The Nawuni River, the only source of drinking water for the Tamale Metropolis in the Northern Region of Ghana is under serious threat. Its depth has reduced drastically due to siltation which has undermined its water holding capacity.
The siltation of the river as a result of sand winning activities along its banks poses a great danger to the metropolis, threatening the river’s future capacity for supplying the required volume of water to the metropolis.
The river, which has now been rendered shallow, is unable to contain the volume of water that flows into it during the rainy season. This has resulted in repeated flooding along its banks during the rainy season.
During a visit to the river by a group of journalists from Tamale, it was confirmed that flooding along the banks of the river have increased both in intensity and regularity. This does not only lead to a loss of life and property in the area but also reduces the amount of water the river feeds into the Akosombo Dam, the country’s major supplier of electricity.
The Nawuni River, also known as the White Volta flows into the Black Volta at Yeji which feeds into the Akosombo Dam.
The visit, which was organized by Ghana Developing Communities Association (GDCA) offered journalists the chance to observe at first hand sand winning activities at the river banks by contractors for the construction of roads and buildings. This has led to a massive desecration of the banks leaving in its wake loose soils that are easily washed into the river.
Mr Hardi Tijani, Programme Manager of GDCA expressed the need to redress sand winning at the river banks in view of the dangers it poses to the river. Visits to areas of the region showed how uncontrolled sand winning had desecrated farmlands, and destroyed a lot of vegetation including economic and medicinal trees.
He said research conducted by the GDCA in 29 communities in the region indicates that 190 hectares of land have already been destroyed by sand and gravel winning activities which has directly affected 177 families. In addition, 68 percent of all pits that were never reclaimed were dug by contractors and individual tipper truck owner-drivers.
According to Mr. Tijani, “All these people usually hire labour from young people in communities close to the river where the sand is mined. In that wise the communities that settle close to the White Volta also contribute to the sand winning activities because they get monetary rewards.”
Ironically, the contractors pay ridiculous royalties to the chiefs and people of the communities. They pay as paltry as GH¢1.00 and GH¢2.00 per tipper truck load of sand. Yet they sell the same quantity of sand for GH¢100.00, almost 10,000% more than the royalty they pay. Sometimes, the sand winners give the communities a raw deal by fetching more trips than they paid for, says Tijani. Moreover the chiefs do not determine the location for mining; it is left to the discretion of the sand winners.
Tijani added that, “The business of the sand winning is free entry free exit. Due to this the chiefs are not consulted on where the sand is mined the winners only give out revenue to the chief through his representative. It is the winner who always prospect for new sites for sand winning without the chief’s consent. If the chief is not serious no revenue will be paid him.”
Some of the communities that suffer from the inequities of the sand winners are: Datalon in the Tamale Metro and Ying, Kulidanaaali, Kodugziegu and Dipali in the Savelugu/Nanton district where gravel winning is practiced. Afayili, Golazoli, Yuni and Gbrimkabani all in the Tolon/Kumbungu.
Presently there are no any conscious efforts to check the menace of sand winning in the affected communities. The GDCA, which operates in the affected communities, has taken up the challenge with the support of the KASA project. KASA is a civil society support mechanism that aims to support evidence-based research and advocacy in the natural resource and environment sector. KASA is funding the GDCA to create awareness about the disadvantage and dangers of indiscriminate sand winning.
“As of now there is no physical effort from any person, be they individual or organizations to mitigate sand winning activities in the affected areas,” says Tijani. “The only step taken so far by KASA, EPA and others is awareness creation on the dangers of sand winning in the mass media so that offenders might change their attitudes and behaviours towards the natural environment.”
If this indiscriminate sand winning continuous unchecked, the people of Tamale Metropolis may be deprived of sufficient water supply. The projected population of the Metropolis is 350,000. Currently the Metropolis requires 10 million gallons of water daily. By 2015, according to the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), it will require about 15 million gallons (49,392 cubic meters) daily.
Environmentalsits fear that if sand winning at Nawuni continues at the rate at which it is going,with the attendant siltation and degradation, the GWCL will not be able to meet its target and the people of Tamale will suffer for it. It will also contribute to negative climatic conditions.