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Opinions Mon, 8 May 2017

Provocative conscience: #StopGalamsey

Of all the harms we have inflicted on our environment, including open defecation, bush burning and reckless littering, illegal mining also called galamsey in local parlance ranks high. Galamsey operators are a minority group but the extent of damage they have inflicted on our land and water resources affect us all.

The results of illegal mining are hackneyed narratives that majority of Ghanaians find disgusting. This damage is not only to the environment and its ecosystem but to all of us who depend on the environment for food and this is why we all have to join forces with the Media Coalition against Galamsey and the government to stop the menace.

Never before has any campaign against a national canker been supported by the media, government, civil society ,religious bodies and the citizenry at large — at least not in recent times. But so far, actions by the minister for lands and natural resources against galamsey operations are enjoying overwhelming support from Ghanaians.

I was happy when I took a Sunday bulletin from my mother’s church (St Bakhita Catholic Church) and came across ‘#StopGalamsey’. This was not because I am one of the signees to Ken Ashigbey’s anti-galamsey petition to the President of the republic but because of the influence religious bodies wield on their members. More refreshing are sermons preached by various pastors condemning the indiscriminate operations of the artisanal miners.

The good thing about the support given government is that, it does make defiant culprits, especially those who threaten government with votes, silent. This is the opportune time and government should do its work without fear, for at least by JDM’s research, we know that “Ghanaians have short memory”.

However, it is also not untrue that a lot more action is required at the community level. The strategies must be multipronged; one that combines civic education with economic empowerment of mining artisans. Government ought to give priority to galamsey affected communities in its industrialization policy implementation and provide jobs that can sustain the very livelihood of these rural folks.

This will help alleviate poverty in these communities and cause them to envision a future beyond illegal mining. Else, illegal mining will remain the only means of survival and once we lose the battle, we will have ourselves to blame as a generation.

Meanwhile, as we ask the unemployed youth to refrain from digging the land for the precious metals, we should as well ask government to expedite actions on its industrialization policy because there are hundreds of students in Junior High, Senior High and even our tertiary institutions whose fees come from galamsey operations by themselves or their relatives.

Campaigners against galamsey should actively involve chiefs, opinion and religious leaders who live in the affected communities. It would be more impactful when a chief who has once invested in galamsey activities come out to denounce his irresponsible act and educate others to do same. Whistleblowers should also be placed on high alert and motivated to report stubborn individuals who defy the anti-galamsey campaign.

Once we are able to deal with our own people, there wouldn’t be so much difficulty dealing with the Chinese nationals who are helped by our own to wreak havoc on our lands and water bodies. Folks should be made to understand that their actions today will make life terrible for all of us in the future. #StopGalamsey.

Columnist: Frederick Keli Kofi Tse