The third National Forum on Biosphere Reserves and Sustainable Development has called on all citizens to get actively involved in protecting the environment for the continuous survival of humanity.
The forum, which marked the maiden International Day for Biosphere Reserves, also urged all stakeholders to renew their commitments to helping Ghana achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, especially through partnerships.
The “International Day for Biosphere Reserves” has been instituted by UNESCO to be observed annually on November 03 to showcase the contribution of biosphere reserves to sustainable development, how they support life and the need to conserve natural resources.
The forum, on the other hand, intends to create the necessary awareness and educate the people, particularly the youth, to appreciate the importance of the environment and how to protect it.
The twin event, which assembled a host of diverse stakeholders at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) was held on the theme: “Biosphere Reserves and Ecosystem restoring – blue economy to the rescue”.
Osabarimba Kwesi Atta II, the Paramount Chief of the Oguaa Traditional Area, implored citizens and residents to be environmentally cautious of the various activities they indulged in to avert harming nature.
He observed that as residents of the coast, the sea served as a source of food, transportation and tourist attraction to boost the local economy.
He, however, expressed concern that climate change, coupled with illegal human activities like overfishing, sand winning, reclamation of wetlands, and indiscriminate dumping of solid and liquid wastes had destroyed the sea and its resources.
He in this regard urged all stakeholders to make conscious efforts in the conservation of the Country’s natural resources to ensure the survival of humankind.
Osabarimba Kwesi Atta stressed that it was imperative that traditional leaders as custodians of the land and water ensured that the natural resources were managed sustainably, saying “we must leave a legacy which will make the next generation proud of us.”
In a speech read on his behalf by Mrs Cynthia Asare Bediako, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr Kweku Afriyie, the sector minister, said the Ministry was determined to inspire a policy to reinforce care for the environment.
He said they were committed to supporting actions, practices and systems of production and consumption which were environmentally friendly to mitigate climate change and sustain the environment.
“The very land that was heavily degraded is now being restored by various land restoration projects across our nation,” he said.
The Minister observed that a significant portion of the ocean had been degraded with pressure from the continuous growth in the world’s population compounding the situation.
“We, therefore, have no option than to support every effort that is aimed at helping to reverse the cycle of decline in the ocean health …” he added.
Ms Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO noted that biosphere reserves were not conventional protected areas but the habitat for some 276 million people across the world.
She stressed that the International Day for Biosphere Reserves was to recognise the important role biosphere played for all humanity.
“On this day, we celebrate the potential of biosphere reserves to tackle the great challenge of our time: making peace with the natural world,” she said.
Professor Johnson Nyarko Boampong, the Vice Chancellor of UCC, emphasised that there was no way people could continue to survive if they continued to devastate the natural environment.
He, therefore, called on everybody to be circumspect in how they treated the environment in their quest for survival.
“We are not the last generation in Ghana and on earth. It is important we preserve what we behave inherited from our ancestors to ensure our survival on this earth,” he stressed.
For his part, Dr Henry Kwabena Kokofu, Executive Director, EPA, observed that the international nature of the agenda to salvage the environment indicated that the entire globe was in distress.
He said every human activity, including mining, building and farming had some level of negative impact on the environment.
He said there was a need to sustain the environment and not undermine its regenerative capacity to replenish itself and continue to support lives.
“The ocean constitutes about 94 per cent of the planet and provides about 96 per cent of oxygen to humans and it is the largest carbon sink.
“The importance of protecting the aquifers including the oceans, coastal lines and mangroves are very paramount when it comes to protecting and safeguarding the environment,” he added.