The vast expanse of the Pra River has been polluted as a result of galamsey activities
The vast expanse of the Pra River has been polluted as a result of galamsey activities

Illegal mining impacts River Pra: 2 Treatment plants in Western, Central regions face shutdown

A shutdown is imminent for two water treatment plants that depend on River Pra in the Western and Central regions.


Experts and technicians, as well as academicians at a workshop on water bodies restoration held last Wednesday, gave that indication when they painted grim pictures of water bodies in the country.

Stakeholders in the workshop at the University of Cape Coast deliberated for hours on how to restore the country’s dying and polluted water bodies.

They were from the Water Resources Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission, security agencies and the media.

One question that resonated across the conference room where the workshop was held, was why citizens would choose gold over water as water is essential for life.

Participants indicated that the actions of communities and stakeholders did not depict that water remained a necessity for humanity’s existence.

“Indeed, our water bodies are being wantonly polluted in search of minerals that we can live without at the expense of something wisdom has equated to life itself, water.

“The impunity with which such deadly deeds are committed is scary and our seeming helplessness gives great cause for worrying,” they said.

The Regional Chief Manager of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), Seth Atiapah, indicated that “Chang fang machines, the weapons of destruction are often seen lined up some of our river banks with unbridled audacity.”

The effect

The GWCL recently dredged the intake point at Sekyere Hemang to allow water to flow to the treatment plant

Some communities, especially those in the Central and Western regions are beginning to feel the effect hard.

Residents carry gallons in search of water as the GWCL production at Sekyere Hemang has already been cut by 30 per cent.

The GWCL has expressed grave concern at the high turbidity of the River Pra at Daboase and Sekyere in the Western and Central regions respectfully, warning that if stringent measures are not taken, the plant could be shut down completely.

The stakeholder workshop last Wednesday was, therefore, part of measures to find solutions to the problem.

River Pra

The River Pra, which serves as a source for the Daboase and the Sekyere Hemang water treatment plants, is facing grave challenges.

An associate Professor of Water and Environmental Quality at the University of Cape Coast, Prof. Albert Ebo Duncan, said the problem was not about Sekyere Hemang or Daboase but "it’s about the management of our water bodies across the country".

He indicated that though 70 per cent of the earth was water, two-thirds of the world's water is saline. 

Out of the freshwater, two-thirds are in glaciers and ice caps. Of the usable fresh water, he noted that 20 per cent was located in inaccessible areas.

This means that only 0.13 per cent of the 2.5 per cent of fresh water is available for use and requires proper management for sustainability.

Prof. Duncan said that in Africa, about 30 per cent of water run-offs occur in the Congo Basin.


He noted that while the use of water had increased due to population, the volume of water had not increased, making the situation dire.

He said the demand for food increases required water for increased irrigation.

He said irrigation farming takes 70 per cent of the world’s available water, leaving 0.04 per cent available fresh water for all other activities including domestic, commercial and industrial purposes, while scarcity of water also affected food security.

Discussants at the workshop said urgent stringent efforts must be made to save our water bodies



Prof. Duncan said past reforms had been geared towards water resource development and not management, indicating that the Integrated Water Resource Management policy had not worked as expected.

He said efforts should go beyond consultation with the communities to get them to protect the river bodies.

He also said it was obvious that force would not work to get the illegal miners to do the right thing, adding that their conscience must be appealed to.

He further observed that the institutions must be properly coordinated, using multi-prong approaches as stakeholders, particularly traditional authorities, to effectively manage water resources in the communities.


High turbidity 

The Regional Chief Manager of the GWCL, Mr Atiapah said the turbidity of water at the Sekyere Hemang intake plant reached an all-time high of 13,000 NTU on Tuesday, March 19, 2024.

"Normally at that level, we need to shut down," he stated.

The situation, he said, had compelled the GWCL to quadruple its treatment chemical to get the water potable.

He called on all stakeholders, chiefs, community, media, security agencies and others to collaborate with the water company to help save the water bodies.

He also called for the enforcement and compliance of robust regulatory frameworks and environmental and mining laws to help save water bodies.

"These days, galamseyers have become so notorious, rich and strong that if you arrest them, the next day they are out," he stated.

He said water was continuously becoming a scarce commodity, adding, "If galamsey is not stopped, water supply to Sekondi-Takoradi, Cape Coast, Elmina and surrounding communities will be seriously challenged."

He said the next world war could be possibly fought over water.

Human rights 

The deputy Managing Director of the GWCL, Peter De-veer, said the havoc caused by illegal miners on water bodies had become a human rights issue, as the very existence of human beings was being threatened.

He asked that more efforts be made to bring perpetrators to book, indicating that the operational burden of the illegal mines was enormous.

He noted that pumps at the treatment plant, which were expected to be changed after 25 years had broken down due to silt coming into the intake point.

A Professor of Environmental Chemistry, Prof. Daniel Essumang, who chaired the workshop, said there was a lot of data on mining and its impact on water resources to inform policy intervention and called for more effective engagement between academia and other stakeholders, especially policymakers on efforts to restore the polluted and dying water bodies.

The stakeholders called for a strengthened integrated water resource management framework to get the country’s water resources restored.

As the world marked World Water Day last Wednesday on the theme; "Water for peace" it is expected that stakeholders would follow through with well-coordinated approaches to help restore the state of water bodies.

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