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Opinions of Friday, 21 April 2017

Columnist: Kofi Thompson

Only the power of the media can save the rest of Ghana's natural heritage

File photo: Galamsey activities have destroyed Ghana's forests and almost all water bodies. File photo: Galamsey activities have destroyed Ghana's forests and almost all water bodies.

The Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Hon John Peter Amewu, recently stated that it is vital to harness the power of the Ghanaian media in the fight against illegal gold mining.

He is indeed right to say so - for it is a candid observation of the virtual helplessness of most of officialdom in dealing with the problem: because they are too poorly-resourced logistically and hamstrung in their work by egregious corruption to fight it effectively.

The truth of the matter, is that such is the power and baleful influence wielded in society by the criminal syndicates behind most of the illegal gold mining in Ghana that if the fight to halt it is left to the regulatory bodies alone, it will definitely fail.

But as a people, this a fight we dare not shrink from nor afford to lose - for the destructive activities of the illegal miners pose an existential threat both present and future generations of our people.

Illegal gold mining is leading inexorably to Ghana becoming a water-stressed nation in the not too distant future. That is intolerable and totally unacceptable - and it ought to be prevented at all costs by society.

The media must therefore - amongst other combative strategies it adopts - focus constantly on the work of the Minerals Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Water Resources Commission at the district and national levels.

It is the only way to minimise or eliminate the unacceptable corruption in those key public-sector organisations that results in the dereliction of duty by officials employed by the state to ensure that the natural environment is safeguarded in all mining concessions in Ghana.

That dereliction of duty by officials in those important state institutions is now impacting negatively on society - as the remainder of our nation's natural heritage is trashed by lawless individuals mining gold illegally across the country.

It is now obvious that we can no longer afford to continue allowing the greed and selfishness of a few corrupt officials in the system to hamper the effort to stop illegal gold miners from destroying what is left of our nation's natural heritage.

The media must make a determined effort to prevent the unfathomable greed driving a few thousand misguided individuals from jeopardizing the quality of life of over some 25 million mostly law-abiding Ghanaian citizens.

The media must remain committed to the fight against environmental degradation nationwide.

As things currently stand, it is only the power of the Ghanaian media that can save the remainder of our nation's natural heritage from being totally destroyed by the operations of illegal gold miners, and prevent Ghana from ending up becoming a water-stressed nation.

By: Kofi Thompson