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Opinions of Thursday, 21 May 2020


Galamsey is killing Ghana’s renewable energy dream

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Ghana, a peaceful West Africa nation, is known for its welcoming people. It was the dream of the First President of the then Gold Coast to make Ghana, the Gateway to Africa. To achieve this there needs to be pragmatic and bold policies that harness natural, human and technology to accelerate development.

Successive governments from Kwame Nkrumah through to Nana Addo Dankwah Akuffo-Addo made notable efforts to drive economic development by attracting foreign direct investment whilst at the same time stimulating indigenous production of goods and services through the adoption of sound business practices that boost growth.

Despite these efforts, certain challenges continue to present themselves in Ghana as fleas on a poor dog’s skin.

One of them is the galamsey menace which successive governments have unsuccessfully attempted to combat. This article attempts to examine the effect of galamsey on our quest to improve our energy mix through the development of renewable energies.

Renewable Energy Policy Space

The world is in dire need of clean energy to drive economic growth. This need has engendered several efforts aimed at promoting renewable energy use across the globe. Ghana has also instituted a number of policy interventions to position the country as a nation capable of driving the clean energy agenda.

In 2011 Ghana passed the Renewable Energy Act 823 to set the broad legal framework within which renewable energy interventions can be sustainably executed in line with its development dream.

The purpose for developing the legislative instrument as stipulated in section 1 of the Act is to provide for the development, management and utilization of renewable energy sources for the production of heat and power in an efficient and environmentally sustainable manner.

In the attempt to actualize the desire to improve the contribution of renewable energies like wind, solar, hydro and biomass in the energy generation mix of the country, Ghana with the support of development partners developed the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4LL) Action plan in 2011.

The aim of the plan is of plan is to help Ghana to take result oriented actions to realize the SE4LL global goals including ensuring universals access to modern energy sources and doubling the share of renewable energy in the energy mix.

As far as renewable energy is concerned Ghana planned in 2010, to attain a 10% contribution of renewable energy sources to the total energy mix of the nation by 2020 but this target has been shifted to 2030 in line with SE4LL global goals.

Additionally in Feb 2019 Ghana again developed the Renewable Energy Master Plan to push the renewable energy sector with the capacity to sustainably utilize resources and transform Ghana into a country with expertise in renewable energy research, production, and services.

Also according to the National Energy Strategy of 2010 Ghana aims at achieving Universal Access to Electricity by the year 2020, but this timeline has been shifted to 2025 due to some challenges.

Gradual gains are being made within the renewable energy space. The actual contribution of renewable energy to the total energy mix was 0.20%, 1.00% and 1.60% in 2013, 2015 and 2019 respectively.

The implication is that more concerted efforts need to be activated both at the National and local government levels to achieve the goal.

Renewable energy – mini or Medium Hydro Potentials

One source of renewable energy is mini and medium hydro. Feasibility studies have been conducted on our numerous water bodies to access their potential contribution to the renewable energy of the country.

Ghana indeed abounds with a lot of opportunities and we are not lacking in the ability to generate additional energy through the mini and medium hydro infrastructure.

Nine regions from the north to south are identified to hold the potential for the development of electricity through mini/medium hydro facilities. Included are Western, Western North, Central, Bono, Volta and Ashanti Regions.

Some of the rivers identified in these regions to hold the capacity to host medium or mini hydro dams include Pra, Ankobra, Enu, Offin, Tano and Tain.

In terms of capacity, for example Oti, Tano and Pra rivers are estimated to support the generation of 90MW, 118MW and 220MW of electricity respectively.

In 2019 the first 45KW mini-hydro (without dam) facility at Tsatsadu was commissioned by the Bui Power Authority in Volta Region to contribute to the generation of electricity. This is a testament that we hold the resources to attain sustainable electricity supply through hydro.

The Challenge to Renewable energy (Hydro)

In spite of the availability of the water bodies to support future development we are faced with real challenges. Apart from weak currency, inadequate technical knowledge and financing deficiency, the Renewable Energy Master Plan identified human and socio-cultural challenges as one of the impediments to developing mini-hydro sites to improve renewable energy generation. At the core of the human and socio-cultural challenge is the menace of illegal small scale mining otherwise known popularly in Ghana as galamsey.

Galamsey is practiced notoriously in many communities, in the regions mentioned above, such as Asakragua, Prestea, Twifi Praso, Obuasi, Tain, Oda and some communities around Black Volta.

Most the activities of the local illegal miners, with the connivance of foreign nationals from other African Countries and Asia, especially China, have rendered our water bodies heavily polluted posing dander to human lives, aquatic organisms and jeopardizing the capacity of the identified water bodies to support mini/medium electricity generation.

Rivers such as Pra, Ofin, Birim, Tano and Ankobra are heavily polluted to the extent that one needs no scientific study to understand the extent of destruction because the mere natural color of the rivers is completely lost i.e. from colorless to distressing yellow or brownish.

Do you need a well written theory to understand the galamsey business? Probably not. For those who live in the Western, Central, Eastern and Bono regions of Ghana, describing galamsey ‘business’ is just a story one yearns for its quick end.

Not only has it almost become a normal business but there are suspicions about the sincerity of authorities in taking the right actions to end the illegal activity. People who engage in galamsey are considered by authorities as engaging in illegal mining activities but only few people are arrested and dealt with the law.

The pollution of the river with excessively high levels of mud and chemicals has significantly impeded the swift flow of the identified waterbodies hence limiting their hydro potentials. The current state of the river bodies is not an impetus for attracting investment and this can negatively affect our renewable energy dream in future.

The destruction of forest along the waterbodies also goes to negatively affect rainfall patterns which in turn limits the volume of water that flows to our existing large hydro dams.

Way Forward

A bold and a non-political decision is needed to address this national problem.

The issue is that it’s difficult for a political institution to make a non-political decision. A non-partisan task force whose leadership is not appointed by the government but nominated by relevant professional and other concerned stakeholders must be resourced to strictly enforce the law on galamsey.

I strongly agree to the suggestion that there is the need to collaborate with relevant stakeholders to create buffer zones and undertake reforestation along river bodies, and prevent mining, farming and logging activities. The punitive regime for dealing with recalcitrant illegal miners must be very deterrent enough and political interference must be absent.

At the institutional level there needs to be enhanced collaboration among the relevant institutions including Forestry Commission, Lands commission, Mistry of Food and Agriculture, Water Resources Commission, The Police and Military, Traditional authorities, Ministry of Science and Technology, Local Government structures (Municipal and District Assemblies and the Media.

The government must ensure taxes paid by the citizens are used well to among other things create alternative livelihoods, especially in Agriculture for youths in the affected communities.

Educational Opportunities should be opened up for young people to pursue their academic dreams at affordable cost because enhancing relevant education among the youth increases knowledge which limits their engagement in illegal mining. Let’s all support the effort to improve renewable energy solutions through enhanced environmental practices.