Environmental activists in Ghana have sued government over a proposed mining project, taking place in a protected national forest.
Seven local advocacy groups and four citizens claim that mining in the forest violates their constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment and their right to protect it for future generations.
They also said the move would endanger the health and wellbeing of the forest reserves.
This has come amid growing calls to increase nature reserves to combat climate change.
The proposed mine in the Atewa Range Forest is part of a $2bn deal signed with China, which will gain access to bauxite, in exchange for financing infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges in Ghana.
Head of Concerned Citizens of the Atewa Landscape, Oteng Adjei, one of the groups involved in the case, which went to the High Court on July 1, according to documents seen by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, said “Bauxite mining is a one-time payment, The government cannot bring back the original forest.
“The forest is our life”, he added.A Accordingto Thomson Reuters Foundation, Campaigners want it to be turned into a national park, but bulldozers have already begun to clear paths in the forest.
Deputy National Director of A Rocha Ghana, Daryl Bonsu, who is one of the conservation groups suing the government, said “it is unfortunate that time and again, citizens have to fight our own government before we can secure our environment”.
President Nana Akufo-Addo has previously said the bauxite can be extracted without disturbing the wildlife, and GIADEC has promised the growing bauxite industry will create 35,000 jobs.
Scientists estimate at least a million species face extinction in the next few decades and the United Nations wants governments to back plans to conserve 30 percent of the earth’s surface by 2030 at its Biodiversity Convention in China next year.
The Atewa Forest is home to rare plants and animals and is the source of three major rivers that provide water to millions, including residents of the capital Accra, about 90 km away.
Ghana experienced a 60 percent rise in primary forest loss between 2017 and 2018 – the highest rise in any tropical country, according to the US-based Global Forest Watch, with trees lost to illegal mining, logging and expanding cocoa farms.
Activists and residents have been campaigning since 2017 to stop the mine with marches, an online petition with nearly 30,000 signatures, a billboard outside the presidential palace and support on Twitter from actor Leonardo DiCaprio.