Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Combating Irresponsible Mining In Ghana By Bubu Klinogo

There are fears that if care is not taken, Ghana will have to start importing drinking water in the next two decades. This is due to extensive destruction being caused water bodies following illegal mining activities popularly known as galamsey. Most water bodies are highly polluted that they can no longer be treated for consumption. This unfortunate situation has led to the shutdown of some water treatment plants in parts of the country including Ashanti, Eastern, Central and Western Regions. Also, where it is possible to treat such polluted water, it comes at a huge cost to the Ghana Water Company.

In view of the threat posed by illegal mining, all hands need to be on deck to fight the menace to rescue the nation from future water shortage. Reports that influential people including chiefs, politicians and security operatives are neck deep in galamsey is worrying. The looming water crisis and food shortage as a result of destruction of water bodies and farmlands should send signals to the influential people involved in galamsey that they cannot sacrifice the collective national interest for their selfish gains.

There must be some lessons from the work of the past inter-ministerial task force on galamsey which saw huge financial and human resources committed to that exercise. The revelation by the Minister of Lands and Forestry, John Peter Amewu that drones will be deployed to augment efforts to effectively combat illegal mining is refreshing. This laudable initiative and others backed by political will and strict enforcement of the appropriate laws are required to make any effort at tackling galamsey sustainable.

Let us discourage the practice where influential people engaged in illegal mining when arrested, are released almost immediately, not because there is no evidence against them, but because they are highly connected. In most instances, members of the security agencies simply take money from them and shield them. When it comes to galamsey, Chinese are the single largest group of foreigners involved. Is it sheer coincidence that at this time when there is intensified campaign against galamsey, a Chinese entrepreneur in Ghana donated GH¢50,000.00 to the police administration? Our political, security and traditional leaders should be guided by recent revelations by a former minister for Environment, Lands and Natural Resources, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, that a high-powered Chinese delegation had once attempted to bribe him with the sponsorship of his child to the best schools in order to allow them to continue mining. The fight against galamsey must not be converted into electoral fortunes. It requires the support of a government that is looking at the next generation rather than the next election.

Apart from environmental degradation and other negative impacts, it is estimated that Ghana also lost $2.3 billion in gold revenue due to illegal mining. Which money could have been used for national development. We cannot allow this to continue. Let us adopt a naming and shaming posture. One potent vehicle to advance this agenda is the media. It is therefore refreshing that some selected media organisations including the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation have formed a coalition against illegal mining. The campaign must nevertheless not remain in Accra or just in the media. They must go to the ground and speak directly to those involved in the practice.

It is important for the youths to also get actively involved in this fight. Instead of allowing heavily built body people to torment and harass fellow citizens, it will be more useful and productive to direct their energies towards the fight against illegal mining.Who knows, the presence of these machomen alone may scare galamseyers. It is worth considering the argument for an alternative source of livelihood for operators of galamsey. Ordinarily, one should not be concerned with any alternative for people engaged in criminal activities. But the sheer number of people involved makes it a necessary evil to consider. Farming readily comes to mind. That is one sector that can absorb all the illegal miners and even more especially at this time when government is implementing the planting for food programme. The cocoa sector must also be made attractive so that instead of cocoa farmers giving parts of their land for galamsey, they can cultivate them to boost production.

Again, it will be important for the authorities to consider an immediate moratorium on the granting of new mining concessions. The hard truth is it doesn't matter where you are. You may not be living in a mining area, but the devastating effects of illegal mining go beyond the mining communities. Galamsey is a national security threat. We have to either join hands in ending it, or allow it to consume us.

Say no to galamsey, protect our environment.


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