Editorial: So we have lost the fight against pollution of our rivers by illegal miners?

November 15, 2021 By 0 Comments

On July 31, 2017, the government, in her attempt to stop all forms of illegal mining in Ghana,   launched the Operation Vanguard Task Force.  The teams of 400 security men, made up of personnel of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF) and Police Service, who were given special training at the Bundase Military Training Camp, were divided into three groups to cover the Ashanti, Eastern and Western regions.

The teams were also tasked to stay at their assigned regions until all forms of illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey, had been brought to a halt, and unauthorised mining pits permanently destroyed. The taskforce was given the needed working tools – new patrol vehicles and other logistics – to enable them perform their operations with urgency and speed.

Speaking at the launch, which was held in Accra, the then Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Illegal Mining, Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, said the taskforce was expected to remain in the affected areas until the degraded lands and rivers had been restored and the reforestation programme undertaken.

Thereafter, he said another team to be made up of personnel of the Ghana Navy and Marine Police would be deployed to take up the monitoring of the major rivers and water bodies until illegal activities had been completely eradicated.

“This may take several months, perhaps years, but let no one think that this is going to be a nine-day wonder. The task force is not the only thing the government plans to do to stop galamsey. We plan to deploy another task force to other regions in the next few months,” Prof Frimpong Boateng was quoted by the Daily Graphic as saying.

Unfortunately, events that followed – massive corruption involving some members of the Ministerial Taskforce – compelled the government to dissolve the taskforce. Another taskforce was put in place as late as 2020 to help stop the illegal miners, but that one also seems to have failed.

As we put this piece together, there are several reports that the turbidity levels of rivers Ankobra, Pra and Offin have moved from bad to worse. The Navy, which was initially captured using canoes to patrol these river bodies, appears to have abandoned post giving the illegal miners the right to operate without any inhibition. The Chronicle is worried over the development, because it creates the impression that we, as a country, are not showing any serious signs of protecting our water bodies.

As a result of the high unemployment rate not only prevailing in the country, but in the West Africa sub-region, the youth have become very daring. Despite all the warnings, they are still in the bush digging the land in search of the precious mineral – gold. What the state must, therefore, do is to carry the fight to them, but this is not happening. The big question we must be asking ourselves is – where will Ghana be without these big rivers, which serve as sources of our drinking water?

Clearly, if the government has assessed and come to know the enormity of the problem at hand, this ad hoc fight against the illegal miners wouldn’t have come about. These rivers are natural resources and once they go on extinct, they cannot be replaced, and Ghana will be the big time loser. This is the reason why the authorities must tackle pollution of our rivers with all the seriousness it deserves. This is not the time to throw our hands into the air as a sign of despair. It will be catastrophic in the long run if this is what we are harbouring.