Hydra-headed galamsey sprouts yet another head...

Galamsey Equipment Burnt File Photo

Mon, 27 Jan 2020 Source: Cameron Duodu

I once warned, in an article, that “if you kill a snake and you don't cut off its head, it could resurrect itself and come back to bite you!”. (See)

This warning, I pointed out, came from the wisdom that our ancient ancestors compiled for themselves and their descendants through their very close and obsessive observation of Nature. Exposed to brutal Nature as they were, they wouldn't have survived -- to give birth to us -- without this vast store of knowledge.

The accuracy of the contents of this ancient wisdom of theirs is, in fact, endorsed by the some of the greatest scientists in today's world, who tell us that the scientific method stipulates that no matter how attractive a theory might be, it is invalid if it is contradicted by the results of experiments on Nature.

In the past two years, the Government of Ghana has tried to put an end to the dangerous enterprise known as galamsey. It has put troops, in the form of “Operation Vanguard”, on the trail of the galamsey operators. But in a clever approach based on the well-proven and efficacious strategy of deploying both “carrot and stick”, It has sought to convert their operations from illegal and harmful practices, into legitimised, harmless methods.

But as in many other cases where good sense comes up against man's selfish propensity to seek money quickly and without too much toil, the approach isn't working.

The evidence?

The Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) has drastically reduced water supplies to some people in parts of the Western Region, including the conurbation of Sekondi-Takoradi, because – once again – the water in the rivers from which the company draws water, have become too turbid for machines to refine in the required quantities. The Ankobrah and the Prah have both been affected AGAIN, and Tano is apparently unusable, thanks to a contribution from another source of pollution.

The GWCL Director of Communication told a news programme that “the resurgence of illegal small-scale mining, fuelled by the dry season”, had resulted in "extremely high turbidity of the dwindling water sources", thus compelling the company to spend more than usual in treating water.

“In Takoradi, for instance (he said), we are praying that we should have early rains”. He added: “In the next three to four weeks if we don’t get rains and the galamsey operations also do not stop, we may have to shut down the treatment plant at Daboase. That is how serious the situation is.... There isn’t enough water and the little water that is available is also so turbid....It silts [up] the intake area. So, we are unable to abstract enough [water]. It’s not economically prudent to have to be treating water for it just to go to waste.”

Other media reports tell us that the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Mr Kwaku Asomah-Cheremeh,was so disgusted by what he saw in one galamsey locality that he undertook to “deploy 60 armed soldiers, similar to the Operation Vanguard team”, to crack down on the activities of the galamseyers. Mr Cheremeh was speaking while visiting the Oda River Forest Reserve, in the Amansie Central District of the Ashanti Region, where he saw a resurgence of ‘galamsey’ in the supposedly restricted area of the forest reserve.

The Minister stated: “Clearly, what we are seeing here and what we have gathered shows that [the] Chinese are [still] engaging in this illegal mining and destroying our forests; of course, with the support of local collaborators.”

According to a media report, "during the visit, the Minister's team found eight excavators, 18 fuel storage tankers, a number of Chanfan machines" and other equipment in four illegal mining sites, "which indicated that the illegal mining business was in full force" there.

“Officials of the Forestry Commission and forest guards were helpless in the situation since the illegality was said to be perpetrated by some Chinese nationals, with support from locals who had the backing of ‘big men”.

The Minister of the Environment, Science and Technology, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, also gave an interview to the Daily Graphic in which he expressed disappointment with the courts, the Attorney-General's office and the Office of the Special Prosecutor, for not playing their part in the struggle against galamsey.

Furthermore, one NPP Member of Parliament has synthesized the general call for an intensification of the struggle against galamsey by calling for personnel changes within the Government itself. Those in charge of galamsey (he said) had “failed” and should not be allowed to bring “further shame” to the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

The MP alleged that "some of those supposedly fighting against galamsey" had “turned the galamsey fight into a gold mine and have disgraced the President”.

What these sad expressions of disappointment -- and even anger -- indicate clearly is that a drastic new approach to the anti-galamsey operation is now called for.

According to Professor Frimpong-Boateng, at least twenty billion dollars or thereabouts is required for restoring the polluted rivers and water-bodies to potable quality. Reclaiming the land that has been cratered up and turned into a moonscape-type of wasteland by the galamseyers, will, of course, have to be included in the restoration process.

Now, twenty billion dollars is estimated to be worth between one-third and one-half of Ghana's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per annum (2017 figures.) If a group of citizens are causing such a horrendously costly damage to the economy, then logic suggests that they should be fought, tooth and nail, in the same manner that we would fight a political insurgency. Indeed, a political insurgency would probably not cause so much damage, although, of course, its effect would be far more immediate and nasty.

Now, I daresay that if we had a political insurgency, crack teams from Military Intelligence, the Bureau of National Intelligence, the Criminal Investigations Department, the Economic Crimes Investigation Unit and National Security would all be co-ordinated into a powerful unit charged with combating the insurgency.

The environmental devastation being wreaked by the galamseyers amounts to more than a political insurgency because it seeks to ruin the nation for its citizens who have not yet been born.

Primarily, the biggest threat to the current campaign against galamsey is the corruption of personnel involved in the operations. The programme is practicable but if the personnel implementing it allow themselves to be corrupted, then the programme, as such, is worth nothing.

To prevent or forestall this implosion, fast-moving, easily replaceable units should be formed to observe the officials at work, arrest and prosecute quickly, all those caught detected to be in league with the galamseyers. The state has the apparatus to do this better than any journalist or group of journalists, however audacious they may be. Besides, journalists can easily compromise their credibility without meaning to.

These units should aim at, and be assisted by a ruthless punishing regime, to make it impossible, or, at least, very costly, socially, for anyone, no matter who he or she is, to collaborate with the galamseyers. For, indeed, corruption has made the current anti-galamsey campaign a laughing stock to many.

The reality is that the police often assist galemseyers unlucky enough to be arrested by dutiful "Operation Vanguard" personnel. Lawyers, magistrates, and judges -- willy-nilly -- give prosecuted galamseyers an easy ride. Respected citizens bail arrested people and intercede with the authorities on their behalf -- which provides prima facie evidence that they profit from the devastation of our rivers, streams, and water-bodies.

All these elements in the society should be ruthlessly targeted and hunted, and be made to know that the Government of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo will not stand idly by, whilst they allow the love of money to induce them to collaborate with those who want to destroy the heritage we are obliged to leave to our children's children.

Our salvation is in our own hands. If we sit down and fold our arms, both literally and figuratively, the inheritors of our nation, will defecate on our graves -- and with very good reason.

Columnist: Cameron Duodu