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As a nation, we join the world to observe the International Day for Biological Diversity. This day was proposed by the international community to draw our attention as a people to the need to conserve our biologically diversified resources that God has graciously endowed us with and on which our very survival depends.

Government’s support for the environment has been largely driven by, Article 36 (9) of the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution of the Republic of Ghana (Directive Principles of State Policy), which states:

“The State shall take appropriate measures needed to protect and safeguard the national environment for posterity; and shall seek co-operation with other states and bodies for purposes of protecting the wider international environment for mankind” and Article 41(k), which states:  “The exercise and enjoyment of rights and freedoms is inseparable from the performance of duties and obligations, and accordingly, it shall be the duty of every citizen – to protect and safeguard the environment.” These provisions therefore enjoin us, as citizens to contribute to the protection of our environment.

Today is International Day for Biological Diversity and the global theme for the celebration is: “Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism”. The focus therefore is on promoting tourism which does not compromise the biodiversity of the tourist. The Ministry (MESTI) and its collaborating partners would therefore like to draw more attention to the biological resources and tourism potential of the ATEWA RANGE FOREST RESERVE.

The Atewa Reserve, which covers an area of 23,663ha, in the Eastern Region, is blessed with a distinctive upland forest vegetation, which is rich with a number of very rare species. The forests of Atewa are more or less undisturbed, natural vegetation, a rare phenomenon in West Africa. This reserve has numerous fauna species, some of which are endemic.

The reserve is equally blessed with a wide variety of natural habitats such as streams, swamps, closed forest and natural clearings, which support a rich variety of fauna such as Killfish (Epiplatys chaperi) and Walker’s barb (Barbus walkeri), which have great potentials in the aquarium trade.

The tourism potential of Atewa is further supported by the fact that it is one of 34 Global Biodiversity Hotspots and one of Ghana’s Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas (GSBAs), and also the nearest rain forest close to Accra. Atewa is an internationally important reserve, since the range provides the headwaters of three river systems – Ayensu, Densu and Birim rivers; which together serve as the source of domestic and industrial water for local communities within its catchment areas as well as water for millions in Accra.

Over the years, a number of tourists have visited the Atewa Range Forest Reserve, but has not been packaged and promoted extensively. Given this year’s theme, the Ministry seeks to highlight the potential that the reserve has to bring more tourists and invariably development to the Atewa area, without sacrificing the biological resource endowments of the area.

The Ministry has prepared a draft National Biodiversity Policy, which is undergoing stakeholder consultations and reviews. When this policy is completed, a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) will be developed to operationalize its effective implementation and will serve as the underlying force for the protection of all our biodiversity resources.

I entreat each and every citizen to serve as a biodiversity conservation ambassador and assist in the crusade to create the necessary education and awareness on the need to conserve our biodiversity resources and by extension, project the tourism potential of Ghana.