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Politicians must abandon plan to mine bauxite in the Atewa range

Politicians must abandon plan to mine bauxite in the Atewa range

Mon, 13 Jan 2014 Source: Kofi Thompson

By Kofi Thompson

I was flabbergasted when I heard Ghana's minister for communications, the Hon. Dr. Omane Boamah, who was once a deputy minister at the ministry of environment, science and technology, talking about an integrated aluminum industry in Ghana, utilising the bauxite deposits in the Atewa Range, on Peace FM's Kokrokoo morning show - at a time when global climate change is impacting the Ghanaian countryside so negatively.

It made one wonder the kind of advice senior civil servants who advise our elected leaders give to government ministers. No one who has any knowledge of the importance of the Atewa Range's role as watershed for the three major river systems that most of southern urban Ghana depends on for its drinking water supply - the Densu, Birim and Ayensu rivers - will fail to foresee the catastrophe that will befall our nation; were bauxite mining to take place in the Atewa Range. Yet, we have a senior government minister saying such things at a time of global warming - and at a time when urbanisation is taking place at such pace that soon, a majority of Ghanaians will live in the urban areas of our country. Incredulous - and extremely worrying, indeed.

Ghanaian politicians from across the spectrum must understand clearly once and for all when invoking his name to justify their lack of original thinking in such matters, that Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah would never have mooted the idea of using the bauxite deposits in the Atewa Range to establish an integrated aluminum industry in Ghana; had the world been faced with climate change at the time he ruled Ghana. The welfare of the masses of the Ghanaian people and the well-being of society underpinned his vision for Ghana - not GDP growth at any cost.

Instead of such shortsighted folly, faced with the harsh realities of global climate change, President Nkrumah would have abandoned his plan to set up an integrated aluminum industry in Ghana, and rather suggested to Guinea that it could partner Ghana to set up a West African integrated aluminum industry - in which the aluminum plant in Ghana would be fed with Guinea's abundant bauxite: in a win-win value-adding-partnership for both nations. Let today's politicians seek such a partnership with Guinea for an integrated aluminum industry that benefits both nations and the rest of the sub-region too.

To protect it, the whole of the Atewa Range must be turned into a national park. The economic future of the areas with human settlement in the Atewa Range lies in eco-tourism, not bauxite mining that will lead to the destruction of the watershed of the major river systems that supply most of urban southern Ghana with its drinking water - a disaster that will lead to a hell-on-earth existence for millions, including residents of Accra, Ghana's capital.

The time has now come for Ghana's shortsighted politicians to finally drop the absurd idea of mining bauxite in the Atewa Range. At a time of global climate change, it is a reckless, irresponsible and very dangerous idea. Our politicians must do some original thinking for once, in this instance. They cannot toy with the lives of Ghanaians.

This is a vital human-survival and quality-of-life matter that will impact the welfare of present and future generations of our people negatively; were the wrong decision to be taken. At a time of global climate change, Ghana's politicians must abandon the disastrous plan to mine bauxite in the Atewa Range for good - as its terrible consequences will be irreversible.

A word to the wise..

Columnist: Kofi Thompson