|Min. Env. Science & Tech. Joe Oteng|
The crowd came to join the rest of the world in celebrating a time to combat desertification and drought. But it turned out to be a razor-sharp attack on trustees who share beds with traitors.
A national gathering at Navrongo in the Upper East Region to mark the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought has ended in a pointed attack on faceless government appointees and security officials who abet illegal mining.
The Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Dr. Joe Oteng-Adjei, who launched the attack, fired a stern warning that any “MCE or DCE found to be involved in illegal mining deal should be prepared to leave office forthwith”.
Although his voice had suffered a seizure and was barely audible on the day, it sounded like one prepared for a harsh sermon. The flame in his tone and the energy that lifted his message came hitting hard on the crowd in the baking sun like the fist of the eighteenth-century American preacher, Jonathan Edwards, on a sinner in the hands of an angry God.
He literally wagged a warning finger at the region’s Municipal and District Chief Executives where they sat at the event, telling them to their faces and in swear words that the Mahama Administration would not hold back the axe on whoever was found culpable. He turned at the security officials present, and issued the same warning— even in a harsher tone. “Be warned, the security agencies. I swear, if you are caught supporting illegal miners, you’re gone already.”
As the Minister bared his teeth at the MDCEs and the high-ranking security officers, cheers from the crowd tore the air apart. The atmosphere turned grave particularly when he revealed that the mercury and other chemicals used by illegal miners to pollute water bodies had continued to infect millions around the world with multiple myeloma (a dreaded cancer of the plasma cells) and that at least “one person on the planet dies” from water contamination every ten seconds.
“You,” referring to the MDCEs and the security agents, “sell our birthright to illegal miners for a few dollars. Then, you leave generations to suffer what they know nothing about. You will not have it anymore!” he growled as a banner behind him waved the slogan for the event: “Don’t Let Our Future Dry Up.”
“Preach on!” came voices intermittently from the thick crowd as the MDCEs and the men in uniform grinned at the ‘preacher’ and his ‘congregation’ in rapture.
Then, the Minister did an uncommon thing. It is rare for a politician of his height to mention their number in public. But Dr. Oteng-Adjei did. “Call me on 0202020802 whenever you find any DCE or security officer aiding illegal miners in your community. Even if you find me doing same, report me to the President,” he announced as the crowd scrambled for pens to write down his number.
The Minister also announced that government had proposed sensitising Ghanaians to water harvesting— a revival of an old practice. “We used to do this during the colonial days when most housing projects, particularly projects in schools, hospitals and other institutions used to add water harvesting facilities to all our buildings,” he observed. “We were doing this in the days when water was not too difficult to come by and rainfall patterns were predictable. Why can’t we do same now?”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to its Executive Director, Mr. Daniel Amlalo, in a quest to conquer desertification and drought had constituted District Environmental Management Committee with a mandate to formulate local policies and programmes or enact byelaws to protect the environment. “The Agency is championing the practice of water harvesting in communities for both domestic and economic purposes,” added the Executive Director.
Alhaji Limuna Mohammed-Muniru, acting Upper East Regional Minister, observed ‘with tears in his eyes’ that: “We have systematically destroyed our valuable freshwater resources through unsustainable livelihood activities. The red Volta which is a major tributary of the Volta basin has dried up completely and only flows for a few weeks during the peak of the rains in July and August. Rivers and streams within the Navrongo Municipality like the Naabuga and the Tindaabuga have dried up completely whilst the Gaabuga has seen a drastic reduction in volume flow. All these have serious consequences for the Tono Dam as the three rivers all feed the Dam. Indeed, one would ask if we really are so callous as to be drying up our future (for our children yet unborn).”
The acting Regional Minister called on the region to be concerned enough about the environment by mounting a “vigorous and persistent campaign” against all degrading activities and reporting perpetrators to appropriate quarters.
The Regent of the Navrongo Traditional Area, Pe Arthur Balumia Adda, entreated the government to equip the derelict weather station at Navrongo to facilitate weather forecast.
According to Madam Loree Semeluk, Second Secretary for Development at the Canadian High Commission, the critical implications of desertification and drought on Ghana’s development and environmental sustainability call for “prompt and massive attention”.
For the hundreds of pupils and students at Navrongo who passionately held placards some of which read “Our water bodies deserve our care”, “Let’s fight drought and desertification”, “and Plant more trees to protect our environment”, “Save the world through afforestation” and “He who plants a tree sustains life”, Madam Loree Semeluk stressed: “Don’t let your future dry up.”
Credit: E.F. Adeti