EDITED EXTRACTS THE SPEECH MADE ON GALAMSEY BY THE 1ST DEPUTY SPEAKER, MR JOSEPH OSEI OWUSU, IN PARLIAMENT ON 13 MARCH 2018
Mr Speaker I thank you very much for the opportunity to contribute to this statement. I hope I can keep my [cool] because I often get emotional when I’m discussing the damage we [have done] to our environment and in particular, water-bodies.
Mr Speaker, I live in an area where one water-body, a river called Dankrae, passes through my entire constituency. And I get calls practically every day from farmers who farm around, and the complaint is simple, “We can longer farm because the mining activities in the river body [are] affecting our crops. If you use them to water our crops, [they] die”.
The last one I had was about two weeks ago, he said: “Lawyer, I borrowed [money] to start farming when the water started clearing up but now everything I have is gone! ….It’s in vain……. [It’s not] worth it. That is the damage that those few people who want to make money from gold [have done] to entire communities.
Mr Speaker, I want [us] in discussing this matter, to determine where our loyalties lie.
We are Members of Parliament; we represent the entire community. We can count, in any community, ten or twenty people involved in mining on water-bodies. Those twenty or ten people affect the lives of the entire community because they want gold from the source of LIFE to the community. This is the challenge we have to deal with.
Mr Speaker, it is true that we have legislation that sayS that if we arrest people, [we should] seize their equipment. But some members of us here can attest [to the fact that] when the Committee of Roads and Transport went for an inspection tour in the Central Region, we just stopped by River Ofin (which is no longer a river because no water can be seen but mud!) and we saw water-craft on the water-body. And as soon as our vehicle stopped, they [the galamseyers] jumped into the water and disappeared! Now, if I had gone for an operation, [would] I have had to leave the equipment there for them to come back to continue [using it]?
Mr Speaker, extreme behaviour must be met with extreme response. We are dealing with people who are determined at every cost to make their money, notwithstanding [the damage] they do to the environment. I was going on a community visit in one of the communities called Aduame when I met an old lady who said: “They have expanded the river and I can’t go to my farm!”)…. And so I got interested and walked to them.
Mr Speaker, the width of the river has been expanded from – (take) the wall of this chamber – to the other wall. It [used to be] a small stream [on] which trees were being used to make a bridge and cross over. Now the old lady can’t cross over, so she is not benefiting from the farming and [is] also denied access to her farm! That is the kind of thing that is happening in all these areas, that we are encouraging.
Honourable members, we should be careful not to appear to be loyal to the same people who are destroying our water-bodies; destroying farms and making sure of affecting the livelihood of our rural folks. We can all bear witness to the damage that mining in the water-bodies is doing. There is nobody who is not aware of the danger to water-supply in the country.
Ghana Water Company came out and spoke on several occasions, and are we waiting for them to shut down before we turn round and pretend that we care about the people we represent? The choice is now! What is the total cost of the equipment we are complaining has been destroyed, compared to the lives that we’ve lost?
None of these water-bodies can [now] be fished in. They are dead! There’s no live marine fishes in any of those waters and my friend from Ofinso can bear testimony to that. River Oda has none and [neither does] Dankrae. Actual life is gone because a few people want to make money. And who says gold is only in the water-bodies? There are several places where you can get your licence and mine, but for heaven’s sake, leave the water-bodies alone! Our lives depend on that.
Mr Speaker I think that Members of Parliament should demonstrate in this debate that we are willing and ready to stand with the Government to stop this menace. If it were easy to arrest them, we would not continue to do this fight one year after it was declared. If the people were willing to obey the laws of the land, we wouldn’t need to send soldiers after them. But here are people who are determined that notwithstanding the law they know exists, notwithstanding the dangers they know they pose to the entire country, they want money so the rest of us should die.
I don’t know how many of us, when we visit our community, the people tell us to make boreholes for them because the water-bodies which they could ordinarily drink from, are no longer good. That is the challenge we carry.
Honourable Members, where is our loyalty?
The other part of it is, if you go into [it, of the] people mining in these water- bodies, about 90% of them are foreigners – largely Chinese, Togolese, and Burkinabes for those on the water-bodies. Where is our loyalty?
Is our loyalty to our Ghanaian people, or is our loyalty to those who make money? How much is Ghana earning from the gold they are mining? Why should Ghana continue to spend its cash resources in going after them in the first place, and after that, to spend large sums of money to clean up the water before we can get something to drink?
For those who are complaining that their vehicles had been destroyed, let them come [forward] and prove that they were [working] legally, and show they were entitled to mine at that place. Then the Government will pay them. But if they were not there in the first place, those extreme measures may not have been necessary.
Why has it become so necessary? Has it ever been the case in this country? I recall in the case where we were making these rules and regulations here. We talked about mining in the forest areas. At that time, mining in the river-bodies was not an issue. Now they have progressed into that and they are destroying our sources of water.
I have made some very extreme suggestions. I know people are not happy with that. But regrettably I don’t have the authority; if I had, I would have made [it] the law that if you find people on the water-body, shoot them! That is what I would have done if I had the authority. That is how we [can get these] people out. There are some countries where littering on the street (as recently as in the 60’s) if you litter on the street, you will be shot, because that was the law and they implemented it.
Sometimes we need to be strong on wrong-doers. We are pampering wrong-doers in this country too much and they are not many. So Mr Speaker I think that we should stand by the military, the Operation Vanguard; and we should all stand together to ensure that our water-bodies are clean and safe.
I THANK YOU MR SPEAKER