Mr Ebenezer Mensah, the Manager, Dormaa District Forest Services Division (FSD), has hinted that the Mpamesu Forest Reserve might become grassland if appropriate measures were not taken to check activities of illegal loggers and chainsaw operators.
He said criminal activities of illegal loggers and chainsaw operators coupled with other environmentally degradable human factors were destroying the forest cover.
Mr Mensah lamented that, the Forest Reserve within the Forest District covering beyond the Dormaa enclave like the Pamu-Berekum Forest Reserve could also be lost in few years if illegal logging was not checked and prevented.
He said the activities of gun-wielding criminal gangs and chainsaw operators who claimed concessions in the reserve had become a major concern and source of worry, posing a great threat and fear to the security and protection of other people.
Mr Mensah gave the hint when he was addressed a meeting organised by Osagyefo Oseadeeyo Agyeman Badu II, the Paramount Chief of Dormaa Traditional Area to elicit the opinions of chiefs, government appointees and institutional heads at Dormaa-Ahenkro in the Dormaa Central Municipality of the Bono Region.
The meeting was to find practical and lasting solutions to activities of unscrupulous persons who illegally harvested forest resources, particularly trees in the reserves.
Responding to queries and questions from stakeholders, Mr Mensah admitted that one of the major challenges facing his office almost 10 months after assuming duty, was dealing with illegal logging whose offenders used guns and combative weapons in their operations.
He said that had immensely militated against the general and effective performance, stressing that the reality about inadequate security officers compounded the problem.
"We need to beef up security and increase expenses for security detail to be deployed as currently the District Office is solely taking that limited responsibility for that portion of the Mpamesu Reserve.
“We need same for Diabaa and Nkrankwanta forests and more support requiring a certain level of commitment from the Police and military, otherwise what we are seeing now will be worse in the next two to three years," he bemoaned.
Asked whether it was the responsibility of the FSD to provide security for concessioners against illegal-loggers, he said it was the concessioners’ duty to recruit their own security guards but the FSD assisted them in their line of operations.
He stated that the task to contain the nefarious activities of criminals was made much difficult because the concessioners were less equipped and sophisticated to deal with those gun-wielding illegal-loggers who operated mostly at night.
"The forest guards work during the day and sometimes clashed with the illegal-loggers and chainsaw operators. So if at day time the guards are beaten by the chainsaw operators, what about at night time," he quizzed.
Barimah Oppong Yaw Boabasa, the Gyaasehene of Dormaa Traditional Area, questioned why the FSD would allow the forest reserves to be infiltrated and invaded by criminals and non-concessioners after they had been charged and equipped to protect those forest reserves from being degraded by unpatriotic and self-seeking persons.
He observed that if drastic measures were not taken that might degenerate into chaotic situation that could lead to clashes and fatalities between the various armed security guards in the forest reserves.
Barimah Boabasa encouraged the FSD to rise above the challenges to meet and fulfil their operational objectives.
Chief Superintendent Boakye Ansah, the Dormaa Central Municipal Police Commander, appealed to the FSD to withdraw the licenses of concessioners who recruited and armed security guards to man their concessions when the law had not permitted them to arm them.
Barimah Efirititi Sampon-Siaw, Mawirehene of Dormaa Traditional Area, called for the adoption of a more radical approach to fight the forest criminals.
He suggested “the use of military fly overs, jets and helicopters which can monitor the forest cover with telescopic capability that sets apart, scares and keeps intruders off the reserves after detonation are released down from above”.