Is this the best that Ghana's Water Research Institute can do?

Source: Ghana | CAMERON DUODU
Date: 10th-may-2017 Time:  2:05:05 pm

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It comes as a bit of a shock to realise that there is a “Water Research Institute” in Ghana at all!

For many of our mighty rivers have fallen deadbat the hands  of the wicked galamsey operators. I speak of  sacred Rivers  like Tano. Birem Abenaa. Densu. Offin. Prah. And Ankobrah. Plus many others which, like those named, have dried up in part, are currently drying up or are in danger of drying up. The water in those Rivers still meandering their way across our once-beautiful land is mud-yellow and cannot be drunk without expensive  treatment and re-treatment..

All around the country, we see a relentless and conscienceless assault upon our water bodies by the galamsey operators. We see rivers turned upside down by excavators that dig up riverbeds in order that the sand and gravel the riverbeds contain might be brought ntom the surface and panned or washed in search of gold.

With such a devastation of our water resources taking place, one would have thought that our Water Research Institute would be issuing constant reports on how our water resources are being ruined. But it has been loudly silent.

If this were happening in some other countries, we could expect, in the face of such a bare-faced national disaster, that the research Institute specially set up to study the quality of the water in our rivers and streams -- and tell the public what changes were being observed in it by qualified scientists -- would, on a monthly, weekly or even on a daily basis, issue reports on its findings, depending on how seriously and  nhow fast  the water quality was deteriorating.

Has the Water Research Institute being doing this?

No!

Does it even know  bhow many miles of fresh water or the volume of it – that has been annihilatede by galamsey? If it does, it hasn't told us (as far as I know!)

By way of contrast, I fondly remember how forthcoming Dr Letitia Obeng, who first headed the Institute of Aquatic Biology (the body whose functions the Water Research Institute has now assumed) was. Her institution was constantly informing us about how the Akosombo Dam and the Volta Lake would affect the lives of Ghanaians and the steps being taken to mitigate the effect of the flooding of the lands adjacent to the Dam, during the formation of  the Volta Lake. Won't it be ironical if Ghana was to run out  of potable water even though it used to boast of possessing the "largest man-made in the world"?

"Water, water, everywhere -- but only mud to drink"!?

The last report I can find in which anyone from the Water Research  Institute say  anything note-worthy to the public about our water quality was published  almost exactly one year ago. It was in fact a very good report and it appeared on the Net on 16 May 2016. It warned:

QUOTE: Research conducted by the Water Research Institute (WRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has established that Ghana’s water treatment systems are incapable of removing algae toxins. Briefing the Daily Graphic on the report, the Director of the Institute, Dr. Joseph Addo Ampofo, explained that Ghana had the conventional type of water treatment system that was unable to remove the algae toxins.

“ He said that most of the sources of fresh water drawn to the treatment plants were high in algae growth. He, therefore, called for an immediate review of the country’s water purification systems to ensure that the toxins were removed, adding that algae were harmful to human health.

Dr. Ampofo said the algae infestation was the result of human activities such as illegal mining (galamsey), farming along river banks and bathing in the rivers. He urged all stakeholders, including the Water Resources Commission and the public, to do their part in protecting water sources from algae growth. He said the less the algae growth, the less the toxins to be removed.

“He [explained that] although the current water purification mechanism used by the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) met World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, the guidelines were accepted at a time that Ghana did not have problems with algae growth in water sources. He disclosed that the GWCL only tested the treated water for bacteria, not toxins from algae, and that was why the company said its water was potable.

“If you look at the water in the Weija Dam, for instance, gradually the water is increasing in blue-green algae. With such water, if you want to treat it for drinking, you must also take into consideration the removal of the algae because algae toxins can cause kidney, liver, nervous system and heart problems.....We do not have that technology for our water treatment now,”. UNQUOTE

Note that good as the report was,  the reference to galamsey constituted only a tiny fraction of it, although even then, our rivers and streams were facing devastation at an alarming rate from the galamseyers.

