Government’s embargo placed on the activities of small-scale mining companies has led to an improvement of the water quality in rivers and other water-bodies that were heavily polluted over the recent past years.
In a report submitted to Parliament, the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources cited improvement of water quality in rivers such as the Pra, Offin, Bia, Ankobra and Birim – all of which together serve as sources of drinking water for millions of Ghanaians.
The ministry’s report showed that the turbidities – which simply refers to the clearness or cloudiness of a water sample and is measured in Nephelometric Turbidity Units (NTU) – have improved remarkably, with the River Bia’s results being the most outstanding.
Turbidity is also an important indicator of the amount of suspended sediment in water, which can have negative effects on aquatic life. The suspended sediments that cause turbidity can block light to aquatic plants, suffocate aquatic organisms, and carry contaminants and pathogens such as lead, mercury, and bacteria.
According to the World Health Organisation, the turbidity of drinking water should not be more than 5 NTU, and should ideally be below 1 NTU – but the turbidity of the River Bia as measured at Dadieso, Western Region, in February 2017 was 9,240 NTU; however, a year later that dropped to 19 NTU.
The turbidity level of the River Offin measured at Adiembra, Western Region, as at February 2017 was 4,150 NTU, but dropped to 11 NTU a year later. The results of the water quality test carried out on the same river at Dunkwa showed a similar improvement – from 3,978 to 226 NTU.
The River Ankobra’s water quality improved from 553 to 217 NTU; Birim from 3,822 to 261 NTU, and the River Pra from 1,805 to 883 NTU.
While the Parliamentary Committee on Works and Housing commended the marked improvement in water quality, it urged the Sanitation and Water Resources Ministry to intensify the monitoring exercise in order to sustain the gains made.
“The continuous improvement of water quality will help reduce the drain on limited resources of the institutions responsible for the production of water to the consuming public, besides increasing the economic life-span of the treatment plants,” the Committee noted.
Ban on galamsey
Following public protests, government in 2017 placed a ban on the operations of all small-scale mining firms, establishing an inter-ministerial committee and a taskforce to combat the menace.
After more than 20 months of the ban being in place, government announce a roadmap for small-scale mining firms licenced by the Minerals Commission – with President Akufo-Addo insisting that those without licences will be flushed out.
“The ban on small-scale mining was never intended to be permanent; it was to enable government fashion a policy to sanitise the sector and ensure that in future small-scale mining, which is been with us for centuries, will not damage our environment.”
He added: “The measures announced do exactly that. I cannot and will not give up on the fight to protect our environment”.