Land restoration crucial to our economic survival

The national land reclamation project rolled out by the government to restore lands degraded by illegal mining activities is receiving endorsement from residents of mining communities.

The project, which is part of the National Alternative Employment and Livelihood Programme (NAELP) under the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, is targeted mainly at degraded lands that straddle water bodies, with the ultimate aim of restoring the lands, while breathing a new lease of life into rivers.

Adopting community participation, the reclamation project started in the last quarter of last year, with 1,000 hectares of degraded lands being reclaimed.

A similar exercise was done in 2017 when the government began the process of reclaiming an estimated 1.5 per cent of the country’s land surface which had been degraded by illegal mining and other destructive environmental activities.

Indeed, land is a source of well-being for present and future generations.

It provides a range of ecosystem services that sustain human needs.

Again, mining alters the natural landscape and discharges large volumes of waste that poses serious pollution hazards to the environment, human health and agriculture.

Land degradation can severely influence livelihoods by limiting the availability of vital ecosystem services, including food and water, increase the risk of poverty and ultimately force people to migrate.

The country’s land space is estimated at about 238,000 square kilometres. Out of this, between 50,000 and 60,000sq km, representing 1.5 per cent, is reportedly degraded by illegal mining practices.

Although mining is regarded as a crucial economic activity worldwide, it also inflicts a significant negative impact on the environment due to its nature, especially open cast mining, which inevitably leads to serious degradation on ecological and aesthetic values of the landscape.

Topography and drainage, air, soil and water quality, vegetation, including forest ecosystems, noise levels and ground vibrations, human health and habitation can be listed as the typical parameters that are mainly affected by illegal mining activities.

When the extraction of a resource is over, the altered landscape has to be reclaimed in order to relieve the damaging effects of illegal open cast mining and restore the landscape and its immediate surroundings.

For us, the restoration of post-mining landscapes is a very challenging task because there is no unique reclamation planning scheme for such lands; it highly depends on site-specific characteristics.

The Daily Graphic believes that a successful and sustainable reclamation requires interdisciplinary approach to restore ecological, hydrological, aesthetic and recreational functions of the post-mining landscape.

Legislative issues in mining and reclamation attempts are mostly contingent to the visions of governments.

However, in order to foster efficiency and the sustainability of post-mining landscapes and protect our valuable natural resources, much stricter global standardisation of legal measures is needed in our rapidly changing world.

That is why the Daily Graphic is happy that Dredge Masters, the private company in charge of restoring degraded lands in some mining communities, has completed earth works and planted economic trees on a greater part of the land.

At Asawinso Site A, the earth works and the planting of economic trees had been completed on the 61-acre degraded land.

For now, our future depends on what we do today and how we interact with nature.

So it is essential to sustainably reclaim mine-disturbed lands through comprehensive and collaborative planning that considers all key aspects.

This is because we borrow the nature that we live on from future generations, which is a fact that we should always recall.

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