ADDRESSING THE GALAMSEY MENACE
Land of our birth our faith, our pride’,for whose dear sake our fathers died,O Motherland, we pledge to thee Head , heart and hand through the years to be(Rudyard Kipling, 1906)
Richard Kipling, the composer of the above song, was contemplating on the need to love one’s country and preserve our heritage for prosperity. This song is prophetic but alas the people of Ghana did not heed to his voice.
A cursory look around us will portray the sorry state of the country with regards to our environment. Our irresponsibility towards our environment is beyond description. Plastic bags have overtaken us, we are engulfed with filth, littering is the order of the day, our gutters are choked and as a result floods are taking lives with the least rainfall, people are building in water ways, forests are being depleted and on top of all these is the almighty GALAMSEY. But like the proverbial ostrich we have buried our heads in the sand and life goes on as usual. Meanwhile, we are sitting on a time bomb.
I cry for Ghana and it is my wish that all patriotic Ghanaians will cry with me. I have heard of galamsey, but the reality of it hit me when I went to Prestea and Twifo Praso and saw river Ankobra and river Pra.. The scourge of galamsey has transformed our once pearly blue Pra, Ankobra, Densu, Offin, Black Volta into heavy polluted and unsightly waters that can no longer sustain aquatic and community livelihood. The water looks like tea mixed with oil.
What marvels me is that when I mentioned it to someone I was told I have not seen anything yet as what is happening in other areas like Amansie in the Ashanti region is worse. According to sources, homes are under threat of collapse as the surroundings have been subjected to prospecting of gold. Then I realized we are in trouble.
When anyone dares to ask the question why do people engage in such activities when the consequences are so obvious and visible as river Ankobra and Pra portray and homes are suspended on rocks and mud which could cave in at any time, the answer that one receives for this menace is- there is no employment and man must eat. If you push further, one may even dare to quote the Bible – “the hands that do not work must not eat”. Eating we must but if one is not mindful of what one eats the effect is disastrous as we are what we eat. What is the better option- To engage in galamsey and get all the cash but end up with a serious medical condition or engage in farming and stay healthy? The effects of galamsey are alarming both the visible and the invisible consequences are enormous. In life, whatever we do has consequences and a price to pay. As a result of Galamsey, the rainforests that gave birth to the world’s top quality cocoa, timber, food crops and countless wild creatures are under siege, the environmental and social canker of galamsey pose a real threat to sustainable livelihoods in our country today . Galamsey is rapidly changing our God –given land into a barren wasteland. We should be mindful that when the last tree dies, the last man dies. These consequences, among others are life threating. With these effects, I think no reason could justify galamsey, more so as galamsey pits are killing people by the day. So what do we stand to gain?
Also to those who will quote the bible to support their reckless acts, should know that the first commandment God gave to man is to take care of the garden of Eden “the Lord God took man to the Garden of Eden to work and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15 NIV). The question is, are we doing what God commanded us to do with all these mess around us?
The government in its bid to clamp down the galamsey activities has taken several steps. Among them are:
• Small Scale Gold Mining- Ghanaians are given the opportunity to apply for license that will enable one to engage in small scale mining.
• Establishment of nine Small Scale Mining Offices across Ghana which will provide extension services and education to prospective miners
• The constitution of Anti-Ministerial Task Force activities. This has paid off as thousands of foreigners engaged in galamsey have been deported as a result . This is a step in the right direction as the effects of these people illegal activities would have been disastrous.
• Blocking/ reserving Small Scale Mining activities for only Ghanaians- The government opened this channel to only Ghanaians to give them the opportunity to engage in Small Scale Mining. In effect no foreigner has the power to do Small Scale Mining let alone galamsey, so how come we have allowed Chinese and other foreigners to take the law into their own hands.
This piece is a clarion call to all Ghanaians to stop the blame game and do an inner assessment of ourselves. The million dollar question that comes to mind when one blames foreigners, the Chinese to be precise is how can one come to your house and start digging without your permission? It is a question for all of us to answer.
History repeats itself and we should try not to go down that line again when our brothers and sisters were exchanged for guns, drinks and few coins. Anytime we talk of slavery we point accusing fingers to the colonial masters but if the transaction was known as “slave trade’ then the word ‘trade’ involves two people or parties and we are not entirely innocent about the atrocities at that time. In the same way no foreigner can dare come to our country and carry out such atrocities as galamsey without the knowledge of someone who matters. The crux of the matter is that as a country and individuals we have created the enabling environment for others to exploit. I am not holding brief for the foreigners engaged in galamsey but we have a lot of questions to answer for their impunity. We have failed to put our house in order and therefore given them the foothold. Charity, they say begins at home.
In view of this anyone who wants to undertake Small Scale Mining should follow the appropriate steps by going through this procedure. Identify area of interest after which a study ( Cadastral search) would be conducted to ascertain whether the area identified has that resource if approved one will submit an application for the license, the site will then be inspected and to avoid litigation your application will be published and copies displayed at vantage points in that District ( area ) for a period. Then an environmental assessment would be conducted and when approved an environmental permit would be given, then a letter will be offered after which a license agreement will be made which will be followed by a final approval and registration of license. Then an operating permit would be granted. This will give you the green light to operate.
We are responsible for posterity and should therefore follow the necessary procedures in whatever we do.
There is no better way to conclude this article than to revisit Ephraim Amu’s song “YEN ARA ASASE NI”. In that song he drew our attention to the fact that this is our homeland and our forefathers toiled with their blood to bring us this far. Now the baton has been handed over to us but we have allowed mere knowledge and cunning selfishness destroy this precious land of ours. He cautioned us that the progress of this country depends on us. So let us all wake up and say NO to galamsey and other environmental menaces we see around us before we say “had I known,” by which time it would be too late to undo the damage caused.