Ghana — COMMENTARY ON MAKING INDISCRIMINATE BUSH BURNING IN THE COUNTRY UNATTRACTIVE
It is sad to note that not too long ago when the nation honoured hardworking farmers and fishermen for their role in boosting agriculture production, the activities of a few people have the tendency to erode the gains made. No day passes by without reports of indiscriminate bush burning leaving in its wake destruction of large tract of farmland and other property running into millions of cedis. The bush burning by some unscrupulous people which has become a ritual for more than two decades, especially after honouring hardworking Ghanaian farmers in December each year, cause pain and anguish to our dear farmers in particular and Ghanaians in general.
In recent times, some of the bush fires engulf our highways with thick smoke, resulting in loss of lives, not to talk about the destruction of food and cash crops. On January 25, this year, a private newspaper reported of a fatal accident involving a Techiman-bound commercial Ford bus and Daewoo taxi heading toward Berekum in the Brong Ahafo Region, resulting in the loss of lives including a baby boy. The beef of many Ghanaians is that the accident occurred at about 3. 00 p. m. when the two drivers were travelling on a section of the road which had been engulfed in thick smoke due to bush fires. There is no doubt, therefore that the accident could be attributed to poor visibility caused by the smoke. Before the January incident, it was again reported that bush fires had destroyed food and cash crops belonging to a number of farmers in the Nadowli District of the Upper West Region. Among the victims was the Sombo Naa, Naa Dr. Banka Oraa whose sixty-four acres worth of maize and ten acres of soya beans were destroyed in the process. It is worth noting that Naa Dr. Banka is a man who had spent almost all his youthful days in the Upper West Region as a Medical Officer and rose through the ranks to be the Regional Director of Health Services and now serving his people not only as a traditional ruler, but also as a farmer. The other affected farmers come from Kojokperi and Tabiasi all in the Nadowli District. Another area of concern is how the bush fires are destroying low and high tension electricity poles in these communities. This is a sad state of affairs, especially at a time the government is making every effort to improve the electricity connectivity in rural areas in northern Ghana.
It must be acknowledged that education on the dangers of indiscriminate bush fires is never lost on speakers at public forums. The challenge however has been and continues to be, how to motivate change in attitude, so that this unfortunate incident can be reduced to the minimum. The Metropolitan, Municipal and District Security Councils should revisit their by-laws to make punishment for indiscriminate bush burning very punitive and unattractive. The National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) and the District and Municipal Assemblies are overstretched and need massive support from the Central government. This is to enable them continue to intensify their sensitization programmes in the bush fire prone districts and municipalities. Having said this, it is significant to state that most of these community members are aware of the hazards of indiscriminate bush fires and yet continue to engage in this destructive activity. The Regional Security Councils should collaborate with the Assemblies to equip the community fire and disaster volunteer groups to effect the arrest of those who engage in indiscriminate bush burning. These nation wreckers, when arraigned before the courts and found culpable, need not be given the option of fine when sentenced. On serving their sentence, these nation wreckers will return to tell their story. The time to act is now.
BY: DAN OSMAN MWIN OF THE PUBLIC RELATIONS UNIT OF THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH .