So far, the process of restoring Notre Dame to its former glory has not been a smooth one. Since the landmark caught fire in April, cleanup efforts were temporarily halted because of lead contamination concerns, and questions regarding cost and materials continue to permeate. 

View of Notre-Dame Cathedral as of 1 September 2019, with scaffolding for reconstruction and a temporary frame to support the buttressing arches after the fire.
As of 1 September 2019, Notre Dame was covered with scaffolding and a temporary frame to support the buttressing arches after the fire. © Bruno Giuliani/Getty Images

But one company thinks it has a solution – to the cost portion of the equation, at least. Ghana’s Lake Volta is home to a forest that’s been underwater so long it’s begun to fossilise, approximating the durability of the oaks that were primarily used in the cathedral’s original construction, and according to the BBC, Kete Krachi Timber Recovery has submitted a proposal for harvesting the submerged wood for sale to the French government. 

The surface of Ghana's Lake Volta, with submerged trees poking out and greenery in the foreground
A timber company in Ghana believes a submerged forest could provide the wood needed to rebuild the landmark cathedral. Image © nicolasdecorte/Getty Images

Some 1300 trees went into Notre-Dame's frame and spire back in the day, an effort that resulted in 52 acres of deforestation,  according to the BBC. But as the broadcasting company reports, the team at Kete Krachi believes that using wood from Lake Volta would be more environmentally friendly than destroying the equivalent of another 26 football pitches, especially since it already harvests the timber with remote-operated machinery.

But the plan’s detractors aren’t so sure. There’s the question of habitat destruction, first and foremost. The submerged trees are home to a thriving ecosystem, and removing them has “led to a ‘sharp decline’ in the number of fish in Lake Volta,” local NGO Friends of the Nation project officer Stephen Anani told the BBC. "It's destroying the habitat where fish lay their eggs," he said. "Some of the fish are now endangered." (Kete Krachi Timber, on the other hand, says it leaves the roots intact, which “‘minimises’ ecological disruption.”)

Notre Dame at night before the fire.jpg
It's not yet clear whether Notre Dame will be rebuilt with wood, like the original structure, or another material. Image © tsenovich/Budget Travel

From extraction to delivery, the potential carbon footprint around the process could also be a potential issue, though there’s some disagreement as to whether the company’s plan to ship wood to France constitutes an energy-efficient option or a carbon-filled mistake.

Ultimately, though, this could all be a moot point. As the French culture ministry’s Jérémie Patrier-Leitus told the BBC, there’s no guarantee the frame will be rebuilt with wood at all. “Right now we don't know,” he said. “We are in the process of securing the monument, and then we will have to rebuild the vault and the spire. Reconstruction will start once the structure of the monument is stabilised and preserved. We will study the different generous offers once we have confirmed the material used to rebuild the frame."

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