It has always been the fear that the continuous destruction of the various beaches may gradually make most communities in the Volta Region caved-in, as excessive river-sand extraction is said to not only affect the aquatic ecosystem but also physical environments beyond the river.
Thus, for a long time, the menace of illegal sand winning activities along the coast of the region has endangered lives and properties of the people with state institutions playing the ostrich.
Here, the perpetrators of this illegal activity use a transportation system locally termed as ‘gadzahun’ to cart the sand from the beaches. The "gadzahuns" are a specially adapted 4X4 pick-ups (mostly Nissan vehicles) that are able to drive easily on the sandy beaches even when heavily loaded with sand.
Investigations by ghenvironmnt.org revealed that, many of the "gadzahuns" belonged to police officers and "powerful people" living in the communities along the coast and it is very common on the beaches between Vodza and Adzido in the Keta area.
The effect of this illegal activity has been very devastating in recent times with thousands of residents in the region rendered homeless as a result of tidal waves. According to the MP for Ho West, Emmanuel Kwasi Bedzrah, at least 3,000 people in the Keta Municipality were rendered homeless after tidal waves swept through their homes on the dawn of Sunday, 7th November.
“The over three thousand people that have been displaced by the flooding in the communities in the Ketu South, Keta and Anlo constituencies in the Volta Region are in urgent need of food, clothes, medicines, and shelter to cope with the traumatized situation that has befallen them,” Mr. Bedzrah said.
Communities such as Abutiakope, Kedzikope and Dzelukope are largely affected as homeless residents were left with nothing to salvage while residents of Anloga, Dzita, Agbledomi, Atiteti, Agokedzi, and Fuveme were also displaced by the fierce tidal waves that swept through the communities.
Legitimizing the illegality
Investigations conducted by ghenvironment.org revealed that, the illegal activities have the backing of the local assembly as the Unit Committee in the area charges GHC 10 for a truck of ‘Gadzahuns’ and the proceeds are used to finance activities of the Committee.
Sand winning banned at Keta beaches
Meanwhile, the Keta Municipal Assembly at an emergency Municipal Security meeting on Wednesday, November 10, 2021, placed a ban on sand mining activities at its beaches with immediate effect and until further notice.
The ban is part of measures adopted by the municipal assembly, to curb sea erosion that has been blamed largely for the recent tidal waves that wrecked peoples’ homes in that enclave.
Speaking to Citi News, the Municipal Chief Executive, Emmanuel Gemegah, said: “further stakeholder engagements would be held in the coming days to either enforce an outright ban or regulate sand winning and its related activities”.
“Anyone who wants to mine sand at the beach must have an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permit,” he added.
A taskforce has been formed to enforce the ban.
The 16-member committee is made up of heads of the various security agencies in the area, some assembly members and other allied agencies clothed with the mandate to arrest and prosecute persons found culpable.
He said, “we are halting the sand winning activity while we look forward to further deliberate on their mode of operation which must be legal according to the law”.
He added that “anyone currently undertaking construction works should look elsewhere for sand to advance their project”.
Cautious welcome to the ban
Residents in the area have however said, they are cautiously welcoming the ban by the Municipal Assembly, as they are wondering if there would be the political will to enforce the ban.
A resident by name Kojo Mawuli told ghenvironment.org that, in the year 2017, the Parliament of Ghana formed an adhoc committee to investigate the effects of sand winning in the country and all the recommendations have been ignored.
“In the Committee’s report, it was recommended for the establishment of a Taskforce consisting of the Security Officers, representatives from the District EPA, Minerals Commission and where applicable, Water Resources Commission at all the Districts where sand winning operations are more prevalent but we never saw the operationalizing of the report here”, he said.
Mawuli who was skeptical about the enforcement of the ban expressed the hope that, the Keta Municipal Assembly would be able to have the political will to completely enforce the ban.
Political twist and blame game
The Majority in Parliament is questioning why the minority Volta caucus is silent on sand winning activities around the Keta beach. The minority Volta caucus expressed disappointment over government's unwillingness towards the completion of the sea defense project.
But at a press briefing moments ago in Parliament, Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo Markin questioned why the minority is only dwelling on the sea defense project when sand winning activities is endemic in the area. The issue resulted in a heated exchange between the majority and the minority particularly between the MP for South Dayi, Dafeamekpor Rockson and MP for Nhyiaso who exchanged words.
Meanwhile, Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin has called for an urgent explanation into when phase two of the Blekuso sea defence project in the Volta Region will commence.
The NPP Member of Parliament (MP) for Effutu said he is for a “real practical solution and not the partisan rhetoric” in dealing with the rampaging effects of tidal waves at the coastline of Anlo, Ketu South, and Keta areas, and therefore wants the Minister for Works and Housing to tell Parliament the commencement date.
“I addressed the media last Friday and I said we needed a permanent solution, and to look at the problem together as stakeholders. Today, I have escalated the matter further by filing an urgent question addressed to the Minister for Works and Housing.”
“I believe that as a house, once this is drawn to the mainstream and the minister comes to answer questions, we will then be able to hold the minister's feet to the fire, regarding the answers he will give and then further push the finance ministry to make available funds to finance the project,” he stated.
“I am for real practical solutions and not partisan rhetoric. Mr. Speaker has admitted the question and I believe that when we are through with the budget, next week we will be able to hear the Minister on that,” Mr. Afenyo-Markin emphasized.
He also used the opportunity to apologize for the use of a supposed picture of sand winning activities in the Volta Region he used at his press conference to buttress his point, while the accusation of insensitivity by opposition MPs against the government after the tidal waves rendered some residents of Keta and its environs homeless.
By Awudu Salami Sulemana Yoda