The Ankobra River in the Western Region which was polluted as a result of illegal mining has begun to run clear after the Operation Halt team stepped up its activities in the region.
This comes a month into the special operation by the military task force mandated to stop all mining activities within forest reserves and in water bodies.
The exercise has seen hundreds of illegal miners cleared from the Ankobra and its tributaries.
Last weekend, the Daily Graphic visited Asanda in a follow-up to assess the impact of the operation in the communities that have so far benefited from it.
On the Ankobra River, the Daily Graphic team observed that the river, as well as some of its tributaries, which had turned muddy due to the mining activities, was beginning to regain its water quality.
The disturbing situation of a muddy river and its tributaries had affected the supply of potable water by the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), but the Western Regional General Manager of the company, Mr Francis Agyei Boateng, confirmed that the situation had slightly improved since the intervention.
He said the intake points at Daboase and Bosomase in particular had seen slight improvement in the inflow of water.
He said with a sustained fight against illegal mining along the banks and in the river, the situation would improve.
“Currently, the rains have delayed; we hope the situation will get better when the rains set in — for now it is early in the day to see any significant impact,” he said.
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Mr Boateng stressed the need for the exercise to be sustained to ensure that the situation was completely reversed to improve efforts to provide potable water.
“The turbidity of the water is getting better in riverine communities such as Ankobrah, Salmanso, Asanda and the tributary from Nkroful joining the main Ankobrah River. If the exercise is sustained and no one mines within those areas, there is no doubt that the water bodies will regain their quality and that will also help in the provision of potable water,” he emphasised.
Need to halt devastation
The Western Regional Minister, Mr Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah, said he felt relieved that the destruction of water bodies was being reversed, emphasising that there was significant improvement in the fight against illegal mining activities that threatened the environment.
He underscored the need to do all it required to stop the illegal mining activities, given the negative environmental impact, such as the degradation of forest reserves, loss of aquatic life, pollution of water bodies with chemicals such as arsenic and mercury.
Aside from that, the minister said, the negative effects of those activities extended to the contamination of the soil by heavy metals and other pollutants, resulting in the depletion of agriculture, since the top soil was destroyed through those activities.
Collaboration among regions
Mr Darko-Mensah said since the Ankobra River and its tributaries flowed from other regions, there was extensive collaboration among regions to ensure that the effort was sustained and the battle won.
“We are collaborating with other regional ministers and district chief executives with the same zeal and commitment,” he said.
He described as “heartwarming” the full support from traditional rulers who were the custodians of the land and the commitment of communities to fight the menace.
“With this renewed support from our noble chiefs and communities, the President’s focus of ending illegal mining will be a great success. What we need now is logistical support from all — corporate bodies and individuals — in the fight.
“After we have all agreed that the pain caused to the environment is enough, we are building the synergies, monitoring and evaluating the progress and how we can make it better and sustainable,” he said.
The regional minister also called for more collaboration and engagement with residents of the communities to build trust and confidence, so that they could volunteer information when the operators resurfaced, as the residents would always be the first to know of such illegal acts.
“What we need now is for communities and their leaders to volunteer information. We have driven the illegal operators away. We have the commitment of the President and all stakeholders and we are poised for a successful exercise,” he said.
“We are engaging the assembly members, traditional authorities and all opinion leaders to ensure that aside from the enforcement that is currently ongoing, the communities will understand the seriousness of the situation,” he added.
He commended the military and other teams deployed from the start and the support from the various paramount chiefs, adding: “As the regional minister, my team and I are going to do everything possible to ensure that the space is safe and the law works.”
Govt not against mining
Mr Darko-Mensah stressed that the government was not against mining and had no intention to stop mining, but was focused on stopping the illegal means which were causing havoc to the environment.
“It is important to note that the government is not out to stop mining or against mining. All the government wants is to ensure that mining is done the right way to ensure that we have the environment that we all want, protect our water bodies, and the environment by extension, and that mining is done according to the laws of the land.
“We are saying the forests and water bodies and their closest proximities are red-line zones and we have to stay off those areas. There are laws governing mining; if you want to mine, follow the process and be regularised – this is for our own good,” he emphasised.