Ghana is losing its biodiversity and ecosystems at an alarming rate, with pressure coming from agricultural expansion, mining, timber extraction, construction and infrastructural development among other socio-economic factors and changes, says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The country has lost vast forest areas to wanton exploitation by humans to satisfy their immediate economic needs without recourse to the regeneration capacity of the forest. This has reduced the closed forest cover of 145,000 square kilometres at the beginning of the 20th Century to a mere 15,000 sq km at present.

Addressing stakeholders at a validation meeting here Thursday on new frameworks and guidelines for protection of biodiversity, Ebenezer Sarpong, the deputy technical director of the EPA, said an economic assessment of the cost of environmental degradation some two decades ago suggested that the country was losing more than 54 billion US dollars annually as a result.

There was therefore every reason to believe that the figures had more than doubled, given the spate of unprecedented devastation being witnessed as a result of the manner in which artisanal mining or “galamsey” was being carried out in different parts of Ghana.

He said this called for urgent action and a change from the traditional methods of addressing those challenges using old biodiversity approaches and adopting current global methods such as Biodiversity Offset Business Scheme (BOBS).

The new BOBS Framework and Guidelines being developed by the EPA in partnership with key stakeholders, including the Forestry Commission and the National Biodiversity Committee, are aimed at providing guidance for instituting private sector-led offsetting programme in Ghana.

Sarpong said that when implemented, the scheme would help in mainstreaming biodiversity conservation actions into broader economic development activities and decision-making processes, ensure responsible management, sustainable utilisation, and also the equitable benefit sharing of biodiversity resources.