Approximately two hours’ drive west of Accra, is Cape Coast, the captivating capital of the Central Region, which hosts notable tourists’ attractions.
The Region remains a firm favourite for holidaymakers craving pristine and disturbance-free time along its beautiful coastal stretch.
However, human activities, including sand winning along the coast have worsened injustice perpetrated against the environment with dire ecological, economic, and social consequences on marine resources.
Environmentalists have warned about the rate of shoreline erosion in the region due to increasing activities of sand winning along the beachfront.
According to them, the region loses about four metres of its shoreline annually due to unregulated sand winning. Also, comparing satellite images from 2014 and photographic maps from 2005, researchers, stated that 37 per cent of the 550km long coastal land had been lost to erosion and flooding between 2005 and 2017.
Currently, it is evidently clear that the rate of replenishment of sand from the sea is less than the rate of extraction. The difference manifests in the pronounced coastal erosion which has washed away some buildings and slanted some coconut trees.
The phenomenon has exposed homes and facilities to the ravages of the sea, and this reinforced the compelling need for stringent measures to be adopted forthwith to redress what is described as “looming disaster.”
Sand mining occurs when people illegally scoop sand from the beaches, dunes, or river beds mainly for construction. It is “supposedly” illegal. However, people have persisted in this venture dating back to the pre-independence era.
This activity has been identified to be widespread across all the coastal regions of the country.
This Reporter’s investigations revealed different types of sand winning activities based on the demand from the specific end users.
Truck-base sand mining operations are fully commercial ventures undertaken by contractors whose business were solely to supply building materials to builders.
They supplied products within the vicinity on the coast or to locations several kilometres away. These contractors usually engage the services of the youth residing in nearby communities to scoop the sand into the trucks for a fee ranging from 50-200 Cedis.
In contrast, the operations of low-capacity truck-based sand miners span from small-scale non-commercial to large-scale commercial activities making use of small pickup trucks to low-capacity non-tipper truck vehicles.
Also, others use their personal vehicles to go for beach sand for their own use, or by contractors or block layers who did not have access to tipper trucks and use such vehicles to transport their booty.
Economics of Beach Sand Mining
Most often people who engage in beach sand mining give the excuse that ‘there are no jobs’, despite the activity being illegal.
The fact that there are no jobs does not mean we have to engage in illegalities.
Since this activity is illegal and not regulated, sand contractors do not pay taxes to the state, while they make tens of thousands of Ghana Cedis each year.
While sand miners are making monies, beach front tourism facility owners also have to spend huge sums of their revenue for ad-hoc protective projects, lest they lose their entire investments.
In a conversation with an investor in the Elmina area, he described how he was drawn back to Ghana to invest in tourism. After a few years, there is a hint of disappointment in him, since a large section of the beach that drew him to the area had been destroyed through sand mining activities.
Mr Frank Martey Korli, Central Regional Director of Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority (LUSPA), described the pronounced beach erosion particularly in Cape Coast, Elmina and some coastal communities as a dent in the nation’s quest to protect beach resources.
Currently, he said the situation has worsened, with the shoreline retreating several metres inland in some places due to heavy waves and human-induced erosion.
It has also affected the nesting sites of endangered marine habitats and landing sites used by traditional fishermen.
He noted that “the collapse of the once-thriving small-scale coconut industry at the beachfront in Cape Coast shows the effect of erosion on coastal vegetation.”
In Cape Coast, he blamed the rapid development on beachfront on some politicians who have no regard for the effects of global warming, building regulations or legal and environmental ramifications of their actions and called for the political will to tackle the issue once and for all.
“Our health will improve when spatial planning is well done. So I am pleading that as a matter of urgency we should get the plan,” he implored.
Mr Shine Fiagome, Central Regional Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who expressed similar sentiments added that the EPA in addition to public education had mounted sand winning prohibition signs along the coast to ward off such social miscreants but to no avail.
Nonetheless, he assured that the Agency was working with the Police, Minerals Commission (MC) and the Coastal Development Authority (CoDA) among others to clamp down on the nefarious activities of illegal sand winners particularly at the beaches.
In October 2021, the Cape Coast Metropolitan Security Council (CCMSC) instituted stringent measures against sand winning to help address some environmental challenges in the Area.
The CCMSC prohibited sand winning along the beaches, which had also become an issue of great concern to the Assembly and the residents due to its negative impact.
Many concerned institutions including the Ghana News Agency (GNA), National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO), National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Statistical Service, Fisheries Commission, Centre for National Culture and the Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) have expressed their support to protect the beaches.
They expressed disapproval of development along the beachfront and indicated that coastal communities worldwide have become vulnerable to a wide range of potential hazards – shoreline erosion, coastal inundation and coastal resource degradation.
However, they affirmed that in Ghana, many of the problems were exacerbated by climate change and rapid urbanization, and the concomitant anthropogenic beach changes which influence other coastal processes.
The way forward
As a country, we know the right things that must be done to ensure our environmental sustainability. We only have to be brave to enforce them.
Those countries with clean cities and beaches have gotten to that stage through sound policies, enforcing environmental regulations and diligence. We can never get to that stage through cutting corners.
It is time to develop a new consciousness and approach to protect our environment. The time to act is now. We must not sit idle and wait for the doomsday. Posterity will not forgive us if the next generation come, only to clean up our mess.