The Muni-Pomadze wetland in the Central Region of Ghana is one of the five internationally-recognized coastal wetlands (Ramsar sites) in Ghana under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.
Located between Winneba and the Gomoa West constituency, about 55 km from Accra, the wetland which occupies an area of approximately 95 km2 is biologically diverse, providing many key functions and ecological services to the surrounding local communities which include storm water detention, flood protection, soil erosion control, fresh and brackish water fisheries, food chain support, carbon storage and climate regulation. It also provides habitat for numerous plant and animal species including vertebrates and invertebrates.
However, this rich amphibian and reptile diversity is on the brink, following the discharge of chemical waste by a Chinese owned company called the Nixin Paper Milling Company.
What even surprises the public about the ongoing pollution is the fact that, the company in question recycles used papers and the expectation was that, issues regarding pollution of the environment would be at the core of its production, especially in a Ramsar site, but the opposite is the case here.
Investigations conducted by ghenvironment.org revealed that, Nixin Paper Milling company has no legal permit or certification for their operation within the Muni-Pomadze wetland and has on several occasions refused to halt production despite warning from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission in the Winneba Municipality.
In polluting the wetland, the company make use of the river from upstream, and discharge their chemical waste into the near-midstream section and this is evident in the milky/whitish chemical substance seen on the bed loads, emanating stench, eutrophication, and no sign of moving organisms except flies. The river is also fast drying up exposing the bed load and rocks of the river.
Community in crisis
The Queen Mother and Elders of the Bewadze community have expressed outrage about the ongoing destruction of the wetland which they described as their major source of livelihood.
“When they started discharging their chemical waste into the wetland, we drew their attention to the harm they are causing to our livelihood which include the fishes being killed and the severe stench from the chemical waste which poses a health hazard to all of us, but nothing was done about it and they continue to do their work with impunity”, Nana Abena Adadoa, the queen mother of the Bewadze community told ghenvironment.org in an exclusive interview during a visit to the community.
She revealed that, the entire community is in fear regarding their health as they are forced to inhale the severe stench being emanated from the discharged chemical waste. “So, we are really in deep trouble and I am pleading with the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo to intervene”, the helpless queen mother appealed.
Abusuapanin Kojo Guraa who is also the elder of the community recounted the different types of fish and crab that were serving as source of food to the community but were no more because of the illegal activities of the Chinese company. He said, the wetland is drying up at a faster pace which is affecting trees that have been planted at the banks to protect the Site.
“Our source of drinking water is also gone because of the chemicals being discharged into the river and we are like a community in crisis now. We are not against the work of the Nixin Paper Milling Company but what we can’t tolerate is the amount of havoc they are causing us and it is our humble appeal that the government intervenes immediately before something untoward happen to us here”, the elder added.
Another encroachment by a Ghanaian company
Another company in the locality that is also contributing to the destruction of the Ramsar site is Casa de Ropa, a Ghanaian-private limited liability company operating under the one district one factory programme, with a focus on farming, food processing and consultancy.
In the case of the Ghanaian company, it has managed to block the Pratu river which linked to the main wetland by building an unauthorized dam as a form of irrigation for its farming activities and production. The obstruction has therefore led to the drying of the mainstream river and towards the downstream and the area’s natural coastal savannah is gradually turning into bush-yield.
“This company states, …'to improve livelihoods of the local people’ and yet obstruct the very key resource of the local people from reaching them. What they have done is quite different from their focus and who they say they are. There are innovative ways of creating dams for farming activities especially on rivers and not to the detriment of surrounding communities as we are seeing from Casa de Ropa company”, Kofi Abaka, an aggrieved member of the community added.
In her presentation at the celebration of the World’s Wetland Day in February this year, Mrs. Vivian Aye Addo of the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission in Winneba summed the issue this way. “The Muni-Pomadze Ramsar Site is currently in its bad condition. This results from the fact that water from the upstream which use to fill the wetland is no longer coming. This is because industries have created some canals and drain to divert the water from entering the lagoon. As it stands, it’s only the water from the sea which sustains the Muni-Pomadze lagoon. However, at low tides, the water from the sea is blocked and so cannot fill up the lagoon diminishing the presence of flora and fauna at the area.”
She therefore called on other stakeholders including Non-Governmental Organisations like A Rocha Ghana to help sustain the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar Site by coming together to get the companies stop their illegal activities.
Ghenvironment.org is however informed that, officials of Water Resources Commission of Ghana, the Wildlife Division, leadership of the affected communities and other key stakeholders have met with management of the two companies to resolve the issues. Stay tuned.
By Awudu Salami Sulemana Yoda- Winneba, Central Region