Criminalise Water Pollution - International Community Urged

The International Community has been called upon to expand the mandate of the International Criminal Court to prosecute companies, governments and individuals that pollute water bodies as having committed crimes against humanity.

This was in a statement issued by WACAM, human rights, environmental and mining advocacy non-governmental organisation (NGO) and Centre for Environmental Impact Assessment (CEIA), an environmental NGO, to mark this year’s International Water Day.

The statement urged the Government, as a matter of urgency, to repeal Section 78 of the Minerals and Mining Act (2006), Act 703.

The Act states, among other things, that; “Subject to obtaining the requisite approvals or licences under the Water Resources Act (1996), Act 552, a holder of a mineral right may, for purposes of or ancillary to the mineral operations, divert, obtain, impound, convey and use water from a river, streams, underground reservoir or water courses within the land, the subject of mineral right’.

“In our opinion this provision facilitates the pollution of water bodies in mining communities in Ghana,’’ the statement said.
It called on Ghanaians to respect Article 41 (k) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana which states; “It is the duty of every citizen to safeguard and protect the environment. That is we should refrain from activities that pollute our water bodies.”

It said: “Beyond meeting basic human needs, water bodies contribute to sustainable development in a number of important ways and it is enshrined as Goal Six in the Sustainable Development Agenda,” adding that Ghana was among 12 countries in Africa projected to face water scarcity.

The statement cited the current pollution of rivers Offin, Tano, Ankobra and Birim as an indication of the enormity of the problem and urged the stoppage of mining, logging and farming along the banks of water bodies and in protected forest reserves.

The global theme for this year’s World Water Day is: “Why Waste Water’’ but Ghana chose the theme; “Water and Waste Water,” which incidentally has been the core advocacy agenda of CEIA and WACAM over the years.

A study commissioned by WACAM and conducted by CEIA in 2009 indicated that water bodies in Tarkwa and Obuasi were polluted with high levels of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead.