‘Operation Vanguard’—A Timely Saviour of our Environment

By Mawutodzi Kodzo Abissath

 

The wisdom of our ancestors is reflected in this popular proverb: “When you kill a snake, you must cut off the head at once!”

 

How beautiful and wonderful is nature! Each dawn, when you stand with your back towards the West, you behold the golden sun rising from the geographical East.  As the sun emerges gently, its rays smile at you with Life, Light and Love (LLL). Like the Creator, the sun doesn’t discriminate against any creature or being. Oceans, rivers, forests, flowers, beasts, birds, butterflies, rocks, and all other minerals that dwell in the belly of our Mother Earth, are all placed at the disposal of mankind. Yet, man, out of sheer greed and avarice, takes nature for granted.

 

 In Ghana, our land is even endowed with more blessings than some other nations. However, because we think we are hungry, we take delight in vicious destruction of our environment. In the process, we are devastating our forests, ravaging our farmlands, polluting our rivers and contaminating our water bodies in the name of galamsey or illegal mining. If our choice as a people is to destroy our blessings of nature, then why don’t we invite Hurricane IRMA to come and do that job for us? Look at the catastrophic havoc of natural disasters in places like Sierra Leone, the US, Cuba and the Caribbean etc.     

 

The object of this article is to salute and express national appreciation to our compatriots who are assigned to undertake the Operation Vanguard ventures. I say ventures because theirs is a risky job indeed. Their very lives are at stake. Some achievements they are reported to have chalked up so far merit commendation, even though they still have a lot more to do.  

 

It was exactly on Monday, July 31, 2017 that Government commissioned a 400-member military cum police friendly contingents to combat illegal mining across the three most galamsey ravaged zones in the country. These are Ashanti, Eastern and Western Regions. Earlier, on April 4, 2017, thanks to the launch of the Media Coalition against galamsey, spearheaded by the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), the conscience of the nation was stirred to the environmental havoc galamsey was causing to rivers and water bodies in the country. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo then vowed to eliminate galamsey menace to preserve our national heritage, even at the peril of his government.       

 

Success story of the Operation Vanguard so far

 

On Tuesday, September 5, 2017, a high-powered delegation led by Ghana’s Hon. Defence Minister, Dominic Nituwul, including the Hon. Interior Minister, Ambrose Dery, the Chief of Defence Staff, Lt Gen Obed Akwa and other security chiefs, paid a working visit to the Operation Vanguard officers to ascertain at firsthand, some of their achievements and challenges confronting them on the grounds. The working visit took them to Tarkwa in the Western, Obuasi in the Ashanti and Osino in the Eastern Regions respectively.

 

The Operation Vanguard Commander, Colonel William Agyapong, in his briefing, told the security authorities that the galamsey operators had diverted the course of many rivers that no longer flow normally for the people to get water to drink. In fact, the Commander made a cogent point to the effect that galamsey operations had led to virtual extermination of aquatic life. So much so that, some children of today in galamsey communities may not know that fish do live in rivers, (fresh fish). Is this situation not pathetic?

 

The Commander further reported that some of the illegal miners were still operating in deep waters. Such ‘amphibian’ illegal miners, he said, were using canoes for the galamsey operations. As a result, they were able to ‘out-smart’ some members of the task force who could not swim to escape arrest. Col Agyapong, therefore, appealed to Government to quickly deploy on board personnel from the Marine Police and the Ghana Navy to protect water bodies and consolidate the gains so far achieved by Operation Vanguard patriotic compatriots.

 

Generally, Nituwul delegation was not only satisfied but also highly impressed by the performance of the Operation Vanguard officers so far. Apart from the operational commander’s briefing, it was observed that gradually but steadily, most chiefs and residents of galamsey-devastated communities are warming up towards the Vanguard environmental protectors. People are gaining trust and confidence that the soldiers and police officers are not there to brutalise them but to protect them and safeguard their own future environmentally and economically.  

 

Media reports had it that some opinion leaders including Members of Parliament, chiefs, assembly members and religious leaders in the galamsey communities were full of praise to the Operation Vanguard officers. For example, in Obuasi, a Member of Parliament, Hon. Dr Boakye Yiadom, (MP) is reported to have expressed satisfaction about the performance of the vanguards in his constituency. “Our town is stable now. Not only because they are helping in curbing the galamsey menace, but have also ensured that security in Obuasi is tightened,” he noted.

 

According to Dr Yiadom, his own assessment indicates that, the deployment of the military cum police to the illegal mining zones has sent a strong signal to those destroying the environment and polluting water bodies that government is committed to ending galamsey once and for all. The MP pointed out that the Operation Vanguard is killing two birds with one stone. All other criminals, who hitherto, have been terrorizing residents of Obuasi, have evaporated into thin air, the MP opined.

   

Within a relatively short span of seven weeks, since the Operation Vanguard action took off, some of their achievements cannot be quantified in real terms. The very first achievement this writer observed was that within the first two weeks of their operations, some of the muddy rivers have been transformed and the Ghana Water Company announced publicly that they were now able to treat water at minimised cost as compare to previously.

 

Again, when the President embarked on regional tours to Western and Central Regions in August, 2017, some chiefs and communities leaders including women, especially in the Central Region, where the task force was not originally deployed, appealed to the Present to dispatch Operation Vanguard saviours to their region too. The people reported to the President that some illegal miners were operating deep in forest reserves and still polluting rivers in their region, despite the ban imposed by the Lands and Natural Resources Minister, Mr. Peter Amewu, some months back. The popular request made to the President was an indication that the Operation Vanguard venture was achieving its stated objectives.

 

Special Galamsey Lands and Rivers Restoration Fund

 

It is commendable to learn that the Defence Minister and his delegation donated an amount of GHc 34,000 on behalf of Government to serve as incentive to boost the morale of the Operation Vanguard contingents in the field. This is fantastic!

 

 However, since Government’s intention is to maintain the Operation Vanguard on the grounds   for only God knows how long; for sustainability sake, and in view of the fact that the work of   the military and police officers is in the interest of our national heritage, it is suggested that Government, through the Inter-Ministerial Anti-Galamsey Task Force, chaired by the Minister for Environment, Science and Technology, Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, should set up a special Fund.

 

The Fund could be known as Galamsey Lands and Rivers Restoration Fund (GLRRF). Individuals and corporate bodies including the mighty mining companies, some of whom are equally guilty in one way or another of environmental pollution, can contribute to this Fund. The Fund should not only be used for the motivation of Operation Vanguard compatriots, but also for the land reclamation and tree planting project for environmental sustainability of the country.  

 

Further, I wish to humbly suggest that, with the constitutional powers vested in the President of the Republic as the Commander-in-chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, the President must consider the creation of one highest national award like the Star of the Volta. This award could be designated as the National Environment Heritage Heroes Award (NEHHA) to be conferred on each of the 400 contingents of the Operation Vanguard at the end of their mission. This should be done in recognition of their sacrifices for the sake of posterity!

 

The author works with Information Services Department (ISD) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.