Posted by: rumnet | February 17, 2010

Gravel, Sand Mining – Threat to Communities

The Impact Of Gravel, Sand Mining On Communities In Northern Region

By Alhassan Imoru

(published in the February 2010 edition of The ADVOCATE)

Gravel and sand mining is widespread, highly unregulated and uncontrolled in the Northern Region and is being carried out at an alarming rate. The gravity of the situation beyond the affected communities and the region at large is enormous and posses a threat not only to the environment but also to food security.

Serious gravel and sand mining is concurrently going on in the following districts, namely Tolon-Kumbungu, Savelugu-Nanton, Karage, Chereponi, Saboba, West Mamprusi, Yendi Municipal Tamale Metro, Nanumba North and Nanumba South.

Road Contractors have been found to have created gravel mining pits in communities where they have road contracts. All that the Contractors need to do to get approval for the creation of gravel pits is to enter into verbal agreements with the Chiefs concerned.

As the main beneficiaries of the revenue accruing from the gravel and sand pits in their communities, the Chiefs are the sole authorities in the release of land for mining.

According to some community members, “Chiefs give out land for monetary gains and caring less about the effects of the mining activities on the people and the environment.”

A trip of gravel or sand attracts fees between 40 GP and GHC 2.00 and form part of the revenue Chiefs collect. When asked what they do with the money, most Chiefs said they used the money to buy cola to perform rituals and sacrifices on behalf of the communities. In cases where a District Assembly generates revenue from gravel and sand mining, it charges between GHC 1.00 and GHC 2.00.

Degrading the land through sand mining

Farm lands lost to gravel and sand mining activities in 28 communities in 10 districts the study was carried out in Northern Region is estimated at 187.5 hectares. This has resulted in the destruction of economic trees such as the shea and “dawadawa” as well as medicinal trees and plants.

Also, 177 people have been affected directly by the creation of gravel and sand pits in the communities and have been forced to move to other settlements. Women, who depend on picking and processing shea nuts for a living, are the hardest hit as they have been rendered unemployed.

Mr Osman Abdel-Rahama, Executive Secretary of the Ghana Developing Communities Association (GDCA) and Co-ordinator of the KASA/GDCA Community Empowerment for Land Use Accountability (CEFLA) Project, disclosed these in an exclusive interview with TheADVOCATE, on a research study the Project conducted on the Extent of Gravel and Sand Mining and its Effects on Communities in Northern Region.

The objectives of the study were:

a)      To assess the level of degradation to the environment by gravel and sand mining activities;

b)      Assess the level of regulations in the gravel/sand mining activities, in the Northern Region;

c)       Assess accountability and transparency of resources accrued in the sector.

According to Mr. Osman, the study revealed that gravel and sand mining is one major contributor to land degradation in most communities in the Northern Region. This is as a result of non-compliance with regulatory procedures in the creation, usage and closure of mined sites.

The study says the District Assemblies, which are expected to supervise mining activities in their districts through the District Environmental Management Committees and the District Assembly Sub-Committees on the Environment, have not lived up to their responsibility of enforcing compliance of the rules and regulations in the mining sector. As a result, the assemblies are unable to benefit by way of revenue generation from the sector.

Though these supervisory bodies can be found in six districts, they are non-functional and this has been blamed on the inability of the District Assemblies to fund their activities.

The study found out that only Chereponi District Assembly has a bye-law regulating the mining sector while West Mamprusi is the only district which has developed on Environmental Land Use Plan.

Asked what benefits communities derive from the presence of the gravel and sand mining sites, the youth said the pits provided employment for them as they are hired to carry the gravel and sand onto tipper trucks.

Women who were interviewed said they were engaged in selling food and other items at site, while other community members said abandoned pits have become a source of water for their animals. The majority however say they do not benefit from the gravel and sand pits.

Most of the 28 affected communities (93%) expressed their desire to see the abondored pits reclaimed so that the land could be used for farming, construction of markets, schools as well as cemeteries for their communities. They called on the District Assemblies to assist in the reclamation of the pits or source funding elsewhere for that purpose.

To this end, the research team recommended that the District Assemblies with hold a percentage of contract sum of all Contractors whose engagement in the districts require the creation of mining pits. This is to make reclamation of pits a condition for the payment of the withheld contract sum.

District Environmental Management Committees (DEMCs) should be strengthened or established in districts where they do not exist to play their monitoring role on the environment. This will also ensure compliance of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures in the districts.

Traditional Authorities should be engaged to be aware of the effects of land depletion caused by the activities of mining and to understand the need for every member of the community to benefit from the revenue generated from the mining of gravel and sand.

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