NGOs Call For Repeal of Section 17 of Minerals and Mining Act To Safeguard Water Bodies

Two civil society organisations (CSOs) have made a clarion call to the government to repeal section 17 of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703) to help safeguard water bodies in the country.

Section 17 of the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703) states inter allia that “Subject to obtaining the requisite approvals or licences under the Water Resources Commission Act 1996 (Act 552), a holder of a mineral right may, for purposes of or ancillary to the mineral operations, divert, obtain, impound, convey and use water from a river, stream, underground reservoir or water course within the land the subject of mineral right.”

However, Wacam and Centre for Environmental Impact Analysis (CEIA) argue that this provision has been the ‘bane for the pollution of water bodies,’ especially in the mining communities.

They made the call in a joint statement to commemorate International Water Day (IWD), which event is marked every year, on March 22. This year’s IWD which was marked Friday, March 22, 2024, was on the theme: ‘Leveraging water for peace.’

The statement also entreated the international communities to expand the mandate of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute companies, individuals or governments who pollute water bodies, adding that these are crimes against humanity.

Ghana, according to the statement, is one of 12 African countries likely to face water scarcity, as captured in the fourth assessment report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and which was published in 2020.

“This is due to the issue of water pollution from activities of mining operations, industries as well as indiscriminate disposal of domestic waste into water bodies thus making it unsafe for human consumption as well as farming activities along the banks of major rivers/streams have resulted in the release of pesticide and insecticide residues as well as siltation of the said water bodies,” it explained.

It indicated that findings from scientific studies by CEIA and other scientists have found out that the overall mean concentrations of arsenic in surface water ranged from 261g/L to 1,895g/L while that of groundwater ranged from 4g/L to 3,317g/L in Tarkwa Nsuaem Municipality, a major mining hub in the country.

“Also human biomonitoring studies conducted by CEIA as well as other scientists have revealed that mean whole blood concentrations of heavy metals in resident adults in Tarkwa ingesting either groundwater or surface water are as follows; 55.7µg/L (As), 41.4µg/L (Cd) and 97.1µg/L (Hg) respectively as against the World Health Organisation permissible guideline values for As, Cd and Hg in human whole blood of 2.0 µg/L, 0.3 µg/L and 2.0 µg/L respectively for arsenic, cadmium and mercury in whole blood,” the statement noted.

Against this backdrop, Wacam and CEIA reinforced the need for all stakeholders, especially CSOs, mining companies, governments and development partners, to commit themselves to ensure safe water for Ghanaians.

Furthermore, the statement charged Ghanaians to respect Article 41 (k) of the 1992 Constitution, which enjoins every citizen to safeguard and protect the environment, adding that “we should refrain from activities that pollute our water bodies.”

“We believe that issues of water quality and water availability are very crucial for the peace, security and reduction of communal clashes over access to water resources as well the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs),” the statement said.

Water, the statement stressed, is one of the most precious resources and essential to life on earth, including the production of food, however, lamenting that over 2.2 billion people globally live without safe drinking water.