Story: Samuel Duodu, Sunyani
TWENTY-TWO people have so far been arrested and prosecuted in the Sunyani municipality of the Brong Ahafo Region for causing bush fires since the ban on hunting, bush burning, palm-wine tapping, distilling of akpeteshie and other related activities was imposed on the area this year.
The ban, which came into effect from November 1, last year to March 31, 2008, is to help curb the high incidence of bush fires in the municipality.
The Sunyani Municipal Fire Officer, Mr Kwasi Baffour-Awuah, who disclosed this to the Daily Graphic in Sunyani, said the law also banned people from using chemicals for fishing purposes, farming within 50 metres of streams and rivers, as well as felling or destroying trees except for a justifiable cause or with the authority of the municipal assembly.
He said the law banning those activities had been captured in the Sunyani Municipal Environmental Protection Bye-Laws, 2006, which had been gazetted and was rigidly been enforced to ensure that the environment was protected, especially against bush fires, during the dry season.
Mr Baffour-Awuah, who is also a Divisional Officer Grade III of the Ghana National Fire Service, warned that any person who would contravene provisions in the bye-law on environmental protection would be liable to a fine of GH¢500 or in default serve a prison term not exceeding six months or to both.
“Notwithstanding any punishment under this bye-law, whoever causes damage to property as a result of fire shall not be immune to civil action by the owners of the property,” he stated.
Mr Baffour-Awuah said despite the imposition of the ban, which would be lifted by the end of this month, food and cash crop farms and part of the forest reserves, especially the Tain One and Two forests, had been destroyed by fire, the cost of the destroyed items running into several millions of new Ghana cedis.
He appealed to the courts to impose severe punishment on offenders to serve as a deterrent to other recalcitrant people in the society.
Mr Baffour-Awuah said from January to February this year, 87 cases of fire outbreaks, ranging from domestic, industrial, bush and vehicular, were recorded in the municipality, adding that the figure was more than the 57 recorded during the same period last year.
He commended the Bush Fire Prevention, Monitoring and Enforcement Patrol Team, led by Assistant Divisional Fire Officer, Mr Emmanuel C. Ansong, and the fire volunteers from the various communities in the municipality for the assistance they provided the team in the patrols.
Mr Baffour-Awuah appealed to corporate bodies and individuals to assist the fire volunteers with items such as machetes, Wellington boots, Key soap and protective clothing to help them to fight bush fire.