Members of Parliament (MP), last Friday, nearly engaged in fisticuffs over recent sea erosion that has displaced over 4000 people in parts of the Volta Region.
The confrontations ensued after MP for Effutu constituency, Mr Alexander Afenyo- Markin and his colleagues from the majority side, engaged the media on the issue.
According to Mr Afenyo-Markin activities of sand winning have been discovered to be a major cause of the sea erosion in parts of Ketu South, Keta, Anlo and South Tongu constituencies.
He said research from some organisations, including the Fourth Estate, an online news outlet and some individuals from the Keta enclave, have alluded to sand winning activities in the area as a major cause.
He said tidal waves are very powerful, but they are aided even more by climate change.
But he stressed that matters are getting complicated in the Keta municipality, due to the activities of sand winning.
He said he was, however, surprised at the turn of events from his colleagues on the minority side. He said most of the MPs from the Volta Region have kept mute about it and are rather blaming the government for not being sensitive to the plight of the affected families.
“We have never heard them talking about the human activities going on at the Keta area which has led to the unbearable effect of what we are seeing today.
“In all the address, not a single word was made on it, meanwhile, the activities of sand winners are all over the place; it is recorded, it is on the internet, it is happening daily, yet no MP from that area, the Volta Caucus, even mention it.
“You have Fourth Estate doing some research there, an individual making remarks that they don’t have gold, they don’t have fish, so they are going to mine the sand; it is there.
“So for them to keep quiet and attempt to make a partisan comment, as it were, blame it on government as though government does not care about the situation, that is not so, with the greatest respect …”
He said government is doing its best by providing relief items to the affected people, but one should understand that these relief items are not the solution to the issue at hand and hence, called on stakeholders in the region to work together.
He called on his colleagues in the Volta Region to eschew politics and rather see the situation as a national disaster.
But the minority MPs didn’t take the majority’s explanation from MrMarkin lightly and this resulted in a heated argument between the two sides.
The New Democratic Congress member for Ellembele, Mr Armah Kofi Buah, argued that sand winning is a very serious issue, not only in the Volta Region, but across the country.
There is crisis at hand and the government needs to react by giving relief items to the affected persons and not engage in propaganda, he said.
He observed that the country is facing a serious climate crisis and heads must come together to proffer solutions and not to engage in partisan politics. “Not everything should be NDC, NPP. Five hundred families are homeless”.
The Legislator for South Dayi, Mr Rockson Nelson Etsey Dafeamekpor, was also livid about the response of the majority side.
He was of the view that government is spending millions of dollars to undertake sea defense projects along the coastline due to high rise in the sea level and a possibility of tidal wave attacks, so any attempt to attribute the recent crisis to activities of sanding winning is the most pathetic statement a government representative can make.
“To say that the lives of over 4000 people are being destroyed as a result of sand winning is unacceptable.”
He said the government has over the years demonstrated a laissez faire attitude to issues regarding the people of Anlo in the Volta Region.
He said the government has reacted to other crisis in the other parts of the country differently and doesn’t understand why same can’t be done for the people of the Volta Region.
Meanwhile,during a discussion on Joy FM’s News File show on Saturday, the Acting Director of the Hydrological Services Department (HSD) of the Ministry of Works and Housing, Hubert Osei Owusu-Ansah, stated that indeed sand winning activities at the beach is a major contributing factor to the worsening situation.
He said the impact of climate change and rise in sea level is a major issue affecting coastal communities and that his department has had cause to caution people against the act, due to the possible effects it is likely to have.
“Sand winning is a cause of major erosion. We have waves impacting on the beaches so the wave energy is transferred onto the beaches. If sand winning takes place, the beaches get deprived of sand and the waves move closely into the community. That is how tidal waves occurr,” he stated.
He said there are two main causes of tidal waves – Natural causes, which are as a result of the Wave Action or strong waves impacting the beaches to cause coastal erosion, and Man-made causes which manifest in the form of sand winning at the beaches.
His comments go to support the recent view and the statement made by the Deputy Majority Leader and Member of Parliament for the Effutu Constituency, Alexander Afenyo-Markin that the recent tidal waves that have destroyed houses and caused the relocation of over 4,000 people at three communities in the Volta Region, could partly be blamed on the sand winning activities in that area.
Mr. Owusu Osei-Ansah said “When the beaches are deprived of sand, it weakens the surface and the wave is able to move in to destroy houses and move into town.”
He said, in the course of constructing the sea defense wall, the department has had to deal with issues of sand winning at the beaches and it has always been a worry.
A former lecturer at the Institute for Environment and Sanitation Studies at the University of Ghana, Legon, Dr. Philip NeriQuashigah, who claimed on the program that he knew the terrain in Keta very well, because he has lived there before and also supported the claim that, though he could not tell about the magnitude of the impact, he could confirm that sand winning activities go on in that stretch.
“Sand winning removes the protection that the land gets and this increases the vulnerability. That is why we must put a stop to it,” he stated.
He said, per the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), sand winning activities at the beaches are illegal and must not be encouraged.
All the panellists on the show agreed that there must be education about the negative effects of sand winning at the beaches.
They also called for the enforcement of laws, as well as the involvement of community leaders, in the education drive.