Former Canadian Prime Minister is a Treehugger and Rescuer


Image from Globe & Mail

It turns out that former Canadian prime minister Joe Clark is a treehugger--who knew? He is involved in a controversial project in Ghana to reclaim dead trees that have been submerged under water for years. These trees--ebony, teak, mahogany and other tropical hardwood--are hidden deep in the waters of Lake Volta and could be worth $1,500 to $2,500 each. They have been preserved by the lack of oxygen in the lake water.

According to a story in the Globe & Mail, the controversy stems from the divided views of the populace over the damage that the project will cause to fishing and the environment--or not, according to the varying points of view.


Image from Globe & Mail

The total harvest could be worth up to $3-billion so this is a serious business venture--it's the world's largest underwater logging project, with $18-million in private investment already confirmed and another $100-million likely to be put in over the life of the project.

With numbers like that the stakes are high, but what are the differing points of view and how legitimate are they?

Joe Clark was Canada's youngest prime minister and held office for a mere 7 months. Widely considered an honourable man, he has long been interested in social development in Africa. He believes the logging project will create jobs--1,400 of them--and growth in this poor area in West Africa. Of course, it will also make him a lot of money.

The fishermen of Lake Volta, however, are not all convinced. Some worry that the fish will go away if they cut down the trees. Some attach their traps to the trees. Others think that the trees are a menace and destroy their boats. More than 300 people have died when their boats rammed the trees.

Environmentalists are divided too. Some fear that the "logging" will destroy the lake's ecological balance and pose a risk to the biodiversity. Others disagree claiming that it is an artificial lake and fish were only introduced into it in the 1960's. They say that many trees will be left in the shallow waters where fish and birds gather.

Other fears are based on the fact that the technology for underwater log harvesting has never been attempted on such a massive scale before. The technology is new and has never been tested to this extent.

The company, Clark Sustainable Resource Developments, has been awarded the logging rights to 40 per cent of the 850,000-hectare lake, and in return the government gets 20% of the harvest's net value.

It's one of those issues where the answer to the question "who benefits" is complicated and not easily answered. : Globe & Mail

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