Approximately two hours drive west of Accra is Cape Coast, the captivating capital of the Central Region, which hosts a number of tourists attractions.
The region remains a favourite for holidaymakers craving pristine and disturbance-free time along its beautiful coastal stretch.
However, a myriad of human activities, particularly sand winning along the coast, has exacerbated lots of environmental injustices 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
They said the region loses about four metres of its shoreline annually due to unregulated sand winning or sand mining.
Also, comparing photographic maps from 2005 and satellite images from 2014 and beyond, researchers have stated that 37 per cent of the 550km long coastal land had been lost to erosion and flooding between 2005 and 2017.
It is evidently clear, currently, that the rate of restoration of sand from the sea is less than the rate of extraction. The difference manifests in the pronounced coastal erosion, which had 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 large quantities of sand from the beaches, dunes, or river beds mainly for construction. It is ‘supposedly’ illegal because people have persisted in this venture for years, destroying the protective cover of the shoreline.
This activity has been identified to be widespread across all the coastal regions of the country.
Economics of Beach Sand Mining
The reporter’s investigations revealed different types of sand winning activities based on the demand from the specific end users.
Truck-based sand mining operations are fully commercial ventures undertaken by contractors whose business were solely to supply building materials to builders.
They supply products within the coastal vicinity 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 Ghana cedis.
Also, others use their personal vehicles to fetch sand from the beaches for their own use, or by block layers who did not have access to tipper trucks and use such vehicles to transport their booty.
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.
Sand contractors do not pay taxes to the state even though 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 attracted to Ghana to invest in beach tourism. After a few years, with a hint of disappointment in his voice, he said: “A large section of the beach that drew me to the area had been destroyed through sand mining activities.”
Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority
Mr Frank Martey Korli, the Central Regional Director of the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority, described the pronounced beach erosion, particularly in Cape Coast and Elmina, as a dent on the nation’s quest to protect beach resources.
Currently, he said, the situation had worsened, with the shoreline retreating several metres inland in some places due to heavy waves and human-induced erosion.
It had also affected the nesting sites of endangered marine habitats and landing sites used by traditional fishermen.
“The collapse of the once-thriving small-scale coconut industry at the beachfront in Cape Coast shows the effect of erosion on coastal vegetation,” he said.
For Cape Coast, he blamed the unregulated development on beachfront on some politicians who disregard the effects of global warming, building regulations or legal and environmental ramifications of their actions on the well-being of the community 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 review and update the Land Use and Spatial Plan to meet contemporary needs,” he said.
Environmental Protection Agency
Mr Shine Fiagome, the Central Regional Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who expressed similar sentiments, added that the EPA, aside the public education, had mounted sand winning prohibition signs along the beaches to ward off the social miscreants but to no avail.
Nonetheless, he gave tha assurance that the Agency was working with the Police, Minerals Commission and the Coastal Development Authority among others to clamp down on the activities of illegal sand miners at the beaches.
In October 2021, the Cape Coast Metropolitan Security Council instituted stringent measures against sand winning to help address some environmental challenges in the area.
The Council 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, National Disaster Management Organization, National Commission for Civic Education, Statistical Service, Fisheries Commission, Centre for National Culture, and the Regional Coordinating Council have expressed support to protecting 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 resource degradation.
However, they noted that in Ghana, many of the problems were exacerbated by climate change, rapid urbanisation, and anthropogenic beach changes, which influence other coastal processes.
The way forward
As a country, we know the right things that must be done to sustain our environment. We only have to be brave to enforce the regulations.
Countries with clean cities and beaches have gotten to that stage through sound policies and diligence in enforcing environmental laws and regulations. We can never get to that stage through cutting corners.
It is time we developed a new consciousness and approach to protecting our environment. We must not sit idle and wait for the doomsday. Posterity will not forgive us if we left the mess for the next generation clean. The time to act is now.