Minister for Sanitation and Water Resources Cecilia Abena Dapaah had tasked the Water Resources Commission and the Water Research Institute to carry out a scientific probe on the extent to which the activities of illegal miners have contaminated Ghana's waters.
She also tasked the agencies to recommend the most effective approach to regaining water quality.
Preexisting studies suggest that the country may need about two decades to regain aquatic life destroyed by the activities of illegal miners who operate on the rivers.
However, in a bid to ascertain the actual contaminations and to find immediate solutions the Water and Sanitation Minister said the Water Research Institute will in the coming days provide a full report on the level of damage which will inform the most appropriate solution to deal with the matter.
Ms Dapaah said these at a news conference in Accra on Wednesday, 23 June 2021.
The Ghana Water Company has warned that if the activities of illegal miners are not brought to an immediate stop, the country will have to import drinking water in the next 10 years.
To salvage the situation, the government has deployed a security team called Operation Halt II to stop all forms of mining on rivers in the country.
As part of their mission, the team has been tasked to burn all excavators found parked near river beds either in operation or not.
Strengthen institutions to address looming galamsey-induced water crisis
Meanwhile, the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organisations in Water and Sanitation (CONIWAS) says the looming water crisis, as a result of the impact of illegal mining on water production, can be forestalled.
CONIWAS has proposed that government strengthens the various state institutions tasked with dealing with illegal mining.
Analysts have warned of a looming nationwide water crisis after illegal mining activities forced the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) to deny over 140,000 people access to potable water in the Ashanti Region alone.
The Chairman of the Coalition, Yaw Attah Arhin, says if these institutions are strengthened, they will be empowered to deliver on their mandate, which includes protecting the country’s water bodies.
“We should strengthen the institutions to enable them to strengthen the regulations. We have all these institutions – the Water Resources Commission, Minerals Commission, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the police, but how resourceful are they to ensure the protection of the water resources we depend on?” he asked.
The GWCL says over 140,000 people in Odaso and Obuasi in the Ashanti Region have limited access to water on a daily basis as a result of illegal mining.
According to the company, it has drastically had to reduce the volumes of water sent to households in these areas because galamsey is directly affecting its production and general operations.
Citing the current situation in Odaso and Obuasi, the company says it has reduced its output from four million gallons of water a day to just a million gallons a day.
The Managing Director of the Ghana Water Company, Ing. Dr. Clifford Braimah, who made the observation, said the company’s operations are being affected heavily by illegal mining.
“Whatever happens to the resources has a direct impact on us at Ghana Water Company Limited. Galamsey is making us reduce the volumes of water that we can store in our reservoirs to abstract. If you take Obaso, for example, we were supposed to be doing four million gallons of water a day. What we can abstract now is 1 million gallons; 3 million gallons of water cannot be abstracted. Just on the raw surface, we are leaving out 140,000 people on daily from getting water on a daily basis, so when we begin to complain about the scarcity of water, there are external forces affecting it.”
Ing. Braimah stated that the company is also currently absorbing the cost of the new chemicals because it does not have the power to translate these expenses into the bills of the recipients.
“We don’t have the capacity to increase bills at any time, it is PURC that does that, and they do that every two years. So we will have to absorb some of these expenses for the meantime till we are called to bring new proposals, then our expenses will be captured in the subsequent review of prices. So we are currently running at a loss in Odaso. We are recording similar cases in Western Region.”