By Edmund Smith-Asante
One of the easiest and fastest ways to cut short the life of any living creature or being, is to deny it of water – potable water.
Apart from being the magical fluid that keeps humans of all races alive and indeed makes up 55 to 60% of the human body, 70% of the brain, as well as the skin, 82% of blood, and nearly 90% of the lungs, water has so many uses, without which life itself would become impossible.
But this is the dire straits two Ghanaian communities find themselves in, because six rivers they have depended on over time, have either been polluted or destroyed through mining activities.
The two communities located in the Western Region of Ghana, Dumase and Twigyaa near Bogoso, made up of over 5,000 people, now face severe water crisis, which they say, is because of the operations of a mining company – Golden Star Resources (GRS), which has led to the pollution and or destruction of rivers in the communities.
According to the indigenes and indeed incontrovertible information available, before the commencement of surface mining operations in the area, the Dumase community had six rivers, namely; Aprepre, Wurawura, Akyesua, Benya, Pram and Nana Nyabuo but mining operations have polluted and destroyed them all.
For instance on October 24, 2004 and June 17, 2006, the operations of GRS polluted River Aprepre through two cyanide spillages.
That notwithstanding, water from boreholes constructed by the company for the Dumase community turns purplish-blue immediately it comes into contact with plantain and cassava, suggesting the presence of heavy metals, thereby rendering it unwholesome and unusable by the community.
Unsustainable water supply:
To resolve the water crisis, the company has resorted to supplying water in tankers to Dumase and other communities like Twigyaa and Brakwaline that are faced with similar water problems resulting from their operations.
However, that step has hit a snag, with the communities reeling under the inconsistent, unsustainable and unreliable nature of the supply of water.
According to the people of Dumase and Twigyaa, the company sometimes denies them access to potable water for days when the tanker that supplies water fails to supply water.
The major concern of the communities, nonetheless, is that the water supply system by the company would cease after the mine closes and that would lead to the death of their communities.
It is not surprising therefore, that the water crisis has become a constant source of conflict between the communities and the Golden Star Resources company.
Consequently, after going without water for four days, the communities could not take it anymore and on December 12, 2011, about 200 women in Dumase led by the Assemblywoman for Dumase, Honourable Joana Manu, embarked on a three-hour peaceful demonstration against Golden Star Resources, to protest against the unreliability of the alternative water supply system.
The Dumase community women also presented a petition signed on their behalf by Madam Mary Kisi, Women’s Leader in the community, to the management of Golden Star Resources.
The women in Dumase stated in the petition, the unreliability and unsustenability of the alternative water supply system provided by the company and requested Golden Star Resources to develop a sustainable and reliable potable water system for the Dumase community by February 2012.
In its reaction to the plight of Dumase, Twigyaa and other communities, Wacam, a non-governmental organisation that assists communities affected by mining, said it supports the genuine struggle of the Dumase and Twigyaa people for the provision of sustainable and reliable potable water supply system to the people by Golden Star Resources.
“This support stems from the fact that a research by the Centre for Environmental Impact Assessment (CEIA) on the risk and health impacts of exposure to polluted rivers in the Tarkwa-Nsuaem Municipality indicated that all the six rivers in the Dumase and Twigyaa communities and the boreholes that the company provides are polluted heavily with heavy metals.
“When the Dumase and Twigyaa communities do not have access to potable water, they would be compelled to use the polluted rivers and thus ingest the heavy metals. This would have serious health implications,” Wacam stressed in a statement issued January 4, 2012.
Signed by Mr. Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, Executive Director, the statement said Wacam is deeply worried about the water crisis of the Dumase and Twigyaa people, which would worsen when the company ends its mining operations.
“The mining communities in Kenyase, Obuasi, Tarkwa and Prestea areas are facing similar serious water stress due to mining activities and this requires urgent actions by the regulatory agencies such as Environmental Protection Agency and the Water Resources Commission in protecting the country’s water resources. Mining activities are contributing to the destruction of the country’s freshwater resources at a very fast rate because of the increasing high gold price,” he stated further.
Wacam has thus called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to act with urgency in putting pressure on Golden Star Resources to provide sustainable and reliable potable water system to Dumase and Twigyaa communities.
Response from Golden Star Resources:
Responding to the agitation and concerns of the mining communities in a telephone interview with ghanabusinessnews.com January 9, 2012, Mrs. Ellen Kwami, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of GSR, disclosed that in early December 2011, there was a problem with the pumps, hence the inability of the company to supply water to the communities of Dumase and Twigyaa for a period.
“Two of the pumps got burnt simultaneously, so there was some interruption with the supply and that led to some agitation which has since been resolved,” she said.
Stating that it hadn’t come to her knowledge that there was still a problem with water supply to the communities, Mrs. Kwami intimated that the company has a consultative committee that works on such issues and it has not brought any existing problem to their notice.
Touching on the sustainability of the water supplied to the communities through the tanker services, she said “If they say it is not regular, that is not correct. I know that we are all looking at the possibility of getting a permanent solution, but that has not been determined yet.”
“But as I said, this is something that all the members of the consultative committee are aware of; we have a consultative committee for Twigyaa and for Dumase we have the resettlement committee – all these issues are discussed there,” the PRO said further.
Commenting on the unsuccessful sinking of some boreholes for the community, she stated that boreholes in mining areas are determined by the nature of the soil. “Sometimes it can be difficult. Sometimes the iron content is so high. So that’s why I am saying that all this is under discussion,” Mrs. Kwami added, assuring that neither side has relented in its efforts to find a permanent solution to the water problem in the communities.
However, in her response to the assertion by the mining communities that their operations were responsible for the pollution and destruction of their rivers and water bodies, the GRS PRO stated;“If you put the shortage of water at the doorstep of one company, that is a bit difficult to swallow.”