One of Ghana’s ratified Ramsar sites, the Densu Delta wetlands, is all but wiped out through barefaced encroachment.
The abuse has been so severe, significant portions of the site have been transformed into bare surface areas in the wetlands.
The Densu Delta, which is an important residence and migratory site for water birds, records 60 species of water birds with an estimated population of some 35,000 visiting the site annually.
In the early 19990s there were about 20 farming and fishing communities and settlements within the Ramsar site. On the average fishermen harvested an average daily fish catch of about 650 kg.
The Densu Delta was estimated to sustain an annual fish yield of 270 tonnes, generating healthy income for the fisherfolks. This makes the lagoon an important source of livelihood for the people who depend on it.
Due to the illegal use of lands for construction and settlement on the site, it is estimated that approximately 40 percent of the site has been destroyed.
Further information suggests that certain segments of the remaining wetlands have already been sold to settlers.
Global estimates indicate that 64 percent of wetlands have been lost in the century due to some of these illegal acts of encroachment.
The Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, during a tour of the site, bemoaned the act as damaging as it also poses a threat of water scarcity, sustainable food security and human livelihoods.
‘’Sadly, most wetlands in Ghana have already been destroyed in the past from these uncontrolled activities which include inappropriate farming practices, waste pollution and land encroachment.
‘’Unfortunately these subtle efforts are robbing the country of this important natural asset and this must be stopped,’’ he added.
The Minister observed that the Lafar Stream, along with the Pambros Salt Industries, which both sit on the Densu Delta, serve as a production grounds for salt and as breeding grounds for fish, crabs, and birds.
‘’If we keep on destroying all these wetlands, what will be the beauty of nature without other creatures apart from ourselves?’’ he stressed.
To address the challenge, Frimpong-Boateng said a Stakeholder Management Committee is being set up to ensure the protection of all Ramsar sites.
He said an environmental education into the communities around the wetlands must be prioritized and enforced.
Collaboration among relevant environmental protection institutions for the enforcement of environmental laws against encroachment on the wetlands was also suggested.
He appealed to household heads and land owners to report all illegal use of wetlands to the relevant environmental protection authorities for action and redress.
The Densu Delta site, among other Ramsar sites, is labeled as an important part of the ecosystem which would spell damaging effects on the environment if not well protected.
By Mawuli Y. Ahorlumegah