UPDATED: PAPER, PAPER EVERYWHERE, BUT NOT A DROP OF POTABLE WATER! By CAMERON DUODU
When I was growing up, there were clean, life-enhancing rivers all around us.
Our farms were usually sited between two and three miles from our homes. This meant that when we were carrying heavy loads home from our farms, our throats were usually parched with thirst.
We therefore looked forward to the time we would reach one or other of the streams we crossed on the way home.
We would first cross to the other side of the stream. There, we would put down our load of foodstuffs. We would just stretch around for a bit and then make into the bush.
We would be looking for one particular plant, called oworam, whose leaves were silken smooth and greener than anything else on the banks of the river.
We would pluck some of these leaves, shape them into cups, and descend into the water.
The water would be as clear as daylight – so clear that you could see every pebble in it, and sometimes, even the tiny crabs and shrimps that your foot displaced.
You dipped your oworam cup in the water and filled it to the brim. Then, with some of the water dripping all over you because you were so impatient to quench your thirst, you put the cup to your lips.
“Gu-glu!…gu-glu!….Gu-glu!—Gu-glu!….gu-glu!” you drank. And then you exhaled explosively: ”Hummmmhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
Although your feet would have intimated to you that the water was cold, your tongue, taking its cue from your body that had been sweating under the heavy load you’d been carrying, would convey a taste of icy-ecstasy to your mind. You would think you were literally in heaven, and you would drink and drink the nectar until you remembered your parents’ advice that it wasn’t good to drink too much water “on an empty stomach”.
Wow! We crossed Supong first, on our way to our farm. This was on the main pathway that led from Asiakwa to Saaman and Dwaaso, and part of which also branched to Nsutem. We wouldn’t have a drink in Supong, because it was too close to the home we had just left. But by the time we reached Akoosi, we might have developed a thirst: some would take a drink, others not. However, at Pusupusu, everyone would rest-stop and go for a drink.
It wasn’t only that this Pusupusu stream, because it descended from a deeply-wooded hill, had the coldest water imaginable: its location was most picturesque as well. We crossed it over a narrow log that served as a bridge over the deep gorge down below us, through which Pusupusu meandered its way. That log of a bridge hung precariously over an empty chasm that was about sixty feet deep!
I am sure the older people with whom we went to work on our farms didn’t regard it as such a precarious crossing. Nevertheless, they warned us not to glance downwards when we were crossing the footbridge. Of course, we instinctively stole a quick glance down the gorge, at which point our scared minds quickly flashed the thought: “Suppose your foot slips and you fall down there?”
Meanwhile, the stream rumbled unconcerned down the gorge, carrying an echoic orchestration that mystified us with sound images of the ghostly inhabitants that we feared might be waiting for us down there: “poo-soo! — poo-soo!”
The mystery added to the thrill and relief when we eventually managed to negotiate the bridge successfully and reach the other side. We would immediately forget the mysterious rumbling down the gorge and rush down the path leading to the water. The soil down the gorge consisted of a beautiful red clay, half-hidden by a myriad of plants with green leafy plumage, always wet with droplets of water sprinkled into the air as the water fell on to the rocks below the gorge. Despite our fear, we would enter the bush and begin to construct watercups out of the green, silky leaves.
We then stepped into the water – and entered heaven. Our fear; our fatigue; our thirst – all melted away with out first gulp of the cold water. Everyone over-drank in Pusupusu – so much so that by the time we came to Akoosi and Supon, nearer home, only the really greedy person felt the necessity of having another drink.
Supong was, however, unbeaten when it came to water that my mother put in her water-pot at home. She would first put some dried mmetwe (the husks that are left after palm nuts are pounded and the flesh separated from the husks) inside the water-pot. She would then hang the pot upside down over a slow-burning fire. The heat brought out the scent inside the husks in a faint fashion. Then she would wash it, so that only the faintest suggestion of husk-scent remained in it. Then she would pour Supong water in it and keep it in a corner to cool. When you drank some of it afterwards, then you knew what water was all about.
Years later, I discovered that if you put Accra water in a well-washed, empty bottle of a rather rare Scotch whisky, and put it in the fridge, it tastes almost as good – especially in the wee hours of the morning, when you were recovering from a beer binge and your mouth is somewhat dry!
