Mr Antwi Boasiako-Sekyere, the Eastern Regional Minister has disclosed that the Region is trailing in cocoa production due to the destruction of farmlands and plantations by illegal mining (galamsey) activities.
According to him, many farmers had lost their lands for grazing due to activities of the illegal miners, while others have given out their farmlands to the miners.
The Regional Minister disclosed this, at meeting with the Board of the Community Water and Sanitation Agency (CWSA) in Koforidua, when members paid a courtesy call on him at the start of a three-day visit to the Eastern Region.
He said despite the several measures put in place by the Regional Coordinating Council, in conjunction with the security services, galamsey activities continue to devastate the communities and endanger the lives of the people.
The Minister observed that sadly because the health hazards in the galamsey activities are ignored, those involve contract diseases that kill them fast, denying them the opportunity to enjoy their booty.
He expressed the hope that the new bill before parliament when passed would offer stiffer punishments to culprits when arrested to deter others.
He noted that the current fines and sentences of the courts, such as fines of GH¢500 and releasing of seized machines back to them was a disincentive that cannot in any way help curb the galamsey menace.
The Board of the CWSA as part of the visit would inspect progress of the Asesewa, Akateng, Old and New Abirem town water systems and the management of the facilities and how best to expand and give more communities water.
Nana Danso Agyei Ababio, chairman of the Board, indicated that galamsey is a menace and causing huge devastation of water bodies in many parts of the country of which the Eastern Region is no exception.
He said in the galamsey devastated areas in the region, because surface water is used, treatment of the resource is costly, and difficult, due to the high levels of pollution by all kinds of chemicals inimical to human consumption.
According to the Board chair, in some parts of the Western Region where galamsey activities are rife, dangerous chemicals have been found in some water bodies which must be dealt with to ensure that the people are safe.