The Upper West Regional (UWR) Minister, Mr Amidu Chinnia Issahaku, has expressed worry about the involvement of top politicians, chiefs and business “gurus” in illegal mining activities, which has soared its devastating effects on Ghana’s environment.
“The involvement of chiefs, the rich, some well-placed political cohorts and some foreigners in the “galamsey” business has scaled up the level of destruction due to the use of heavy-duty machines and chemicals,” he said.
Mr Issahaku expressed these sentiments in a speech read on his behalf during a Town Hall Meeting organised by the Media Coalition Against Galamsey in Wa Municipal and Wechiau in Wa West District.
He commended the Coalition for organising the meeting and expressed the hope that it would lead to better understanding of the dangers illegal mining posed to the society.
The meeting provided stakeholders the opportunity to proffer solutions for reducing the galamsey menace.
“The fight against illegal mining is a collective responsibility of all well-meaning Ghanaians,” Mr Issahaku said: “Most of our water bodies have been polluted and this is affecting the supply of quality water.”
The Ghana Water Company Limited, he said, now spends far more in the treatment of water due to pollution by activities of illegal miners.
“Even more devastating is the fact that the water resource of the country is depleting due to siltation from mining in and around the water bodies,” he added.
“As a country, we have lost most of our freshwater bodies, such as rivers, leading to water shortage in some parts of the country.”
The Minister said it was regrettable that the illegal miners and those influential in society did not see or refused to see the long term effect of their activities to human survival.
“This has also contributed to the difficulty in the fight against the menace. We cannot as a people continue to allow the destruction of the environment and our water bodies due to some benefits a few will enjoy at the expense of the rest of the citizenry.”
“The time has come for us to stand up and fight against illegal mining.”
Mr Issahaku also praised Operation Vanguard Task Force for flushing out some of the illegal miners but added: “We need to be vigilant in monitoring our environment and water bodies.”
Stakeholders in Upper West were urged to take into consideration the fragile nature of Ghana’s environment and consider the campaign against galamsey a serious one.
There are reports of illegal mining activities in areas such as Nadowli-Kaleo, Wa East, Lawra and Wa West districts.
The negative effects of illegal mining threaten the livelihood of farmers; water bodies and the vegetative cover are also being destroyed resulting in soil infertility, soil erosion and eventually environmental degradation.
Mr Issahaku noted that combined effects of those negative activities resulted in low crop yields and spread of diseases, and described the region as one of the poorest in Ghana with farmers making up more than 50 percent of its labour force.
“Threatening the livelihood of farmers is a security threat and the regional Security Council will act in an appropriate measure to stop these illegal activities,” he added.
“Periodic operations are carried out to flush out illegal miners especially along the Black Volta River and this has resulted in the protection of the Black Volta from the negative effects of illegal mining”.
He said government would continue to do its best but the fight against galamsey could only succeed with the help of the citizenry particularly traditional rulers, the media and political leaders.
The media were commended for responding timely to the call and contributed to the successes chalked in the fight against the canker.
“I wish to commend the Media Coalition against galamsey for such an initiative and it is my hope that you will not rest on your laurels,” he added.
“Let us, however, endeavour to ensure we do not fall prey to some of these nation racking activities. We should also be circumspect in our reportage so that the good initiatives you have embarked upon do not backfire into worst situations.”