The impact of wood processing industries on the environment in Kumasi Metropolitan Area

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Today, the environment has become an important topic on the political agenda of most governments in the world. Environmental considerable is increasingly taking a centre stage in the development planning and policy-making process at all levels — individuals, national and global. Even though considerable efforts are made and rules and regulations put in place to protect the environment, mass destruction of the natural forests and wildlife, the effects of soil, air and water pollution are leading to the degradation of agricultural lands continue unabated. It is a fact that our communities, especially those close to the natural forests, continue to subdue and over stretch the forest and all its diversity by over-exploiting its resources personal gains which cause serious environmental problems. They consciously do that without taking the necessary precautions to preserve and conserve them. It has become common knowledge that the environment can no longer be taken for granted in our quest for development. It has therefore, become necessary t critically assess the impact of all human activities, more importantly, industrial concerns on the environment in order to put in place measures that will ensure a safe and sustainable environment. As a result, an environmental impact assessment was conducted for three wood processing companies namely; Logs and Lumber Limited, Bibiani Logs and Lumber Company, in Asokwa - Ahensan - Kaasi industrial area in Kumasi to establish pollution and waste generation levels in the three companies operations and activities. For the purpose of this study, the method used included desk study, questionnaire, field work and personal observations to ascertain information on production, environmental history, energy, waste generation, noise levels, health and safety as well as personal protective equipment. The study also revealed that the lighting system in the sawmills of the companies was bad resulting in frequent accidents. Again, sawdust and noise have become serious environmental problem and nuisance to both the workers and residents who live close to these Wood Processing Companies. Furthermore, majority of the workers seldom use the protective gadgets such as ear plugs, nose pads, gloves, overall dresses, helmet and others they had been supplied with during working hours. This has resulted in a lot of occupational hazards. In order to find remedy to these problems it was suggested that the transparent roofing sheets should be used to improve on lighting system and also reduce the occupational hazards and therefore reduce the cost of electricity. It was suggested that there should be enforcement in the use of personal protective equipment by workers to control ear skin eyes diseases that were common in the wood processing industries. Again, it was recommended that wood processing should stop to dump their wood residues into streams and rivers since these pollute the water bodies. Even though Wood Processing Companies have made significant contributions to the economy of Kumasi in particular and Ghana in general, in the realms of employment, income generation, foreign exchange earnings, auxiliary industries, the environmental problems such as pollution must be seriously addressed in order to protect and maintain a sustainable environment to save it from irreparable damage.
A Thesis Submitted to the School of Postgraduate Studies, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, in partial fulfilment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Development Policy and Planning, 2002