About a two-hour drive west of Accra is Cape Coast, the captivating capital of the central region, home to a number of tourist attractions.
The area remains a favorite with vacationers seeking pristine, undisturbed weather along its stunning stretch of coastline.
However, a myriad of human activities, particularly sand mining along the coast, have exacerbated many environmental injustices with disastrous ecological, economic and social consequences on marine resources.
Environmentalists have warned of the rate of shoreline erosion in the area due to increased sand mining activities along the seafront
They said the region loses about four meters of its coastline each year due to unregulated sand mining or extraction.
Additionally, comparing photo maps from 2005 and satellite images from 2014 and beyond, the researchers said that 37% of the 550 km of coastal land had been lost to erosion and flooding between 2005 and 2017. .
It is obviously clear, at present, that the rate of restoration of sand from the sea is lower than the rate of extraction. The difference manifests itself in the pronounced coastal erosion, which has washed away some buildings and tilted some coconut trees.
The phenomenon has exposed homes and facilities to the ravages of the sea, which has heightened the urgent need to adopt strict measures immediately to address what is described as an “imminent disaster”.
Sand mining occurs when people illegally collect large amounts of sand from beaches, dunes or riverbeds, primarily for construction. It’s “supposedly” illegal because people have persisted in this business for years, destroying the protective cover of the shore.
This activity has been identified as widespread in all coastal regions of the country.
Economics of beach sand mining
The reporter’s investigations revealed different types of sand mining business depending on the demand of specific end users.
Truck sand mining operations are fully commercial ventures undertaken by contractors whose business was solely to supply building materials to builders.
They supply products close to the coast or to places several kilometers away. These contractors usually hire the services of young people residing in nearby communities to scoop the sand into the trucks for a fee ranging from 50 to 200 Ghana cedis.
Also, others use their personal vehicles to fetch sand from beaches for their own use, or by boulder setters who did not have access to dump trucks and use these vehicles to haul their loot.
More often than not, people involved in beach sand mining give the excuse that “there are no jobs”, even though the activity is illegal.
The fact that there are no jobs does not mean that we have to engage in illegalities.
Sand entrepreneurs pay no taxes to the state even though they earn tens of thousands of Ghanaian cedis every year.
While sand miners make money, owners of seaside tourist facilities must also spend huge amounts of their income on ad hoc protection projects, lest they lose their entire investment.
In a conversation with an investor in the Elmina region, he described how he was attracted to Ghana to invest in beach tourism. After a few years, with a hint of disappointment in his voice, he said, “Much of the beach that attracted me to the area had been destroyed by sand-mining activities.
Spatial Planning and Planning Authority
Mr Frank Martey Korli, Central Regional Director of the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority, described the pronounced erosion of beaches, particularly in Cape Coast and Elmina, as a breach in the nation’s quest to protect beach resources .
Currently, he said, the situation has worsened, with the coastline receding several meters inland in some places due to strong waves and anthropogenic erosion.
It had also affected nesting sites in threatened marine habitats and landing sites used by traditional fishermen.
“The collapse of the once thriving small-scale coconut industry on the Cape Coast seafront shows the effect of erosion on coastal vegetation,” he said.
For Cape Coast, he blamed unregulated waterfront development on some politicians who disregard the effects of global warming, building regulations or the legal and environmental ramifications of their actions on the well-being of the community and called for the political will to tackle the problem. once for all.
“Our health will improve when land use planning is done well. I therefore plead that, as a matter of urgency, we should review and update the land use and land use plan to meet contemporary needs,” he said.
Environmental Protection Agency
Mr. Shine Fiagome, Central Regional Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who expressed similar sentiments, added that the EPA, in addition to educating the public, had installed warning signs. ‘prohibition of gaining sand along the beaches to keep social miscreants away, but in no case take advantage.
Nevertheless, he gave assurances that the Agency was working with the police, the Minerals Commission and the Coastal Development Authority, among others, to crack down on the activities of illegal sand miners on the beaches.
In October 2021, the Cape Coast Metropolitan Security Council instituted strict measures against sand mining to help address some environmental challenges in the region.
The Council banned sand mining along the beaches, which had also become a matter of great concern to the Assembly and residents due to its negative impact.
Many institutions involved including the Ghana News Agency, National Disaster Management Organization, National Commission for Civic Education, Statistical Service, Fisheries Commission, Center for National Culture and Council regional coordination expressed their support for the protection of beaches.
They expressed their disapproval of development along the waterfront and indicated that coastal communities around the world have become vulnerable to a wide range of potential risks – coastal erosion, coastal flooding and resource degradation.
However, they noted that in Ghana, many problems were exacerbated by climate change, rapid urbanization and anthropogenic alterations to beaches, which influence other coastal processes.
The path to follow
As a country, we know what to do to preserve our environment. We just have to be brave to enforce the regulations.
Countries with clean cities and beaches have reached this stage through sound policies and diligent enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. We can never get to this point by taking shortcuts.
It is time for us to develop a new awareness and approach to protecting our environment. We must not sit idly by and wait for the apocalypse. Posterity will not forgive us if we left the mess for the next generation to clean up. It’s time to act.