Indeed, in the one year that has elapsed since Dr Ampofo was good enough to brief the Daily Graphic on the dangers caused to our water by algae toxins, the Institute, as far as I can discover, has not made any more public pronouncements on our water issues. Yet scientists ought to be aware enough of their peculiar position of leadership in society to appreciate that in our part of the world, politicians tend not to be able to fully grasp all the occurences -- natural or man-made --  that constitute a danger to the public. Society needs to be constantly briefed and alerted and scientists ought to take it upon themselves to take the initiative and engage in regular information-sharing. Especially where, and if, public health is threatened by ignorance of such occurences..

I am afraid the Institute has been remiss in  this regard. But maybe, it was a good thing it kept its own counsel, for now, according to JoyFM, the Institute has come out of the woodwork. And what it says is absolutely, unbelievably backward and shallow in the extreme:

QUOTE: “The Water Research Institute (WRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) says the Government will be effective at monitoring [the] activities of small scale miners if it legalises galamsey.... At a media encounter on galamsey held by the International Association for Impact Assessment [on 4 May 2017] WRI Director, Professor O. Ansa-Asare, appealed to the Government to legalise the practice, instead of clamping down on it.

“The argument by WRI is in sharp contradiction to the army of critics who have been calling for a complete ban of the activity. Some media and religious groups have been pressurising the Government to end the practice because of the damage it has done to the country’s environment. Many of Ghana’s water bodies have been destroyed. The Tano River in the Brong Ahafo Region, that serves several communities, has dried up for the first time in 40 years. The Birem and Densu Rivers in the Eastern Region and Ankobrah River in the Western Region have been muddied to an extent that [it]will cost the Ghana Water Company more money [to provide] treatment before consumption.

“The country’s forest reserves continue to be destroyed due to the indiscriminate and illegal mining by some citizens.”UNQUOTE.

Indeed, Prof Ansa-Asare's views are extremely naive, to say the least. The evidence before our eyes makes it abundantly clear that the Ghanaian galamseyers and their Chinese patrons have absolutely no scruples in ignoring all the laws of the country, the laws of decency and common sense in their quest for gold.

For our ancestors did dig for gold and won so much of it that our country was named “The Gold Coast” by the Europeans who came here to buy gold. But the traditional methods used to dig gold did not end in rivers and streams being deliberately destroyed. The pits used to dig gold and now known o farmers as nkomena, ere often far away from rivers and streams, and the mouths of the pits were usually not wide enough to scar the land in the horrendous way that the huge open pits and craters dug by the galamseyers have done to our land at the present time.

People deliberately pollute river and stream water with poisonous mercury and cyanide, and you want them to be “licensed and “monitored”? What arrant nonsense. Has the person not already self-defined himself as a wicked person? Will he not either kill or maim a “monitor” if the “monitor”tries to obstruct his operations? Has this not, in fact, happened in communities where the people have thought it necessary to confront the galamseyers? Does Ansa-Asare read newspapers at all? one wonders.

At best, the galamseyers will try to bribe Ansa-Asare's so-called “monitors”. Why, the Minister of Land and Mineral Resources was recently forced to discipline on the spot, nine “mine inspectors” whom he discovered to have ignored their duties, when he paid a surprise visit to some areas devastated by galamseyers.

Also, it was extremely barmy of Prof Ansa-Asare to ignore the fact that the galamseyers consider themselves above the law, anyhow, and have even gone to the extent of impudently threatening the Government of Ghana to ban their activities if it dares. The situation cannot be met with mere academic theories about how to eliminate smuggling through legalisation. Al Capone, the American Mafia leader, was  not  put out of action by legalisation of his illicit acitivities but by the law being firmly brought upon him. Galamsey is a test of strength between the elected Government of Ghana, and a group of insolent, machismo-fired individuals, to whom community and traditional morality means nothing.

In any case, how can one “legalise and monitor” murder or rape? And are galamseyers not murdering our land and its rivers and streams on a scale that threatens our future generations with poteential genocide brought about by a lack of drinkable water?

As the Gas would say, "Anokwale mpo!" [the very idea of it!]

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