The 495 ha Achimota Forest Reserve, created in 1930 for research, recreational and environmental conservation purposes, has over the years lost more than 150 ha because of urban infrastructure development and illegal encroachment.
Its ecological and biodiversity integrity are further threatened with indiscriminate waste dumping and, recently, dumping of dead bodies, sometimes prompting the Ghanaian public to express concern about this unfortunate situation.
It covers a strategic location in such a popular urban area. Achimota Forest Reserve is located in the region of Greater Accra. The distance from Achimota Forest Reserve to Ghana’s capital Accra (Accra) is approximately 7.6 km / 4.7 mi (as the crow flies).
The land trees and plants that cover part of Achimota landmark surface symbolised by the colour green in the common definition of environmentalism. They are fundamental life forms and provide for the continuity of the city of Accra’s biodiversity which is necessary for the local economic development, diversity of life forms, human livelihood, and environmental adaptive responses.
Looking at the strategic location of the Achimota forest, it provides so many environmental sustainability benefits that cannot be overemphasised. Being close to a major urban road that is used by numerous vehicles per day, it mitigates most of the environmental pollutants from emissions from these vehicles that can cause significant respiratory problems and other health issues.
Deforestation of the Achimota Forest will leave the city at the mercy of significant flooding and other environmental issues as experienced in the past after heavy rainfalls.
Though urban dwellers often live far from the borders of deforestation, the impacts of deforestation still reach them. Forest loss and degradation contribute more than 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, leaving cities with rising sea levels, extreme heat events and more powerful storms.
For example, Freetown, Sierra Leone — one of the rainiest cities in the world — has suffered devastating landslides after heavy rains, the most severe of which in 2017 claimed nearly 1,000 lives. This happened partly because steeply sloping land became unstable from the loss of trees, which provided sheltering canopy and a strong root system.
June 2018 flood that hit Accra- The disaster was one of the worst to have happened in Accra in recent times. For close to seven hours, people and vehicles were left stranded at various parts of the city as traffic came to a standstill due to the torrential rains. Several vehicles were submerged in the most ferocious flooding, leaving in its trail the monumental devastation.
The Achimota Forest must be preserved and protected for the following reasons
- Purifies the Air
Achimota Forest plays an important role in the purification of the atmospheric air. During the day, trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis and give out oxygen. As such, they help in the purification of the air that Achimota city dwellers breathe.
Forests thus serve as an instrumental tool for reducing the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the environment which are responsible for global warming.
- Stabilise Climate
Forests serve as climate stabilisers since trees and plants regulate atmospheric temperatures through evapotranspiration and providing environmental breeze. In urban settings like Achimota, for instance, the presence of trees can reduce the dependence of air conditioners. Large forests regulate regional temperatures by absorbing the sun’s radiant heat and promote rainfall as well as cool climate as an effect of evapotranspiration.
- Economic Significance
Forests are of vast economic benefits to us. For instance, plantation forests provide humans with wood and timber, which is used in construction and as raw materials for numerous products. Also, whenever tourists visit the forest areas to view the beautiful sceneries alongside the wildlife forms inhabiting the forests, the hosting nations and communities get revenue from tourism. Forests are also a source to rare animals like wild rabbits, and foods or vegetables such as berries, tubers, and edible mushrooms that grow on the forest floors.
- Regulates the Water Cycle
Forests also regulate the natural cycle of water evaporation and subsequent condensation and precipitation as rain. Forests make this possible by absorbing and redistributing rainwater equally across the entire geographical coverage, which is mostly termed as water economy. Forests also absorb considerable amounts of water from runoff and pass it down into the aquifers, replenishing groundwater supplies.
- Medicinal Value
Forests are highly linked to medicinal research and pharmaceutical breakthroughs due to their extensive plant life and animal life forms. A large percentage of the drugs used for diverse medical treatments are extracted from the plants and animals that live in the forests. Forests are comprised of numerous and incredible cures including the drugs used to relieve the effects of cancers.
- Enrich the Soil
Plants and trees help to recycle the soil nutrients through the shedding of leaves and small branches. The plant and tree roots also break the soils in finer particles and encourage water infiltration into the soil. The roots also absorb some water from surface runoff and reduce the speed of flow, minimising soil erosion which normally degrades the fertility of the soil.
- Flood management
Trees and woodlands within urban areas like the Achimota Forest Reserve can help reduce flooding and improve water quality, by intercepting rain, allowing infiltration into the ground, reducing the volume and speed of runoff to drains and watercourses, drawing water up from the ground for transpiration, removing pollutants and decreasing sedimentation. Their water management role can be further enhanced by planting trees as part of biofiltration systems and in engineered tree pits, which can include structural cells, soils and reservoirs designed to filter and store water.
The use of trees and woodlands for urban water management can help to reduce the pressure on and complement more traditional engineered approaches. And unlike the more engineered approaches, trees and woodlands also bring a wide range of economic, social, and environmental benefits, making urban areas much more attractive and healthy places to live, work, visit and invest in.
Many cities, recognising the connection between forests and water, are acting to support and conserve forests. Leaders around the world are working to plan and develop urban green infrastructure, invest in protecting watershed forests and source more forest-friendly commodities. Forests protect water for cities, and it is essential that Ghana government step up to protect The Achimota Forest in return rather than selling it out.