Ghana’s Achimota Forest is to be transformed into a $1.2bn ultra-modern ecotourism park.
A part of Achimota Forest is to be transformed into a 1.2 billion Eco-Park and Amusement to serve as major tourism destination in West Africa.
The billion-dollar scheme involves construction of amusement parks, orchards, arboretum, wildlife safaris, museums, eco-commercial enclaves and eco-lodges with little disruption to natural vegetation cover.
The Achimota Eco Park project in Accra is specially designed to have a spiritual enclave to cater for the needs of worshippers, whose activities bring more than 180,000 people annually to the virgin forest.
The project is seen as a major boost to the West African country’s tourism sector, as it seeks to shore up foreign currency income, create job opportunities and keep encroachers at bay from the forest reserve to safeguard its ecological integrity.
The ecotourism hub, which will be built in phases, is being constructed by Ghana’s Forestry Commission and a private partner, Aikan Capital Limited, and is scheduled to be completed within seven years.
This development will preserve the only green belt in Accra [Ghana’s capital city], and allow the forest to continue to function as a carbon sink and clean the air and at the same time create jobs and business opportunities for the private sector, and there are also plans to build high seating capacity conference rooms to be situated outside the main forest zone.
The Accra Eco Park development has been conceived to provide a unique opportunity to demonstrate to the business community and the public that ecotourism is a viable, environmentally friendly, employment-creating, sustainable income-generating venture.
The park will add to the West African nation’s foremost national parks – Kakum in the Central and Mole in the Northern regions that appeal to thousands of tourists annually.
The ultramodern eco-park project targets about 2 per cent of visitors to the West Africa sub-region, attracting more than 600,000 visitors to the tourist site annually.
Officials say more than 4,000 jobs will be created during the construction stage and about 2,500 direct jobs when in operation, with the country’s forestry commission expected to scoop around 20 per cent of revenue earned.
The lease agreement allows Aikan Capital to design, build and operate the facility for 10 years.
Ghana signed a lease agreement with Aikan Capital, a Ghanaian company, in February 2016 that year to design, develop, operate and maintain the forest reserve in a world-class ecological.
Achimota Forest, though an important national asset, has over the years been saddled with grave threat of encroachment and degradation despite its strategic position.
While its critics fear that the project will destroy the city’s only greenbelt, the then Chief Executive Officer of Aikan Capital Limited, Mr Oheneba Otchere, told Graphic Online that the project would ensure that at least one million trees were planted to further strengthen the forest cover.
Below is a copy of the Executive Instrument 144.
It follows the coming into force of the Executive Instrument 144 gazetted on behalf of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on April 19, 2022.
This means effective May 1, 2022, parts of the Achimota Forest Reserve is no longer a forest reserve.
President Akufo-Addo under Executive Instrument 144 has lifted the 1927 classification of the Achimota Forest as a Forest Reserve.
This is to pave way for a redesign, reclassification and development of the area.
The Executive Instrument was gazetted on behalf of President Akufo-Addo by the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor.
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor has said the “Achimota Forest has not been sold and will not be sold.”
The Achimota Forest Reserve is the only existing urban forest in Accra sandwiched by Achimota School to the West, Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) to the East, Christian Village to the North and the George Walker Bush Motorway to the South.
There has been some public reactions since the gazette started circulating Tuesday morning [May 17, 2022].
Some have expressed concern about the fate of the only extensive green area in Accra on whether the green is going to give way for concrete.
Meanwhile the Forestry Commission in 2018 announced that it was reviewing the terms for the construction of the Achimota Eco-Park with the investor.
The decision, the commission said was part of due diligence it was carrying out to ensure that the project was executed and not abandoned midway.
Contrary to information in the public domain then, the commission said it had no intention of changing the investor, who was investing $1.2 billion in the project, whose sod cutting was performed on August 19, 2016.
According to the commission, it had engaged the investor and was trying to do everything possible to ensure that the project took off.
The Achimota Eco-Park project was expected to dramatically improve the Achimota Forest, curtail encroachment and eliminate the domestic and industrial waste dumped in the area.
It should have started in 2016 but had to be put on hold because of a legal action initiated by four Ghanaians who were of the view that the deal would harm the environment and pose health and other risks to residents of Accra.
But the then President John Dramani Mahama, in a speech read on his behalf, said the case had been “settled amicably and the project is back on track”.
Related article: $1.2 billion Accra Eco-Park Project takes off
Achimota Forest Reserve
The Achimota Forest Reserve was gazetted (as a forest reserve) in 1939 with objectives, including serving as a field laboratory research for schools in Accra, providing a place for recreation, conserving biological diversity, as well as playing the ecological role of purifying the air in the city.
However, years of unbridled encroachment has reduced the size of the forest from its original 495 hectares to 355 hectares and portions turned into waste disposal sites.
In the speech read on his behalf, then President Mahama had said rather than allow further encroachment and the dumping of waste into the forest, the government had decided to convert it into a world-class recreational facility and major tourism destination in West Africa.
But critics of the project, including the current Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, had insisted that the country would not derive enough environmental benefits from the eco-park project and that “rather it is the Atiwa and the Kakum National parks which could give a lot of benefits when they are turned into eco parks”.
According to Forestry Commission projections, the eco-park project will create about 4,000 jobs during the construction phase and 2,000 direct and 10,000 indirect jobs when it begins to function.
Source: Graphic Online and The Africa report