You will have gathered from the foregoing that I am very fond of water. Indeed, water is the elixir without which most living things on the planet could not survive. It is therefore extremely distressing that we in Ghana are sleep-walking into destroying the water resources that our wise ancestors left her thousands of years ago.
Our ancestors treasured water – they trekked for hundreds of miles in the forests until they could find localities where at least two sources of water were present. Then they sought to protect the water sources in their new habitats by invoking magical powers. In my town the smallest of our streams, Twafuor, was cleverly transformed by the elders into a fetish, so that it could be protected from drying up.
It was endowed with the power to enable infertile women to produce children. The consequence was that fishing was not allowed in it, the idea being that the fish in it was its own children whom it turned into babies for the women who could not conceive. The women could not become pregnant if the “fish babies” didn’t exist in the water, could they?
Simultaneously, it was decreed that the farms in the vicinity of the stream could not be cultivated on Thursdays because the stream was called “Yaw” (born on Thursday). This meant that the stream was doubly protected – from fishing and over-use. It remained in use until a particularly useless and immensely self-centred “educated” man bulldozed himself on to our stool and became our chief. The fool neglected everything, including how to enforce the protections that had previously been accorded to the stream. So, today, Twafuor has dried up. Dead.
And then, galamsey came and – destroyed the other big stream on which we depended for water, Supong. Although it was also given a human name, “Kwasi” (born on Sunday) Supong was deemed to be so strong that no prohibitions were needed to protect it. So, fishing could be carried out in it, and people could go near it on Sunday (though Christianity unwittingly came to Supong’s aid and kept people away from the farms they had near it, on Sundays.)
All these effective taboos kept Supong alive – until the galamsey people arrived. The galamsey people have turned the riverbed upside down and left it in mountainous pits. The natural waterways have been blocked, and the river has become a series of mud-filled pits, greenish with algae and worse things.
I am sure, though, that it can be revived, if serious dredging takes place to restore its waterways. But this needs expertise – engineers would first have to trace it to its original source, plant trees where the water has been left to the relentless ravages of sunshine, and the water led back to a deeper, more effortless way downstream. But it can be done.
Birem, in Kyebi, to which Supong is a tributary, has also been subjected to the same treatment by galamsey operators.
It isn’t only today that our people will suffer the consequences of galamsey destruction. Water that has been contaminated with mercury, lead and cyanide, is dangerous to humans and other creatures. We – or rather our children’s children – face a calamity.
Unless our Government and people ALL wake up and say, “Hey! We are destroying the land Nature gave to us. That is a treasonable act against our country. We cannot allow it to go on! ”
Make no mistake == there are plans and plans and plans and plans — in the files of the Water Resources Commission and other government agencies – but the water is dying before our very eyes. We must wake up and embark on ACTION. Or we shall be called “the accursed generation that finished off Ghana as a result of its sheer stupidity.”
CAMERON DUODU’s Comment: When I write repeatedly that Ghana’s rulers are among the most ill-informed and unconcerned Governments in the world, some people may think I am exaggerating. But look — the Chinese fine their own companies unprecedented amounts, and jail their own people, for POLLUTING CHINA’S RIVERS!
But in Ghana, we allow Chinese galamsey operators and their Ghanaian collaborators to pollute our rivers — and leave them to go scot-free! Our President even says the galamsey operators are “only trying to earn a living!”
WHAT A MAD PEOPLE GHANAIANS ARE, RIGHT!!?
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Chinese companies receive massive fine for polluting river
English.news.cn 2014-12-30 23:07:58 [More]
NANJING, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) — Six companies in east China’s Jiangsu Province were ordered to pay 160 million yuan (26 million U.S. dollars) for discharging waste chemical to rivers by a court on Tuesday.
It is the highest fine of its kind in China ever imposed.
The companies from Taizhou City were ordered to pay the amount to an environmental protection fund within 30 days. They were found guilty of discharging 25,000 tons of waste acid into two rivers, which caused serious pollution, according to Jiangsu Provincial Higher People’s Court.
In August, Taizhou Intermediate People’s court sentenced 14 people involved in the pollution to prison terms ranging from two to five years and ordered the companies to pay 160 million yuan within nine months.
The six companies appealed and Jiangsu Provincial Higher People’s Court upheld the ruling on Tuesday, 30 December 2014.