The United States and The Netherland Embassies in Ghana have pledged support for the country’s fight against illegal mining. According to the US Ambassador to Ghana, Robert P. Jackson, the fight against ‘galamsey’ needed to be sustained to save the country’s environment and natural resources from further degradation and pollution.
Figures from the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources indicate that more than 230,000 kilometres of land have been destroyed by galamsey activities whiles over $2.3 billion from such illegal activities had been transferred out of the country without the payment of royalties.
Mr Jackson said the embassy was aware of the dangers galamsey operations posed, particularly to water quality.
“The work we have been doing around galamsey has been around water quality. We will continue to do that working with the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and the new Ministry of Water and Sanitation.
“The other thing we have been doing is to assist with natural resource management and helping communities to gain value from preserving the resources, making use of trees in a sustainable way, harvesting different vegetables and nuts and other farm produce and adding value to them and marketing,” he stated this after a tour of the Atiwa Forest and some galamsey sites and a courtesy call on the Okyenhene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori-Panin II, in the Eastern Region.
The constant activities by the galamseyers is polluting the country’s rivers, compelling the Ghana Water Company to expend more resources in the treatment of water.
In October last year, the US government launched a $25-million project in Ghana to ensure the effective management and utilisation of natural resources in northern Ghana.
On a possible US support for transforming Atiwa into a national park, he said “We can also provide some technical expertise. We have people from our national parks service to provide expertise. USAID was responsible for the creation of Kakum. We can look at that model.”
The Deputy Head of Mission of the Netherland Embassy in Ghana, Ms Caecilia Wijgers, said the Dutch government would continue in its support in the fight against galamsey activities through an environmental non-governmental organisation, AROCHA.
She said as part of the programme, local communities were being engaged through alternative livelihood activities that would reduce their dependence on forest and mining resources.
Ms Wijgers further stressed the need for an effective collaboration among stakeholders on the galamsey menace.
Accra and its environs depend largely on the Atiwa range for water supply to its over three million residents in addition to four million others in some parts of the country, but the reserve is said to be under attack from illegal miners, chainsaw operators and farming activities.
The entire 237-kilometre square reserve is surrounded by mining concessions which expose it to further encroachment as well as pollution of water bodies in the area. The Birim is said to be the worse affected.
Traces of two heavy metals, arsenic and mercury, found in the river in a research conducted by the Water Research Institute (WRI) are said to be harmful, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Although the WRI found small traces of the dangerous chemicals in the river, the WHO has indicated that those quantities can still cause serious health problems, including threats to the development of the unborn child.
According to the WHO, arsenic is highly toxic in its inorganic form and water contaminated with the chemical used for drinking, food preparation and irrigation of food crops posed the greatest threat to public health.