The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has called on traditional authorities to partner metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) to deal decisively with illegal mining (galamsey) which has resulted in the pollution of water bodies.
He has also given an assurance that the activities of the Operation Vanguard will be deepened to help combat the menace of illegal mining.
The Vice-President was speaking at a durbar to climax this year’s Ohum Festival of the chiefs and the people of Akyem Abuakwa in Kyebi last Saturday.
Operation Vanguard is a joint military/police task force launched in 2017 with the aim of ending illegal mining activities.
Although the task force started on a promising note, there have been concerns over the re-emergence of illegal mining activities, especially in water bodies.
The Vice-President, who raised concern over the alarming rate of pollution of water bodies, including the Birim River, through illegal mining and other human activities close to river banks, said there was the need for action to stop the menace.
The chiefs and the people of Akyem Abuakwa celebrate the Ohum Festival to thank God for blessing their land with the Birim River.
They use products from their land and the river as symbols to remember their ancestors, who struggled and persevered in keeping their society intact.
In addition, the people give pledges to continue the tradition and to keep Okyeman strong, prosperous and peaceful.
This year’s festival was attended by sons and daughters of Okyeman, both home and abroad.
The celebration was on the theme: "Good old traditions for sustainable development".
Also in attendance were Ministers of State, including the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, who is a citizen of the area; the Eastern Regional Minister, Seth Kwame Acheampong; Members of Parliament (MPs), members of the Diplomatic Corps, municipal and district chief executives (MDCEs), a representative of the Speaker of Parliament, Kofi Amoatey; the Akwamuhene, Odeneho Kwasi Kwafo Akoto, and the Okuapehene, Oseadeeyo Kwasi Akuffo III.
With the Birim River occupying an important part of the Ohum Festival, the Vice-President made reference to the present sorry state of the river.
“As we pledge this day to continue the tradition of our ancestors in keeping our environment safe and clean, we should reflect on the current sorry state of the Birim river, the pride of Okyeman,” he said.
“Today in Ghana, our rivers are polluted with an alarming carelessness. It is either we have farmed or built so close to the river banks, callously polluted the rivers with activities of galamsey or encroached the river path for human settlement. These activities expose the water to all forms of pollution,” he added.
Dr Bawumia said overcoming the canker of environmental degradation and pollution required the commitment of everyone, including the government.
He pointed out that in times past, chiefs and their people organised communal labour to keep their communities clean.
That spirit, he noted, was virtually dead, and called for its revival to address environmental challenges.
“I implore Nananom to work collaboratively with the local administrative authorities to rekindle that communal spirit to help deal with filth in our societies,” he said.
Unity and development
The Okyenhene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, explained the significance of the Ohum Festival, which, according to him, reflected the core Akan belief in unity of life of the dead, the living and the unborn.
He said the symbolic essence was the principle of balance, moderation and regeneration and the immeasurable contribution of the people to the struggle for ecological integrity as a prerequisite for the sustenance of humanity.
He said Okyeman was committed to environmental sanity and commended the government for the Green Ghana Project, as well as its efforts against illegal mining activities.
The Okyenhene said sustainable development also related to a condition of social reintegration and cultural revival heralded by people identifying with their ancestral home and history.
Therefore, he said, it was necessary for all Akyems, both home and abroad, to submit to meaningful re-engagement with their communities and families.
“Since Okyeman is your umbilical cord, you must always come home to support the aged, the needy and poor but brilliant children,” he told the citizens.