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10.02.2005 Feature Article

Our Environment And Human Life: Fire Ministers If They Don’t Act

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I am particularly shocked at the conciliatory and /or soft tones with which Ghanaians and people in our cultural settings confront situations, even ones that are as deadly as cyanide and other chemical spillage in our country and close to our waters. Our Ministries have no phone lines for people to call and file complaints. Radios can only do so much on talk shows. Even then the response from government on hazardous roads, stinky mosquito-producing gutters and trenches, chemical spillages, water and electricity interruptions, is simply too slow or non-existent! It makes one wonder if our officials forget who put them in power and pay them!

The All-Africa.com site had this article that bothers me, not so much about the report, but about the tone with which Ghanaians defend our land and our rights as a people, and seek to enforce them. In a message retrieved February 3, 2005 from the Website: http://allafrica.com/stories/200502030595.html

Mr. Stephen E. Quarm writes this: The Federation of Environmental Journalists (FEJ) has been following with keen interest reports of the spate of cyanide spillages from operations of some mining companies in the two Wassa Districts of the Western Region and its health and environmental implications on the people. This highly toxic substance used in the mining industry enters the only source of drinking water of communities in the mining areas who depend on the water bodies for their livelihood in the process pollutes it killing fish and other aquatic organs.

Of great concern to the Federation are the recent cyanide spillages, which occurred at Dumase in the operational areas of the Bogoso Gold Limited (BGL) in October last year and its subsidiary, Wexford Ghana Limited, at Akyempim in the Mpohor Wassa East District this month.

The BGL has done little or nothing to the affected victims of the recent spillages. We are particularly disturbed about similar reports that it was rather the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which had to cater for the medical needs of people affected by last October's cyanide spillage by the Bogoso Gold into the Aprepre stream in the Tarkwa district.

The Federation is not only concerned about the health of the people who unaware of spillage fetch water for drinking and other domestic uses, but also reports that there had been at least more than eight of such spillages since 1991. We call on management of the mining companies operating in the two Wassa districts to institute long-term measures to prevent the re-occurrence of Cyanide spillage in order to save the lives of the people and the water bodies in their areas.

We also wish to remind the management of mining companies operating in the country to ensure a total compliance with mining regulations and environmental standards.

It is the opinion of this writer that a stronger tone of voice (on paper) and action is needed is society by leaders when others in our society are suffering or dying, and a more direct approach needs to be taken. A deadline and warning for action needs to be given to the Minister of Mines and Minister of Environment for specific action to bring to book these violators of our land who could cause irreparable damage and kill our people and get away without as much as an apology. No society can survive on this earth of ours if it's people are not aggressively seeking their survival and protecting their interests. The previous government of Ghana, the NDC, and the current NPP government were nicely placed on warning about the selling of almost every Ghanaian asset to foreigners without as much as offering them to Ghanaian nationals for a first option to bid or refusal. No nation acts as dumb as to forget that the world's resources are not equally distributed, and an open competition to a global market may not protect their people's lives and livelihoods and very survival. Even in so-call free-market system in America, I recall very clearly the refusal of the American governmental bodies to sanction the sale of one original Semiconductor company to some Asian company because of its valuable historical and technological significance.

We in Africa seem to imbibe every single theory or idea from the West without considering applicability and how it offers a strategic competitive advantage to us or others. We have too many NGOs that have no teeth in stopping any such damages to our people. For God's sake, the world is not as fair or as equal as we may read in some economic book. Let us stop to think how the knowledge applies for our survival and stop being second class humans with begging bowls in hand all the time! Americans still subsidize their farmers. So what's new? America is simply trying to protect its survival and her people!

Some of us in business support the effort by our government to attract investors and provide them an opportunity to seek a profit while providing jobs for our people. However, the Ghanaian government is supposed to be protecting her people and our assets. In all observations, it appears the governmental bodies such as the Public Utility Companies that regulate phone, electricity and water charges, are sleeping on the job, or drunk with some liquor given to them by the companies they are supposed to be regulating. We want to work with corporations to provide jobs and want to see them make profits. However, how can a company get away with charging 10 times what is charged in America when their workers in Ghana are paid 20 times less? My exploratory study of Ghana in the Summer 2004 shows that with the exception of governmental bodies, middle and professional class Ghanaians cannot afford to pay for line charges for using the Internet, and neither do they go to the Cafes. As such our society stays behind the times, whiles a few companies keep a stranglehold on our development by charging exorbitant prices.

Our government needs to act, and act now! How can a chemical company get way with spilling cyanide and other toxic chemicals in our waters, and the Ministers of Mining, and Environment, are not saying or doing anything!

In case some people think we are being to harsh, here's a portion of a judgment in South Australia to exemplify how polluters are dealt wit in the Western world:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Environment, Resources and Development Court of South Australia DISCLAIMER - Every effort has been made to comply with suppression orders or statutory provisions prohibiting publication that may apply to this judgment. The onus remains on any person using material in the judgment to ensure that the intended use of that material does not breach any such order or provision. Further enquiries may be directed to the Registry of the Court in which it was generated.

DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECUTIONS v TRANSADELAIDE

Reasons for Penalty Delivered by Her Honour Judge Trenorden

15 November 2004

ENVIRONMENT AND PLANNING - POLLUTION - WATER POLLUTION

Offence under s79(1) and s127(1)(a) of Environment Protection Act - causing serious environmental harm by polluting the environment recklessly and with knowledge that environmental harm would or might result - diesel fuel spillover into stormwater system flowing into River Torrens - plea of guilty - complainant submits maximum penalty is appropriate - defendant recognises penalty as appropriate - defendant convicted and fined in the amount of $120,000 plus costs of $28,757.09.

Environment Protection Act 1993 s79(1), s127(1)(a); Environment, Resources and Development Court Act 1993 s7; Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988, referred to. Circelli v Southcorp Wines Pty Ltd [2000] SAERDC 80; Higgins v Fricker (1992) 63 ACrimR 473; Canino v Venning (1993) 113 FLR 327; R v Doan (2000) 50 NSWLR 115; Hansford v His Honour Judge Neesham & Ors [1995] 2 VR 233; Kumantjara v Harris (1992) 109 FLR 400; Axer Pty Ltd v Environment Protection Authority (1993) 113 LGERA 357, considered.

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Ghana Leadership Union believes that the immediate action should be taken. The current pending Freedom-of-Information act should be passed by Parliament as soon as possible, to allow the honest investigative journalists to do their work, whiles court actions that affect the society should be open and not be hidden anymore in our society. The Ministers ought to be in court to answer why they are not doing their work to protect the people, and the President should fire them if they sleep on the job! (Of course if the President fails us, we hope he lives long in Ghana to see real democracy and justice work one day).

Kwaku A. Danso, President/Chair, Ghana Leadership Union, Inc. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Kwaku A. Danso
Kwaku A. Danso, © 2005

The author has 105 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwakuADanso

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