Youth Day should cause youth led NGOs, youth advocates and Civil Societies to begin to demand some diligence from the Minerals Commission, Forestry Commission, Ministry of Land and Forestry, Ministry of Mines and Energy, the Parliamentary Select Committees on Lands and Forestry, and Parliamentary Select Committee on Mines and Energy. Sustainable Development is critical to posterity’s survival; a compromise is a recipe for crisis.