Poor mining regulation deprives Ghanaian communities of potable water


“In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty”, so says a song by legendary musician Bob Marley.

But for Regina Fabile, 29, a native of Bonsaso within the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal Area in the Western Region, 301 km drive from the national capital, Accra, it is not easy to find fresh drinking water within her vicinity.

Living close to River Bonsa, the stream from which her community derived its name, it should have been with very little effort for the mother of one to access fresh water, especially this being a rural area where usually water bodies are spared the vagaries of environmental pollution prevalent in urban and industrial settings.

However, when Xinhua met her coming from the river with a bucket of the dark–brown liquid she had drawn from the river, Fabile said she only used the raw water from the river to wash utensils.

She explained that the nature of the water had over the years deteriorated to the point that even washing with it had become a problem to many.

According to her, young people, including her own brothers who engage in a poorly regulated artisanal mining as well as poorly regulated mining by multinational firms, have contributed in no small way to destroy the previously fresh water source.

“From my childhood, this has been our source of water for everything we needed water for in the house, whether for cooking, drinking, washing, or bathing. But now we have to get pipe-borne water at a cost for cooking while we buy sachet water to drink because the water in the Bonsa River has been polluted to this level, especially over the past decade,” she lamented.

Tarkwa-Nsuaem District is about 85 km north of the oil city of Takoradi, a bustling community in the Western Region noted for its rich mineral resources.

Some of the multinational gold mining firms like Anglogold and Goldfields Ghana have their major mining sites here where lots of commercial activities like retailing, wholesaling, hospitality, communication and many other types of business thrive.

However, potable water is one of the down-sides in especially the rural communities outside the municipal capital, where irresponsible environmental practices by mining firms and illegal mining are killing off fresh water bodies.

Beside the negative effect of the poorly regulated small-scale and large-scale mining on the river, which is also one of the watersheds of the Ankobra River, one of the largest rivers in Ghana, Xinhua observed at Bonsaso refuse dumps, household toilets and bathrooms located along the banks of the river.

Here, waste water flows and seeps freely into the river whenever it rains while adults and children bathe in the dirty water.

According to Edgar Clottey, Production Manager at the Bonsaso Treatment plant of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), the main Bonsa River is noted for its high turbidity as a result of illegal mining activities, leading to a higher cost in water treatment for the people.

“The dirtier the water the more Aluminum chloride (Alumn) we apply, which means a higher cost of water treatment,” Clottey stated.

Interventions by mostly mining firms and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in providing boreholes and hand-dug wells have brought relief to these communities.

However, in communities such as Teberebe, Dadwen, Kyekyerew, Israel, Mile-5, Nyamebekyere, Domeabra and Mile 10.5, all in the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipal Area, a majority of these hand-dug wells which use solar pumping machines have broken down due to poor maintenance.

“We had great relief when the borehole was constructed in 2011 with the solar pump, as water is stored in the overhead tank and the whole community got water from there. But about two years ago, the solar pump broke down and we have persistently appealed to the municipal authorities to assist us in repairing it but to no avail.

“So our women and children have to resort to pumping the water with the hand and that takes so long to fill one bucket,” Richard Mensah, caretaker of the community water system at Israel, told Xinhua on Friday.

He appealed to the municipal authorities to come to their aid to repair the solar pump for them to alleviate the suffering women and children go through to access water.

Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has taken over from his predecessor, John Dramani Mahama, as Co-Chair of Secretary-General’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) advocates.

He will be co-chair of the group along with Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway until the end of 2018.

The Tarkwa Nsuaem Municipal area is one of the communities where the Ghana Watershed project, which seeks to promote integration between Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and the delivery of Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is taking place.

The project seeks to mobilize local government authorities and the communities to develop their own roadmaps towards managing water resources sustainably.

Meanwhile, the central government is developing policies and financing methods that include IWRM in its overall development agenda.

So far, communities under the Watershed project are beginning to appreciate the need to protect the sources of raw water around them, with the knowledge that whatever they do to these sources of water will return to haunt them.

“Some of the communities were not given training on how to maintain the water systems while others still look up to the organizations that provided the water systems for maintenance,” Mercy Amonkwando, Project Coordinator of Hope For Future Generation (HFFG), an implementing partner of the Watershed program in the municipality, told Xinhua on Thursday.

She lamented that even in some of the typical farming communities farmers have to depend on sachet water for drinking since their traditional sources of fresh water have been polluted through bad environmental practices.

However, the implementation of the five-year Watershed program, which is supported by the Netherlands’ Not for Profit organization, IRC. is beginning to yield initial dividends.

The project coordinator expressed joy that “some of the communities are beginning to understand the need to create designated refuse dumps where they confine the refuse and prevent trash from entering their water bodies”.

At Kofikrom, for example, the people have dug a well from which they draw cleaner water than what they draw from the river.

They have also dug a pit latrine which is waiting to be roofed for use to halt the menace of open defecation.

“The communities are beginning to appreciate the linkage between their environmental practices and their health, especially when it comes to clean and potable water,” she added.

Members of communities where the mining firms have sunk boreholes for them are beginning to call for third party or neutral experts to provide water quality testing services for them.

They argue that the same mining firms which have provided the boreholes are the same companies that pollute both the ground and underground water resources.

The people of Mile 10.5 , Domeabra, Nyamebekyere and Israel have decided to mobilize resources through the tokens community members pay for the water to be used to maintain and/or repair the boreholes sunk for them.

Whereas the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) considered access to potable water to include community water pumps, the SDGs Goal 6 (on water and sanitation) on the other hand considers access to potable water for the house, bathroom, and the kitchen. Enditem

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