Central region

Sand-Gaining, a torturous environmental crime destroying Central Region beaches

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About a two-hour drive west of Accra is Cape Coast, the captivating capital of the central region, home to notable tourist attractions.

The area remains a favorite with vacationers seeking pristine, undisturbed weather along its stunning stretch of coastline.

However, human activities, including sand extraction along the coast, have aggravated the injustices perpetrated against the environment 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.

According to them, the region loses about four meters of its coastline each year due to unregulated silting. Additionally, comparing satellite images from 2014 and photo maps from 2005, the researchers said that 37% of the 550 km of coastal land had been lost to erosion and flooding between 2005 and 2017.

Currently, it is evident that the rate of replenishment 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 reinforced the urgent need to adopt strict measures immediately to address what is described as an “imminent disaster”.

Sand mining

Sand mining occurs when people illegally extract sand from beaches, dunes, or riverbeds, primarily for construction. It is “supposedly” illegal. However, people persisted in this business dating back to the pre-independence era.

This activity has been identified as widespread in all coastal regions of the country.

Operating mode

This reporter’s investigations revealed different types of sand mining activities 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 supplied products nearby on the coast or to locations several miles away. These contractors usually hire the services of young people residing in nearby communities to collect the sand in the trucks for a fee ranging from 50 to 200 Cedis.

In contrast, the operations of low-capacity truck-based sand miners range from small-scale non-commercial activities to large-scale commercial activities using small pickup trucks to low-capacity non-tipper trucks.

In addition, others use their personal vehicles to fetch sand from the beach for their own use, or by contractors or blocklayers who did not have access to dump trucks and use these vehicles to transport their loot.

Economics of beach sand mining

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.

Since this activity is illegal and unregulated, sand entrepreneurs pay no taxes to the state, while earning 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 tourism. After a few years, there is a hint of disappointment in him, as much of the beach that attracted him to the area had been destroyed by sand mining activities.

LUSPA

Mr. Frank Martey Korli, Central Regional Director of the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority (LUSPA), described the pronounced erosion of beaches, particularly in Cape Coast, Elmina and some coastal communities, 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 has also affected nesting sites in threatened marine habitats and landing sites used by traditional fishermen.

He noted that “the collapse of the once thriving small-scale coconut industry on the Cape Coast seafront shows the effect of erosion on coastal vegetation”.

In Cape Coast, he blamed the rapid development of the waterfront on some politicians who do not care about the effects of global warming, building regulations or the legal and environmental ramifications of their actions and called for political will to tackle the problem once and for all.

“Our health will improve when land use planning is done well. So I plead for us to get the plan urgently,” he implored.

APE

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. ban on gaining sand along the coast to drive away these social miscreants, but in vain.

Nevertheless, he assured that the Agency was working with the police, the Minerals Commission (MC) and the Coastal Development Authority (CoDA), among others, to crack down on the harmful activities of illegal sand collectors, especially on the beaches.

Metropolitan Assembly

In October 2021, the Cape Coast Metropolitan Security Council (CCMSC) instituted strict measures against sand mining to help address some environmental challenges in the area.

The CCMSC banned the removal of sand along the beaches, which had also become a matter of great concern to the Assembly and residents due to its negative impact.

Establishments concerned

Many institutions involved including Ghana News Agency (GNA), National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO), National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Statistical Service, Fisheries Commission, the Center for National Culture and the Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) expressed their support for protecting the 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 degradation of coastal resources.

However, they claimed that in Ghana, many problems were exacerbated by climate change and rapid urbanization, as well as concomitant anthropogenic alterations to beaches that influence other coastal processes.

The path to follow

As a country, we know what it takes to ensure our environmental sustainability. We just have to be brave to enforce them.

Countries with clean cities and beaches have gotten to this point through sound policies, enforcement of environmental regulations, and due diligence. We can never get to this point by taking shortcuts.

It is time to develop a new consciousness and a new approach to protecting our environment. It’s time to act. We must not sit idly by and wait for the apocalypse. Posterity will not forgive us if the next generation comes just to clean up our mess.

By Isaac Arkoh

Source: GNA

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