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Galamsey fever: must it come to a ‘shoot to maim’ remedy?

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

Nothing quenches thirst like water. This is a sentiment that few will dispute. Moreover, the saying ‘water is life’ underscores its importance for our very survival. And evidently it’s about safe water.

So why are Ghanaians, indigenes who have a stake in the country’s well-being and existence, collaborating with foreigners to pollute Ghana’s water bodies and destroy the environment through illegal mining, galamsey?

If they’re suffering from gold fever, galamsey fever, should their disease be allowed to kill the country?

The threat that galamsey poses to Ghana’s river bodies and environment seems clear to everybody except the galamsey cohorts, as well as those who reportedly sell land for galamsey, because it appears nothing will stop them.

This is why there are calls for new strategies against the plague, including even a suggestion that perpetrators should be shot, for their bullet wounds to serve as a deterrent (emphasis added).

It’s not surprising that the recent arrest of a Sefwi chief alleged to be involved in galamsey made extensive headlines. The arrest followed a social media video of mind-boggling evidence of galamsey craters inside some houses, even in a bedroom, leading to police investigation and arrests.


What other evidence of the danger the galamsey fever poses could surpass those alarming images of compound houses virtually turned into mammoth ‘oware’ game boards, showing craters?
Of course mining into their own bedrooms will not pollute the community’s water, but does that mean it should be allowed? How can dwelling places be turned into mine pits?

Sometime ago, Chinese Ambassador Shi Ting Wang memorably and embarrassingly pointed out in a widely reported statement that no foreigner can come to Ghana and engage in illegal gold mining without the active assistance of Ghanaians.

Speaking on the sidelines of a forum in Cape Coast, Mr Shi said: “We don’t know where your gold is. We don’t issue visas too for the Chinese people coming to Ghana. Ghanaians issue the visas. Ghanaians aid the Chinese to where they can find your gold.

“Why are Chinese not doing illegal mining in South Africa where there is also a lot of gold...because they cannot do that there and the locals don’t support such illegalities,” he stated.

In a recent article, journalist Cameron Duodu, who has been campaigning against galamsey for a very long time, painted the following heart-rending picture:

“The state of the Ankobrah should make every Ghanaian weep uncontrollably. For its state is also duplicated by the Pra, the Tano, the Densu, the Birem, the Oti the Offin (and their tributaries) which constitute the greater part of the water resources generously bequeathed to us by Nature ….

“The wretched state of the river has been DELIBERATELY caused by Man. “More precisely, Ghanaian Man -- aided and abetted by Chinese nationals (both men and women).

“They use chemicals, mainly, poisonous cyanide and mercury, to carry out their mission. Cyanide and mercury are known to kill humans and fishes. They also cause genetic diseases and deformities. (There have been reports in the media that children have been born in the towns and villages (where water polluted with poisonous chemicals is used) who have no eyes or noses!”

He described galamsey as a “ONE HUNDRED PERCENT DISASTER”.

And I need to add, what kind of human beings are these? What kind of gold fever are they suffering from, that they have no thought for the welfare of the community, or for future generations?

Little wonder that in a recent social media post, an unidentified contributor stated that from his experience as someone who has lived in China “I recommend to the Government that the surest way to stop

Galamsey is to deploy our best military snipers to shoot to maim anyone who tries illegal mining in Ghana. You cannot tear a leaf in China and be guaranteed tomorrow. No nonsense in China!

“Let's declare galamsey the highest crime in Ghana and protect our rivers, lands and environment with guns, bombs, airpower, and death sentences. (The) Ghana Water Company says they will soon have to import water into Ghana,” he added.

Who can contemplate without great trepidation a near future of Ghana having to import water? But apparently not the galamsey miners.

Also worth considering by the Government is an environmentalist’s proposal, reported in the Daily Graphic of Monday, September 26.

Environmentalist Nana Dwomoh Sarpong, suggests that the Government should “review its strategy towards fighting illegal mining to make it regional and district-led.”

He criticised the current top-bottom approach, where an anti galamsey task force is formed at the national level to take charge of local operations in the affected places.

“We have had Operation Vanguard, Operation Halt and Operation Halt II, all constituted at the top in Accra but the problem persists, which tells us that something is wrong in our strategy ….

“The regions and districts know all the areas and the people who engage in the illegal activities, so why do we send people from Accra to take charge of the operations?”

Nana Sarpong’s views are similar to what I expressed in this column last year.

I wrote: “There has to be a sustained, bold fightback by the affected communities. Traditional rulers, men and women; the youth all need to see the fight against galamsey as their fight, not a Government fight.

“After all, they are eye witnesses to the destruction of the water bodies and attendant harmful effects on their lives.

“They are the immediate victims, so they must be encouraged and empowered to join in the offensive against galamsey.” (Column of August 28, 2021, ‘Galamsey plague: time for communities to fight back boldly!)

Interestingly, a Ghana Television Breakfast Show clip on a social media platform, shows a bottle of what looked like fruit juice, brought by media personality Kafui Dey. Panellists thought it was either pineapple juice or apple; or mango. However, the shocking truth revealed by Mr Dey was that it was water from the River Pra, a sample he took near the Beposo bridge last Saturday.

“The people there drink it, cook with it, take their bath with it. This is what we’re doing to our river bodies,” he said. “Stop galamsey now!”

Clearly the likelihood of Ghana having to import water in the near future doesn’t seem so far-fetched. And that is just one galamsey consequence.

Drastic situations call for drastic measures. If nothing else will stop galamsey, maybe the antidote to the intransigence should be a shoot to maim policy.

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