EPA calls for urgent protection of biodiversity to save human existence

Accra- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soliciting the support of Civil Society Organisations and other Public Sector players to help accelerate efforts at saving Ghana’s biodiversity, which is facing rapid depletion.

The protection of the country’s biodiversity, and for that matter, the entire world’s, has become critical as Global reports indicate that 75 per cent of the Earth’s land surface is significantly altered.

Also, 66 per cent of the ocean area is experiencing increasing cumulative impacts, and over 85 per cent of wetland areas have been lost.

The most significant direct drivers of biodiversity loss are habitat loss and fragmentation and direct over-exploitation in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, a recent Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) global assessment report has revealed.

At the EPA’s round table discussion on the IPBES Activities, held in Accra on Wednesday, environmentalists and academia were asked to help in raising awareness and protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, which were the support lines for the existence of humans, animals and plants.

Mrs Jewel Kudjawu, the Chief Programme Officer, Natural Resource Department, EPA, who doubles as the National Focal Point of the IPBES, said Africa had extraordinary rich biodiversity and ecosystems as well as a wealth of indigenous and local knowledge, but all that were eroding.

She said as one of the most rapidly urbanising continents, Africa was also facing rapid and unplanned urbanisation that puts immense pressure on biodiversity.

She said it was revealed in the IPBES Report that Africa’s richness in biodiversity and ecosystem services was underestimated, partly because of very few studies assessing the value of nature’s contributions to human well-being.

Some 20 per cent of Africa’s land surface (6.6 million km2) is estimated to be degraded because of soil erosion, salinization, pollution and loss of vegetation or soil fertility.

Africa’s current population of 1.25 billion is likely to double by 2050, putting severe pressure on the continent’s biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people, unless appropriate policies and strategies are adopted and effectively implemented, she stated.

Mrs Kudjawu said biodiversity in areas in the Asia-Pacific and the Americas were all being threatened, as almost one million species were endangered, while rapid expansion and land degradation continued.

She said the IPBES was, therefore, formed in 2012 by about 130 member states, to strengthen the Science policy interphase for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use, long term human wellbeing and sustainable development.

The platform has over the period, produced seven thematic and one methodological assessment report, all of which painted a bleak picture for the sustenance of biodiversity that had for decades been providing functioning ecosystems, which supply oxygen, clean air, water, pollination of plants, pests control, wastewater treatment and many ecosystem services.

She, however, disclosed that some African countries had declared 14 per cent of the continent’s land mass and 2.6 per cent of the seas as protected areas, while some sites have been designated as wetlands of international importance; important bird and biodiversity areas; as well community conserved areas; among other things.

She, however, said governments, especially in Africa, needed to increase efforts and measures being taken to protect biodiversity, as in the case of Ghana’s Ramsar sites, that were being taken over by residents.

Mr Kwabena Badu-Yeboah, the Acting Director, Environmental Assessment and Audit Department, EPA, said Climate change, invasive alien species, disease and pollution were also found to contribute to biodiversity loss.

By destroying nature, we are undermining the fundamental bedrock that enables our health and well-being, our clean water and clean air, our food and medicine supply, our economic prosperity and social progress, and, indeed, our very survival here on Earth.

He, therefore, charged all stakeholders to help save the biodiversity by actively engaging in the IPBES activities to help sustain human life.

Professor Alfred Oteng-Yeboah of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Ghana, and a founding member of the IPBES Platform, said the workshop aimed at sensitising and mobilising support for Ghanaians to participate in IPBES activities.

As the IPBES global assessment report demonstrates, we have the knowledge, and we have the scientific evidence and policy options to address the threats of biodiversity loss, he said.

He said the success of IPBES depended on the participation and involvement of experts of all continents and especially Africa as it hosted rich biological diversity and the prospects in terms of development in the next decade.

Source: Ghana News Agency