Professor Sandow Mark Yidana, a lecturer at the University of Ghana has told an Accra High Court that, the place designated for bauxite mining in the Atewa forest is a no-go area because it would affect groundwater recharge. Prof Yidana was in court last Monday to witness a statement he submitted on behalf of A Rocha Ghana based on his research in the Atewa Forest and its surrounding areas. A Rocha Ghana and 10 other plaintiffs are challenging the government’s move to mine bauxite in the Atewa Range Forest contending that the government is undertaking mining activities in the Forest without mineral rights. Under cross-examination by Leona Johnson-Abassah, Principal State Attorney, the lecturer who has specialized in hydrology explained that, all hydro-geologist knows the Atiwa Forest in the sub-region as a Regional groundwater recharge area and hydrologically sensitive area. “Any activity there no matter how limited it is would have a far-reaching impact on communities nearby and others far away from the area and that is why we call it the Regional Recharge Area”, he added. He said, there are also three main rivers which are the Birim, Ayensu, and the Densu Rivers which draw their recharge from Atewa Mountain and that is a very unique area. “I have done my research in the Volta Basin and the Volta Basin covers a very large area including Ghana, Burkina Faso and certain parts of, Cote d'Ivoire. The research indicates an increasing trend in the groundwater recharge however, in this particular area of Atiwa Forest and its surroundings, we observed a decline which is attributed to the local human-induced activities in the area. My Lord the Atiwa Forest serves as a crucial buffer that should be protected at all cost”, he told the court. The Principal State Attorney however suggested to him that, the human-induced activities he mentioned do not include bauxite mining. He answered, “That is correct but even with that, the fact that these human activities are taking place in areas not regarded as sensitive hydrologically as the top of the Atewa Mountain, their effects are being felt so the impact will be more severe or graver when they take place at the top of the mountain because they would more widespread and my Lord think of what would probably happen if in the dry season, the Densu River ceases to flow, it is benefiting significantly from this flow which happens because we have appreciable groundwater recharge at the top of the mountain”. According to him, bauxite mining would expose the area to severe impact of evaporation because the trees would be gone, the bare lands would be open and the shallow aquifers would no longer be protected because the vegetation cover is taken off no matter how small the area is. He said, currently in the Atewa area, Ghana is losing 78 percent of the annual precipitation to evapotranspiration and even in the current situation it would get worse. The Principal State Attorney asked again “I am suggesting it to you modern technology has made it possible to mine Bauxite sustainably and reclaim the forest between 98 and 100 percent and we have places like the Amazon Forest, the Jara Forest where reclamation has been successful”. “My lord I totally disagree. My Lord the examples are irrelevant in this current discourse of the Atewa Forest because the climatic conditions are very different. The hydrogeology is different, the geology is different, the level of sensitivity is different so if for instance another area in Ghana other than the Atewa Forest were earmarked for this activity, my professional advice would have been completely different”, Prof Yidana answered. The High Court Judge, Justice John Nyante Nyadu adjourned the case to the 19th of October 2023.
The plaintiffs are seeking the following reliefs; A declaration that the right to life and dignity as enshrined in the Constitution of Ghana, 1992 include (a) the right to a clean and healthy environment and (b) the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations. A declaration that mining of bauxite in the Atewa Range Forest violates the right to life and dignity as enshrined under articles 13 and 15 of the Constitution of Ghana (1992). An order, compelling the Government of Ghana and its agents to take the necessary steps to protect Atewa Range Forest in accordance with its constitutional obligations as contained under article 36(9) of the Constitution (1992). An order, restraining the Government of Ghana, its assigns and agents, servants, workmen, allottees, and guarantees whatsoever and howsoever described from undertaking mining and its related activities in the Atewa Range Forest.