Dangerous waters
Dangerous waters

The persistent terrorism of galamsey - And other associated health hazards

This is the season—the much-awaited political season.


The tirades before the storm proper are in full swing.

The steamy campaigns have started with relish, and the usual seasonal promises abound in heavy doses.

But, then, why are the pertinent issues affecting the environment so blatantly missing in the campaign speeches?

 Why are the elephants in the room not featured in those promises?

Deadly experiences

A few months back, driving towards Obuasi from Kumasi, I bought some boiled corn but just as I was about to peel off the sheath we got to the Oda river.

A cursory look at the brownish noxious stream left a most horrifying imprint to this day. 

How on earth could the people in that area survive for long using – for cooking and drinking - such contaminated water teeming with cyanide and mercuric oxides?

The appetite for the corn left me on the spot.

A few years back, noticing and alarmed by a gaping sore on the wrist of a taxi driver I had hired from Kumasi airport to Krofrom, I queried him, “That’s a bad sore; what happened?”

Without hesitation, he voluntarily pulled his long sleeve shirt up from the wrist to show me some hideous gangrenous sores that migrated all the way into his shoulders.

Recounting the devastation of the rivers around his cocoa farm, he had escaped from the village to now drive a taxi in Kumasi.

Ghana Water Company

It was lately reported that the Ghana Water Company had been on the verge of shutting down operations in the Ashanti Region due to the activities of illegal mining.

 The cost involved in treating water, according to the company, was taking a toll on its finances.

An official was to announce on a radio that “We were first using aluminum sulphate which is called ‘Alum’ which after the process, you will get your clean water.

But the Alum is not able to treat the water anymore which almost made us shut down our pumps”. 

Kidney failures

Kidney failures

He said: “We have to serve Ghana so we have bought polymer which is an advanced form of Alum and it is ten times more expensive than the alum.

 It is too expensive for us.

If it gets to a time when the polymer is not able to treat the water, we may have to shut all our plants down which means no one gets water”.

He was to add that “When you mention galamsey I get scared.

It is like an act of terrorism that some people are using to sabotage us. 

Sometimes I ask myself if the people involved do think about the people of the country or they want us all to die.


The water bodies have been destroyed which is so worrying.”

Notes from medical doctors

From notes that I sent out to some medical friends, asking why our doctors were quiet about such dangers to the delicate human organs, like kidneys? one replied, “I gave a talk at KNUST about seven years ago about the upsurge in non- communicable diseases in Ghana. 

I mentioned that our polluted water bodies were constant threat to our well-being, especially the amplification of mercury on catfish species that appear to survive in galamsey muddy waters.”

He noted that, “Now, we read of the upsurge in kidney diseases among the youth especially around the galamsey areas.


 Although it is recognised that galamsey could not be the only cause of kidney failures, yet to my mind, it is a major culprit.”

Another said the medical doctors have been talking, but they strongly believe they are 'refused' to be heard, because of vested interests.

 “Hmmm … they are shouting oh … but they are so few and the herbalists are so many” and that the Ghana Medical Association have come out with many statements but as the saying goes, ‘There is none so deaf as the one refusing to hear nor so blind as the one refusing to see’”.

Yet another response noted that, “After watching what happened to Prof. Frimpong Boateng the doctors have adopted a policy of self-preservation noting that nothing will happen even if you shout from the highest roof tops!”


They asked, “Why can't the government of Ghana stop galamsey?”

Other deadly effects

A particular specialist noted that “In addition to the Galamsey, other deadly culprits are: 1. Bitters: There are about 50 different brands on sale in the country, I’m sure the FDA can’t tell us the active ingredients in any of these; 2. Sodium glutamate, widely used in cooking, including kenkey; 3. Changes in diet from large portions of pork consumed; 4. Plastics used in cooking causing cancers; and processed foods, etc.”

The kidney and the liver are responsible for getting rid of these toxins from our system, and dialysis machines are in very short supply in our hospitals, though one governmental V8 can get you some.

They added that “Young men in their twenties are on dialysis and dying from renal failure.

The government has no plan or programmes to deal with these because they DON’T give a damn!”

Another contributed that the herbal medicines being sold widely were without serious FDA certification of their efficacy!

— The author is a trainer of teachers, leadership coach and quality education advocate
Email: [email protected]
Blog: www.anishaffar.org

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