Though most of the independent miners are operating illegally, Galamsey is growing and now nearly one-quarter of the world’s gold output originates from small-scale mines.
Notwithstanding, many people living around the Galamsey areas are bearing the brunt of illegal mining activities. River bodies, which are the main source of drinking water for communities are polluted by illegal mining activities.
A research conducted by the Water Research Institute (WRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, has revealed that there is a level of contamination of water consumed by citizens in the Wassa Akropong Area.
The adverse effects of water pollution on the citizens arise largely from the activities of Galamsey operators.
To bring the findings and recommendations of the research to the fore and to provoke public discussions around the problem, WRI is collaborating with SEND-GHANA, a non-governmental organisation, to implement a project titled: “Deepening linkages between Research, Advocacy and Media practitioners in Ghana for greater policy influence and impact.”
The Project is synthesizing research on water pollution into documents that are handy, easily accessible and user-friendly to assist affected citizens in the Wassa Akropong and surrounding communities to appreciate the devastating effect of water pollution on their lives and to participate in the advocacy process to seek improvement in water service delivery.
Once water pollution is controlled, the cost of treating water for domestic use also comes down drastically and this represents significant savings to the citizens in the project area, Dr Osmund Ansa Asare, Principal Research Scientist of the WRI told the Ghana News Agency in an interview.
The polluted water bodies are highly turbid and getting it treated for consumption requires a lot of alum (aluminium sulphate).
This increases the cost of treatment whilst the blocking of water courses affect the quantity of waters needed for treatment.
“Mercury vapour through inhalation could cause memory and speech loss, numbness, vision problems, convulsion and in some cases death. Mercury vapour when inhaled can also cause lung diseases.
“Lead poisoning includes anaemia, weakness, constipation, colic, palsy and often paralysis of the wrists and ankles. Lead can reduce intelligence in children…impair memory and cause hearing problems,” the research said.
Lead found in water can increase blood pressure in adults and cross the placenta, which results in miscarriages, still births and neurological damage.
It is clear that Galamsey activities thrive among the rural poor, the unemployed and communities with no alternative income generating activities.
It therefore behoves government to institute steps that would enable Galamsey operators to carry out their activities in a safe, sustainable and orderly manner without causing further destruction to the environment.
There should also be efforts to stop the influx of foreigners who are becoming neck –deep in illegal mining operations without regard for the trail of destruction they leave behind.
Galamsey will continue to be an attractive means of livelihood for the large army of unemployed youth, but it must be done with due regard to environmental sanity and sustainable use of the ecology for the sake of posterity.
By Audrey Dekalu