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Feature Article of Saturday, 10 November 2012

Columnist: Moses, O.

Why Is Government Powerless

While Our Lands And Rivers Are Being Raped?

Across the length and breadth of the country, particularly in the Eastern, Western, Ashanti and parts of the three northern regions, hordes of mostly illegal gold miners, have swamped our lands and rivers in search of gold.

EFFECTS OF THIS WANTON DESTRUCTION ON THE POLULATION

Unlike in the past, these illegal gold miners now use heavy earth moving equipment that causes great havoc to our lands and river bodies.

Large tracts of our precious farmlands across the country have been dug and laid waste by these gold diggers, who do not even bother to refill the land after their destructive activities.

These valuable and fertile farmlands have been rendered unusable – the top soil that contains minerals to support food crops have been cleared away; deep and wide craters have been created that have now become deep lakes that in some cases people drown in them, and have also become breading grounds for mosquitoes; high mounds of dug earth are all over the place; dangerous chemicals like mercury, cyanide, etc. that these miners use have sipped deep into the lands, making them extremely harmful to humans for many years to come, even if the lands can be reclaimed.

Our river bodies, the main source of good drinking water for our rural folks (who unfortunately form the majority of our population) have been destroyed by these insensitive, greedy and callous gold diggers. Not only the rural folks, but urban dwellers whose potable (drinking and washing) water is pumped from such rivers, have also been affected. Among the rivers most affected are the Ankobra, Pra, Offin, Tano and Birim. They have become permanently “red” in colour as if in perpetual flood!! In certain places, some of them have been diverted, with their riverbeds dug indiscriminately in search of gold. Again, harmful chemicals such as mercury and cyanide have been used in the rivers by these greedy gold miners, with no care in the world for the rural and urban dwellers who rely on the rivers for their source of potable water, nor for the aquatic life (fishes, crabs, water plants, etc.) living in the rivers. The rivers, indeed, have become a shadow of what they used to be!!!

These destroyed lands and rivers have become a big eyesore!!! How sad!!!!!

WHO ARE THESE UNSCRUPULOUS AND GREEDY MINERS?

What even makes me very angry is that, these destructive activities are alleged to be led by some local rich people with connections in high places, and by some unscrupulous foreigners – mainly Chinese!!! These foreigners come in as tourists and end up becoming illegal gold diggers, destroying our precious lands and rivers!!

You can call me a nationalist but if that is what I am, then I’m proud to be one for the sake of my country and will always be! I am a patriot with a deep sense of conviction and I dearly love my country. Ghana FIRST!!!! I call on all genuine patriots of Ghana to put the interest of our nation first above other interests!! Our forefathers who fought for our independence did so for love of country! What about us????

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

I had a shocking experience when I recently accompanied a friend to his alma mater, Abuakwa State College (ABUSCO) at Kyebi, when the school celebrated its 75th anniversary. What disturbed me most was to see large tracts of the school’s lands close to the River Birim dug and laid bare! The Birim river was not spared either!! It has been blocked in places and has been reduced to puddles of water. Again, large acres of open land space after open land space, made up of deep and wide water logged craters interspersed with high mounds greeted us in the surrounding villages as we approached Kyebi. I later learnt that the Birim River has become so polluted that the inhabitants of Kyebi now rely on sachet and well water for their source of drinking water. What a disaster! My further enquiries revealed that the practice is all over the East Akim District!!!

IN THE NEWS

I remember a national news broadcast about a year ago of a student of ABUSCO who drowned in one of such deep lakes created on the school’s land by these gold diggers. There was another news broadcast of about two years ago that mentioned two kids drowning in a water-filled crater, also in Kyebi, when they were returning home from farm. Why should this happen and the authorities appear to be helpless in apprehending and prosecuting the culprits? Don’t we have consciences and a feeling for our fellow human beings??? Have the authorities being handcuffed or what??

In the morning of last week Thursday 1st November, I heard on Joy FM, another sad news item involving some illegal gold miners who are operating with impunity on the land of the Asare Bediako SHS at Akrokerri in the Adansi area of the Ashanti Region. Why oh why?!

Again, on that same day, another news item carried on Joy FM mentioned that some two Prison officers and two “soldiers” (impersonators) have been arrested by the Police in some part of the Ashanti Region. And their crime? The extortion of money from illegal Chinese gold miners!!!! Unfortunately, the Police, as usual, did not arrest the illegal Chinese miners but ONLY the extortionists! Were the Chinese not involved in a criminal activity to warrant their arrest as well?

For how long should such impunity continue??? What is wrong with our authorities???!

There is a village called Saamang near Osino, in the Eastern Region. A mining company, who has apparently been given a mining license by the Minerals Commission, has mined the village and its farmlands. The villages have protested and continue to protest but nothing has been done about their plight. On a number of occasions, Police and Military personnel are alleged to have been sent to that village to brutalise them and so keep them quiet!! Dr Doris Yaa Dartey, a columnist of the Spectator, has even published the plight of the villagers in the Spectator but the authorities have done nothing - it appears it is business as usual. I find this very, very appalling and disturbing!!! Why should we put the lives of our own citizens in great danger, all because of money or what??

There was another incident this year in a part of the Ashanti Region where the local community armed themselves to confront armed and illegal Chinese gold miners. These illegal miners had the guts and effrontery to arm themselves (illegally I suspect) and confront the local people who have lived on these lands for many generations. And what happened to these illegal Chinese miners? The jury is still out there!!!!

Another recent case where an illegal Chinese teenage miner was allegedly shot and killed by security agencies became national headlines, with the Chinese government wading into it – yes they have every right to protect and seek redress for their nationals if we do not care for our own. Why should we in the first place allow these Chinese to come and mine our gold illegally??

What a country!! Don’t we have laws to protect our lands and rivers?? And why is government and the law enforcement agencies looking the other way when such crimes against our own people are being committed right in this country by illegal miners, especially so by foreigners? Can we go and commit such crimes in their countries and go scot free???

WE NEED ACTION NOW!!

We elect governments to protect us and our properties. Our lands and rivers are what our ancestors bequeathed to us. If we sit down unconcerned and allow these precious resources to be laid waste across the country, what then shall we bequeath to posterity???

It is time government MUST and SHOULD act!! When I hear Ministers of State and other government officials blame law enforcers for dereliction of duty, I get very, very angry!!! Was the government not elected to, among other things, protect the citizenry and enforce the law??? There is no justification for the government to blame others. Government must show that it has “balls” to provide effective leadership for the people of Ghana!!

We the leaders of today have a sacred duty to protect what God has given us – our natural resources, including our lands and rivers – for the benefit of our children, their children and their children’s children!!

God save Ghana!!!

By O. Moses

Onua.moses@gmail.com

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