Galamsey – between sustainable development and survival instincts

Galamsey, “gather am and sell” – is a mining menace at the root of mass degradation of land, water bodies and forests across parts of Eastern, Western, Central, Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions of Ghana.

Sustainable development and human survival instincts have always clashed; survival instincts dictate that human beings are propelled and motivated first of all by self-interest and an instinct of personal safety and survival before becoming social beings, whiles sustainable development acknowledges existence of survival instincts it states that survival must not endanger the needs of the present and future generation.

In this vein, Sustainable Development Goal 12 states: “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns” with its second target, “by 2030 achieve sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources”.

The concept of sustainable development became popular in the early 1970s and 1980s when the world woke up to the harsh realities of human actions on the environment. In a declaration of the United Nations Conference on Human Environment (UNCHE): “a point has been reached in history when we must shape our actions throughout the world with a more prudent care for environmental consequences. Through ignorance or indifference we can do massive and irreversible harm to the earthly environment on which our life and well being depend. Conversely, through fuller knowledge and wiser action, we can achieve for ourselves and our posterity a better life in an environment more in keeping with human needs and hopes . . . To defend and improve the human environment for present and future generations has become an imperative goal for mankind”

This declaration led to the commissioning of  Brundtland Commission led by Gro Halem Brundtland, a former Norwegian Prime Minister and Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to identify long-term environmental strategies for the international community and to make sustainable development a core aspect of development.

In same manner as the world woke up from its long sleep, Ghana has also woken up to the harsh realities that galamsey has left in its trail and still leaves: destruction of water bodies and productive farm land – thereby giving us signs of water shortage and food insecurity in a matter of time.

The drive to survive to didn’t just occur in one day.

In an article, “The galamsey scourge: bringing all the arguments to bear” (Daily Graphic, April 7, 2017 edition) Samuel Alesu Dordzi confirms the survival instincts in three ways: first, gold mines are attractive especially for those in search for a better life, second, young people are inspired by the prestige and the good life that persons engaged in mining live and thirdly, the economic chasm in terms of opportunity between those in the urban areas and those in the rural areas creates a sense of injustice” as he cites Emmanuel Ofosu-Mensa Ababio’s “Historical Overview of Traditional and Modern Gold Mining in Ghana”.

“Thus people turn to the practice of galamsey. After all they have got to do what they’ve to do to survive” he adds.

Again, the author states the downsizing and retrenchment of workers of state mining companies in the 1980s in consequence of the economic policies then. Thus those who became victims had no choice but to use their skill to eke a living for themselves – the beginning of galamsey and its persistence till date.

The acquisition of large tracts of land by mining companies have also denied communities access to productive farmlands; thus as it’s said, “if you can’t beat them join them” – indigenes of mining communities then joined in mining gold in their own way.

As we have woken up to the harsh realities, all sides of the menace must be looked – its history, how it can be halted totally, what alternative sustainable livelihoods are afforded to the young men and women involved in the venture and how the degraded lands and polluted water bodies can be reclaimed and enhanced and for a sustainably conscious survival for all.

Source: Alex Blege

The writer is a freelance journalist.

kw.ameblege@hotmail.com/kwameselom12@gmail.com

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