On the 8th of March, 2022, the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa, gave the State of the Nation Address (SONA). His remarks on illegal mining were very shocking and unconvincing. We, the Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM), are disappointed and filled with rage. The recent development on illegal mining and the acts of some leaders does not inspire any hope and readiness to end the menace in the country. Just a few weeks ago, the Deputy Minister of Land and Natural Resources made a claim to deceive Ghanaians about the improved conditions of River Ankobra. The former Minister of Environment Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Prof. Frimpong Boateng, has also exposed government officials for their involvement in galamsey activities in a recent documentary aired by the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). The President himself has justified the activities of Akonta mining, a mining firm that had been captured destroying river bodies and forest reserves in the Western region. The same man who in July 2017, took a strong stance against galamsey, declaring that - “ I am prepared to put my Presidency on the line on this matter.” Looking back, these were just one of the rhetorics to sway Ghanaians in the galamsey fight. As the Ghanaian saying goes “A proud heart can survive a general failure because such a failure does not prick its pride” The good people of Ghana do not deserve to be treated this way by our leaders. Also one begins to wonder why we should bring in Japanese experts now to treat our polluted river bodies, while the root causes have not been addressed yet. It looks as if we are going around in circles. In case the President forgot, it is not only our rivers that need cleaning, our lands need reclamation too. The youth of Ghana are alarmed by the rate of environmental pollution that has been caused by galamsey. It has caused deforestation, water pollution, and the degradation of land. It has destroyed the habitats of endangered species and threatened biodiversity.
Polluted River Ankobra
This trend cannot be reversed by a one-time recovery of polluted water bodies by a team of Japanese experts, but rather by the immediate end of all galamsey operations in our forests and river bodies, followed by the former.
Multifaceted approach needed to fight galamsey
Ending galamsey in Ghana requires a multifaceted approach that addresses both the immediate and underlying causes of the problem. GYEM is demanding prompt action from the government and its agencies to bring an end to galamsey. The government needs to strengthen law enforcement against illegal mining activities. This includes increasing the penalties for illegal mining and prosecuting offenders regardless of their political affiliations. The police, judiciary, and other law enforcement agencies must be adequately resourced to carry out their duties. The government needs to intensify public education and awareness programs to inform people of the dangers of galamsey activities. The government must provide alternative livelihoods for those involved in illegal mining. This can be achieved through the promotion of sustainable agriculture, vocational training, and other job creation initiatives. The government must strengthen environmental regulations and ensure that mining companies comply with them. This includes monitoring and regulating the use of chemicals such as mercury, which is used in the extraction of gold. Ending galamsey in Ghana requires a coordinated effort involving the government, civil society, the private sector, and local communities. It is essential that we prioritise the protection of the environment and the well-being of the people who depend on it for their livelihoods. Galamsey has had significant and far-reaching impacts on the environment, economy, and society.
Illegal mining in the Atewa forest
It is essential to address these impacts through comprehensive and sustainable solutions like those proposed in this article. We, as a youth movement and environmental group, demand the government's transparency and a sense of urgency to ensure that the right things are done to address this issue. We are concerned about our future and those of generations after us.
About GYEM
Ghana Youth Environmental Movement (GYEM) is a nationwide youth-led environmental policy and advocacy group that trains and empower grassroots activists with skills and tools to take climate action through policy advocacy, campaigns and community-based projects that build climate resilience.