Friday, 7 April 2017

The Ghanaian Media Must Push For Tough New Laws To Tackle All Forms Of Pollution And Environmental Degradation

The Ghanaian media has reached a watershed moment in its history: It now has a historic opportunity to serve society in positive fashion by helping to safeguard what is left of our nation's natural heritage, for the common good.

The degradation of the natural environment across vast swathes of the Ghanaian countryside has reached apocalyptic proportions. That is unacceptable and unpardonable in a civilised society such as ours.

The unprecedented poisoning of soils, streams, rivers and other water bodies nationwide by lawless and selfish individuals  clearly pose an existential threat to present and future generations of our people if allowed to continue.

By accepting the challenge to help protect what is left of our nation's natural heritage, the media  will wipe out its many past failings. Literally. And those professional failings  of the past are legion if truth be told. But better late than never.

The first order of business in the new era of responsible journalism in Ghana, is for
the media to  push for tough new laws to be passed quickly by Parliament, to deal with the problem of pollution and environmental degradation.

New laws with teeth are needed  to  make illegal mining, illegal logging and illegal sand-winning  criminal offences punishable by mandatory life sentences with hard labour  - without the possibility of parole.

And all those who aid and abet illegal gold miners, illegal loggers and illegal sand-winners  must also serve a minimum mandatory jail sentence of not less than 15 years with hard labour - and without the possibility of parole too.

That will deter the corrupt public officials in the system who aid and abet the criminals engaged in illegal gold mining, illegal logging and illegal sand-winning, across Ghana.

And, if, as the head of the Minerals Commission, Dr. Tony Aubyn, says, no legally registered small-scale gold mining company in Ghana posseses a mining  licence as we speak, because Parliament has not sanctioned any such licences from the Minerals Commission, then that is scandalous. And untenable.

Why tolerate their many infractions of the Mining Act if in effect all legally registered small-scale gold mining companies in this country have not even been licensed by the Minerals  Commission - because Parliament has not ratified their 'licences'?

In light of that particularly revealing and shocking statement by Dr. Tony Aubyn, the Ghanaian media must demand that a moratorium be placed on all  forms of gold  mining in Ghana for the next three months.

Concessions given out to all such companies must be reviewed - and they must be revoked if need be: depending on how environmentally and socially responsible or not their operations have been thus far.

The three-month operational ban on all categories of companies in the gold mining sector, will enable  Parliament to draft and pass tough new laws under a certificate of urgency that will halt the degradation of the natural environment countrywide, by the gold mining industry. Both legal and illegal.

Ditto sort out the all-important absence of parliamentary ratification of licence issues for legally registered small-scale mining companies.

The time has come for the Ghanaian media to push for Parliament to pass tough new laws to tackle all forms of pollution and degradation of the natural environment throughout our homeland Ghana. Enough is enough. Period.

(Incidentally, the media can always tap into the considerable experience and expertise of activist organisations such the Wassa Association of Communities Against Mining (WACAM) and the Centre for Public Interest Law (Cepil), in fighting illegal gold miners.)

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