The universal urbanization explosion is devouring vast amounts of sand, which is the key ingredient of concrete and asphalt. Sand mining companies, both legal and those that are illegally operating on the black market are raking in GHS40,000 an equivalent of £3,241.1238 a year from trading in the humblest of commodities: SAND.
Due to the high demand for the mineral, the supplies, both legal and illegal are going the extra mile to dissipate lands, in some cases farmlands for what is incontrovertibly the humblest of minerals.
The phenomenon is also common in countries within the West African sub-region and across the continent. The practice is also prevalent in Asia, particularly China, a single country that has seen an unprecedented rise in infrastructure development and expansion and urban growth.
Cities in Africa and Asia are expanding on a scale far greater than at any time in the history of the human race.
Though illegal small-scale mining, popularly known as galamsey, has been widely blamed for the destruction of the environment and the country’s water bodies, indiscriminate sand winning is having an equally destructive effect, threatening farmlands and the ecosystem and needlessly claiming lives whilst at it.
As if that is not enough, there is gradually a grim trend of illegal sand winning creeping into the environment; about 1.5 percent of which have been degraded by activities of illegal gold miners popularly known as galamsey.
The growing worrying trend of illegal sand winning is also known as sand galamsey, is usually operated by dodgy cartels that use brute approach to cow land owners and farmers into submission whiles they dissipate their produce.
The practice is widespread in the Nsawam municipality in the Eastern region with isolated cases in the inner cities of the national capital recording cases of unlawful mining of the mineral from the cartel whose operations continue to threaten the ecosystem by destroying the forest.
Some trucks loaded with sand from Yakoko
The practice also threatens and in some instances obliterates livelihoods by destroying farmlands, and above all take lives.
Most often than not, sand winners fall trees before they mine the sand at the various sites. If the trend continues, it will be very difficult if not impossible for Ghana to achieve number thirteen on the list of seventeen goals as far as the Sustainable Development Goals are concerned.
Goal number 13, encourages nations to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. The trend, in the long run, could disrupt the country’s economy, and adversely impact lives.
Mining permits are issued by the minerals commission where Mr. Obiri-YeboahTwumasi is the Chief Inspector. He tells me the commission is worried about the illegality that is fast gaining root in the country, and highly concentrated in the national capital.
He laments "they carry sophisticated weapons which they use to shoot and kill persons who resist attempts by the sand winners to dissipate their farms’. Mr. Twumasi added, ‘we are worried about the illegality and we will deal with them".
A communications director at the Ghana Water company Nana Yaw Barima Barnie also lamented in an interview with Joy News that, "we are sitting on a time bomb and if we don’t act now very soon it is going to explode" Mr. Barnie.
He added "the sand winners are the same people who blocked the primary source of water for the Nsawam water treatment plant and that prevented the station from treating water for the people within that enclave."
The minerals commission has had a course to engage the services of national security in swoops aimed at ending the worrying trend.
A case in point is the Yakoko incident where sand galamseyers shot dead a 23-year-old farmer on his farm. The farmer who resisted attempts by the sand winners was shot multiple times in the back and died on the spot. Two other people sustained gunshot wounds in the process.
The clash has changed the dynamics in the Yakoko community. It is now a matter of life and death in the small mining community.
The natives, including the Member of Parliament for the Ayensuano constituency, Ayeh-Paye Samuel have vowed to resist every attempt by the sand winners to further dissipate their farms even if it means putting their lives on the line.
The Ministry of Agriculture is also worried about the level of destruction being perpetrated by the sand winners. Chief Technical Advisor to the minister, Asante-Krobea tells me, the indiscriminate sand winning phenomenon is worrying. He speaks of radical plans to nip the development in the bud.
The ministry, however, could however not say when the radical steps would be activated.
Until then, communities like Yakoko and other mining towns suffering the effects to sand-winning and galamsey operations would have to endure as their lands, forests and environments are pillaged with short-term implications for the water we drink and the air that we breathe and long-term implications seemingly to distant to fathom.
Meanwhile, Parliament has since constituted an ad hoc committee to investigate and find a lasting solution to the growing menace.
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