It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in 2009, and as usual, I took a brisk walk to Titanic Beach in Sakumono, Tema West, on my return from the backcountry, to watch the playful ocean breeze with its salty sweet essence and skin. caressing sun.
A few meters from the main road to Tema Beach is the Sakumo Ramsar site, otherwise known as the Sakumo Lagoon.
While there, the chirping birds came in gusts, bringing a little smile to my face. The birds were called in this beautiful way, with songs coming from different angles along the site.
I stood still as my eyes followed the birds in flight with a askance, though filled with love and awe. The birds sang straight to my soul.
The Sakumo Ramsar site
According to the Ramsar Site Information Service (RSIS), a point of sale that provides information on wetlands designated as being of international importance, the Sakumo Ramsar Site covers approximately 1,365 hectares (ha) in a basin. total slope of 27,634 ha.
It consists of brackish lagoon water with a close connection to the sea; the lagoon has an area of about 350 ha and a surrounding floodplain of about 700 ha.
The site boundary is demarcated, surveyed, pounded and mapped as a nature conservation area (wetlands) in accordance with Ghana’s commitment to ratify the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands on February 3, 1971.
The southern limit follows the sea shore (Gulf of Guinea) and the rest of the border line follows a watershed limit.
The so far well preserved wetland designated as being of environmental importance is gradually losing its importance and beauty as it has been left unprotected and depleted in the strangest way, destroying the ecosystem, which has been a habitat for migratory birds.
The country’s wetlands are protected by the Wetlands Management (Ramsar Sites) Regulations 1999 (LI 1659), but the protection and management of Ghana’s wetlands leaves much to be desired as some have given way to l encroachment due to urban sprawl, in particular the Sakumo Ramsar site. About 80 percent of the area had been invaded by developers, leaving only a fraction of its original 280 ha area.
Satellite imagery from the Sakumo Ramsar site shows that the wetland is regularly losing significant areas.
World Migratory Bird Day
A visit to the site earlier this month, 12 years later, painted a whole different picture as the world prepares to mark Migratory Bird Day on October 9, 2021. I have observed that the wetland has grown. was deteriorated, with coconut seedlings planted in portions to make up for the lost mangrove.
These birds, which provide us with so much respite and alleviate our anxiety, are rapidly disappearing and I wondered if there were any global efforts to save the remaining habitat.
There seems to be some hope in sight as World Migratory Bird Day, an annual global campaign dedicated to raising awareness of migratory birds, continues to galvanize international cooperation to conserve and push global efforts to protect birds and wildlife. habitats they need to survive. .
Suffice it to say that the wetland is very important as it slows down flood waters by acting as giant shallow tubs while the plants in these tubs hold water, preventing flooding in nearby communities and the city. in general.
In April this year, Mr. Henry Quartey, the regional minister of Greater Accra, after a visit to the site, promised to demolish the structures along the wetland as they pose a threat to the city and its inhabitants.
Nii Alabi Gbene II, Division Chief of Sakumono, during this year’s commemoration of World Environment Day, on the theme: “Restoration of ecosystems”, expressed his disappointment at the current state of the site, which has been worn out due to human activity, and called for its immediate dredging to save it.
He said the main threats to the site are rapid population growth due to urbanization and the presence of sewage, household waste and much of the three-decade sewerage challenge in Tema, which results in direct displacement. human excreta from homes to the site and into the ocean. .
The theme for this year’s Migration Day: “Sing, fly, soar – like a bird! focuses on the phenomena of ‘bird song’ and ‘bird flight’ as a way to inspire and connect people of all ages around the world in their shared desire to celebrate migratory birds.
The theme is an invitation to reconnect with nature by actively listening and observing birds, wherever they are.
Ms. Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, said in a statement: “For many people around the world, watching and listening to birds during the pandemic has been a great source of comfort and happiness, bringing with it a whole new awareness and appreciation of birds.
“As studies have shown, watching birds and listening to their songs can help reduce anxiety and depression. Quite simply, birds bring joy to people of all ages.
The need to preserve the Sakumo Ramsar site
The Sakumo Ramsar site has high numbers of waterbirds, which make up over one percent of the coastal population of these species.
Wetlands are vital for human survival, being among the most productive environments in the world; cradles of biological diversity that provide the water and productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for their survival.
Wetlands are indispensable for the myriad benefits they provide to humanity, ranging from freshwater supply, food, biodiversity, flood control, groundwater recharge and climate change mitigation.
Hundreds of local communities along the Sakumo Lagoon, for example, continue to depend on the lagoon’s fish for their livelihood.
Migratory birds and tourism perspectives
According to RSIS, notable bird species that roam for miles to the site include wading birds such as the spotted prawn and yellow redhorse, sandpipers, curlew, small passage Calidris minuta, black-tailed godwit Limosa. limosa and the black-winged stilt Himantopus himantopus, among others.
Mr. Charles Buabin, Tema Regional Director of the Ghana Tourism Authority, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency on the site’s prospects as an inland tourist avenue, said the area had been brought to the attention of the Authority and that it had sent a proposal to the Tema West Municipal Assembly to examine ways of harnessing the resource to make it an attraction.
He said that the site could not be promoted if it was not properly developed as a tourist attraction site, and thus proposed the creation of some hiking trails for walks, observation points and rest centers and reception centers, among others, to make the place work.
“The Ramsar Site has experienced a lot of deterioration over the years, but still has a lot of prospects and needs to be developed as a tourist site as part of the waterfront development project to boost domestic tourism in Tema because the people around the world continue to listen and watch the birds every day, ”he said.
To restore the Sakumo Ramsar Site to its former glory and ‘good old days’, stakeholders, including the Forestry Commission and the Tema West Municipal Assembly, must, among other measures, increase awareness to educate the public, especially those who live around the wetland, about its importance for environmental sustainability.
When this is done, the chirping birds of the Sakumo Ramsar site will continue to be music for the ears and the soul, creating an awe-inspiring sensation with their movement choreographed to make the Dawn Chorus as rich as any. what a symphony.