Freshwater at the mercy of galamsey

Science Freshwater at the mercy of galamsey

Illegal mining had been a major threat to rivers in Ghana over the years. Most of these rivers had been contaminated with cyanides and mercury. Whilst polluting rivers, forest covers are being depleted in an alarming rate due to its activities.

Global Forest Watch (GFW) reports that from 2001 to 2021, Ghana lost 1.4million hectares of its forest cover. The country lost 60% of its primary rainforest in 2018, which is the highest in the World.

About six million of the population lack access to clean water, according to Wateraid Ghana. Two point one million of the population in the Greater Accra Region alone, lack reliable household water.

The Ghana Water Company Limited maintains that the cost of water processing has skyrocketed due to heavy contamination of rivers by mining activities.

The United Nations estimates that about half of the world’s population would experience water shortage as early as 2025.

In Ghana, water scarcity hits the country every year.

Illegal mining in Ghana is targeted as the major contributing factor to pollution of water bodies, however Mr Samuel Obiri, Director of Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis (C.E.I.A.) said research has shown that licensed small scale and large scale mining activities are also contributing to the destruction and contamination of water bodies.

With all useful freshwater, groundwater constitutes 95% of water globally, says Prof. Sandow Mark Yidana, Professor of Hydrogeology and Dean of the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, University of Ghana (UG).

According to him, research has shown that groundwater is already in decline with some areas contaminated.

Experts have said Ghana is likely to import water if mitigation measures are not adopted to reverse the canker.

Alternatively, experts have said extraction of groundwater is the country’s best bet and that should be protected to avoid contamination.

In many communities in Ghana, especially in the northern part, people depend on groundwater as their source of water for domestic and irrigation purposes.

However, communities are now experiencing intermittent flow of water in these wells which was not like that in the past, said Yidana.

“We are almost in a crises, surface water is contaminated, groundwater is also contaminated so it will get to a point that all the reservoirs will be contaminated. Can you imagine the situation where we have to import water because we have contaminated all our waters, that is why this galamsey fight is not a joke, is a war.

“And these activities of government which are also intentional, and are targeting areas that should be protected is also a war, and with the impact of climate the effect could be dire,” Prof. Yidana stressed.

He added, “Trees absorb carbon from the atmosphere, the roots of plants stabilizes the soil so erosion is minimized. They also open up the soil for enhanced recharge, they open up the soil for more water to infiltrate so runoff is limited, so when it rains is more likely to have more water going down than runoff and evaporation.

“Apart from the fact that it creates a certain ambience that decreases the impact of evaporation, when you plant them around river bodies they protect the water bodies. So that is very very important.”

According to him, the sustainable way of enhancing adaptation to climate change is to invest more in research, identify recharge areas and invest in delineating Aquafier systems.

Also, government must make a deliberate effort to empower the Water Resources Commission to monitor the activities.

In a documentary by the Ministry of Environment Science and Technology and Innovation, Head of Public Relations, Gloria Holm-Graves admitted that there is already a strong evidence of the direct manifestations of climate change in Ghana. As a result, an increase in drought will increase river runoff affecting 1.3million people across the country.

In response to these climate risks, the ministry’s adaptation measure includes greening and tree planting around the river bank, construction of seawall barriers and implementation of specific water harvesting measures to capture rainfall or divert high flows.

As part of key outcomes from COP26 in Paris, more than a hundred global leaders pledged to halt deforestation by the end of the decade under the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use. Given the composition of countries, this means that more than 33.6 million square kilometres of forests will be protected.

The Government of Ghana as part of its commitment to reforestation and afforestation in 2021 prior to COP26 embarked on an aggressive tree planting project dubbed “Green Ghana Project” to recover these lost forests.

Mr. Daryl Bossu, Deputy Director of A Rocha Ghana, in an interview said water is something that has not been well managed and distributed across the country.

For him, planting trees and at the same time destroying forest reserves was in bad faith. He cited that Ghana’s quest to mine bauxite in the mountainous forestland of Atewa could pollute three major rivers including the Densu, Birim and Ayensu which provide drinking water to 5 million people.

Associate Executive Director of WACAM, Mrs. Hannah Koranteng at a responsible mining forum organized by WACAM, said "I just want to state that tree planting is not the same as pristine environment. If you are destroying the forest and you just stick to planting of tree, is plantation.”

She added, “And for ecological reasons the land has various species of organisms in them which if destroyed and they lose that habitat you cannot restore with tree planting. So they are a number of issues we talking about.

"For the sake of mass destruction of the environment, it is just prudent that we plant trees, but then it is not guaranteed that once you are planting trees you should destroy a pristine environment.”

Simon Agbovi
Simon Agbovi

JournalistPage: SimonAgbovi