About 28 per cent of people are currently living in areas with scarce water in Ghana, with the figure projected to reach about 46 per cent by 2030.
The Head of Surface Water Division of the WRI, Dr Emmanuel Obuobie, said even without the impact of galamsey, places like the Pra Basin could be described as scarce water areas.
He said based on recent turbidity measurements, it was clear that galamsey had rendered the Pra and Ankobra rivers not fit for any use without treatment, exacerbating the already dire water scarcity conditions of the people who depended on those rivers.
He said water bodies played major roles in “our daily lives” for both domestic and industrial purposes, and cautioned that water scarcity could have dire consequences on the nation.
Dr Obuobie made the statements at a day’s seminar aimed at finding the impact of illegal mining, popularly known as galamsey, and water security in Accra.
A Senior Research Scientist and Head of Ground Water Division of the Water Research Institute (WRI), Dr Anthony Duah, called on Ghanaians to join in finding a lasting solution to the galamsey menace and help safeguard the country’s water bodies.
He said stopping galamsey at all cost would help improve the quality of water bodies in the country, which served as sources of drinking water and other domestic uses for the citizenry.
“Results from studies carried out by the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) Water Research Institute in recent times on the Southwestern Rivers system, which are being used by the citizens in the communities within the area for domestic purposes, recorded very high levels in colour, turbidity and total suspended solids.
“The levels recorded were far above World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) recommended levels for fresh water. Furthermore, the heavy metals used in galamsey operations such as mercury for gold extraction adversely affects soil and water quality,” Dr Duah said at the seminar in Accra last Tuesday.
The seminar, organised by the WRI, brought together environmentalists, health experts, media practitioners, security agencies, and representatives from the Ghana Water Company Limited and senior high school students to help find a solution to the galamsey menace.
It was christened “Galamsey and Water Security”.
Dr Duah stated that the destruction of the country’s water bodies contributed to the many health issues which continued to be recorded in hospitals.
“Lead poisoning in particular causes anemia, weakness, constipation, colic, palsy and often paralysis of the wrists and ankles. Lead can reduce intelligence in children, delay motor development, impair memory and cause hearing problems.
“For example, lead found in water can increase blood pressure in adults, and it can also cross the placenta which results in miscarriages, still births and neurological damage,” he said.
The Senior Research Scientist stressed the need to intensify education on the fact that “water is life”.
He said the use of chemicals such as mercury in galamsey operations in water bodies was affecting “our foods and fishes”.
“High levels of mercury have been found in soil and river sediment samples in these areas.
“Several lands have been degraded because of the illegal mining activities in the area. This also deprives the people whose livelihood depends on the land and its needed resources for their survival,” he noted.