Group criticises govt over plans to engage Japanese to treat galamsey-polluted rivers

A youth-led environmental group, Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM) has questioned government’s plan to engage Japanese specialists to treat galamsey-polluted river bodies.

The group explained that the state of the river bodies cannot be “reversed by a one-time recovery of polluted water bodies by a team of Japanese experts, but rather by the immediate end of all galamsey operations in our forests and river bodies, followed by the former”.

The Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), and a team of Japanese environmental scientists had announced a partnership to conduct research into Ghana’s polluted rivers brought on by illegal mining.

The objective of the team is to make the rivers clean and hygienic using micro-nano-bubble, unique bacteria and other cleaning technologies.

GYEM advocates that “it is not only our rivers that need cleaning, but our lands also need reclamation too” hence government must enforce and intensify punitive measures for “offenders regardless of their political affiliations”.

It further proposed that “the police, judiciary, and other law enforcement agencies must be adequately resourced to carry out their duties. The government needs to intensify public education and awareness programs to inform people of the dangers of galamsey activities. The government must provide alternative livelihoods for those involved in illegal mining.”

Also, “this can be achieved through the promotion of sustainable agriculture, vocational training, and other job creation initiatives. The government must strengthen environmental regulations and ensure that mining companies comply with them”, it added.

Cocoa sector

The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has predicted that some key river bodies in the country may go extinct in the next few years due to illegal mining activities.

COCOBOD is worried that illegal mining activities, popularly known as galamsey, may adversely affect cocoa production on a large scale if measures are not taken to address the harm left by illegal miners.

COCOBOD added that a lot of these river bodies are heavily choked with silt which impedes the turbidity of the water.

Water treatment

During a Citi TV’s roundtable discussion on illegal mining in 2022, the Director of Planning at the Water Resources Commission, Dr Bob Alfa, issued a stern warning that if illegal mining activities commonly known as galamsey are not dealt with within the next six months, the Ghana Water Company Limited will not be able to provide treated water for various households.

The MD of Ghana Water Company Limited, Dr Clifford Braimah explained that “our system is not made for wastewater, but for fresh water. If we do not take the issue of illegal mining seriously enough and address it, our systems may break down, and we may not be able to produce water for Ghanaians anymore.”

He bemoaned the cost of production which has become “unbearable therefore resorting to more expensive chemicals to be able to reduce the process lost. The cost of treatment continues to go up.”