President Akufo-Addo: Please Keep Ghana's Parks & Gardens Lands For The Green Economy

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3rd June, 2019

Dear President Nana Akufo-Addo,

Re: Please Keep Parks & Gardens Lands for the Green Economy i.e sustainable horticultural, botanical and environmentally-focused use

On behalf of Eco-Conscious Citizens GH, and the undersigned, we respectfully petition you to use your good offices as Head of State, to give us assurances that Parks & Gardens lands will be kept for the Green Economy i.e sustainable horticultural, botanical and/or environmentally-focused use.

Parks and Gardens, which is now a Department under the Ministry of Local Government, was established by President Kwame Nkrumah in 1961 as a Ministry under Cabinet Minister Mr. EN Ocansey, and is responsible for the development of the nation's landscape and the preservation and beautification of the environment. Unfortunately, over the years, portions of Parks and Gardens lands have been appropriated for concrete structures.

The Department's functions are:

+ To promote landscape beautification of built and natural environment and collaborate with MMDAs to develop programmes for floral beautification of cities and towns.
+ To acquire lands to establish public parks and promote ecotourism to generate revenue for Assemblies and jobs for the youth.
+ Pursue actions to combat the effects of global warming by promoting a national tree planting campaign involving all stakeholders.
+ Collaborate with the Botany Department of the University of Ghana and other stakeholders to document the country’s flora, to develop and maintain a national information facility for sharing digital biodiversity data,
+ Initiate programmes to identify threatened economic and ornamental plants for multiplication and conservation. In addition, the department will promote public education on their conservation and importance of plants for human survival.
+ Concentrate on the conservation of threatened plants and restoration of plants diversity as well as communicating its importance under the Global strategy for plants conservation programme.

It is therefore astonishing that environmental vandalism took place on Parks and Gardens land earlier this year. According to our sources, over 140 trees and 5000 plants were destroyed to make way for a concrete structure. When Eco-Conscious Citizens GH visited the site, sand, stone and building materials were seen on the cleared Parks and Gardens land. We have since been informed by the Environmental Protection Agency that it did not give permission for the felling of the trees.

After the matter was exposed in the media, a Deputy Minister for Local Government stated that the Ministry had written to the Attorney General for advice on cancelling a PPP (Public-Private Partnership) lease agreement entered into in 2016 under the previous administration. He said ..”2.2 acres of Parks and Gardens land had been leased by the Lands Commission to a private developer ostensibly for them to be able to build the office for Parks and Gardens.”

He did not, however, unequivocally state that if the 2016 agreement was cancelled, Parks and Gardens lands would only be used for horticultural, botanical and/or environmentally-focused purposes. It is of concern that the trees were felled earlier this year.

It would be helpful if the Department of Parks and Gardens is empowered to fulfil its remit of developing the nation's landscape and the preservation and beautification of the environment. At a time when Ghana's forests are disappearing at an alarming rate and cities like Accra and Kumasi are becoming concrete jungles, Parks and Gardens should be at the forefront of defending the country against the relentless southwards movement of the Sahara, and taking a leadership role in promoting the health benefits of trees and nature.

We have asked Lands Commission for a list of areas designated as parks and open spaces in Accra. This information will help ensure that further lands meant for public gardens and open spaces are not appropriated and used to expand Accra's concrete jungle.

If the Ministry of Local Government is intent on a PPP development on the area where trees were felled or any part of Parks and Gardens lands, we respectfully suggest that such a partnership should be with a group or person(s) with a track record of successfully managing horticultural and/or botanical gardens, and who can  demonstrate how the green economy can produce sustainable jobs whilst providing a healthier environment with a mix of trees and shrubs. This will broaden horizons regarding green gold, and increase appreciation of how land can be put to horticultural, botanical and/or environmental use and still be profitable, socially and economically.

Eco-Conscious Citizens GH, and the undersigned respectfully petition you:

1) for assurances that Parks and Gardens land will be used for horticultural, botanical and/or environmental purposes only, that no part of the land will be appropriated for concrete buildings, and that the Department will be supported to fulfil the role for which it was set up.

2) to direct the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and Lands Commission to publish a list of areas designated as public parks and open spaces in Accra, so that the citizenry is aware of the landscape of the commons, and open spaces are not appropriated to expand the growing concrete jungle.

Awula Serwah
Eco-Conscious Citizens GH co-ordinator

Please check:

Here's The Parks And Gardens Land Re-Zoning Update: Eco-Conscious Citizens GH Make Impact On Meeting (Press release)
Eco-Conscious Citizens GH Photo-Montage And Background (including press coverage)
A Case For The Accra Botanical Gardens (By Mrs J Zwennes)
Instant Underground Poetry: Dept Of Gardens But No Parks (By Andy Quist)