River wardens deployed in renewed fight against galamsey
Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources in charge of Mining George Mireku Duker has stressed on how critical the work of river wardens will be in government’s unrelenting efforts at clamping down on the activities of illegal miners on the country’s river bodies.
At an orientation programme for the first batch of 87 river wardens in Takoradi in the Western Region, Mr. Mireku Duker explained that the introduction of the river wardens is borne out of a yawning gap that government has discovered in the fight against illegal small scale mining.
“Whenever Operation Halt II undertakes any operation, since they are not permanently stationed, illegal miners return to the water bodies to perpetuate their criminal activities. Hence, we are of the firm believe that if these river wardens who are going to monitor these activities work as expected, we believe it will go a long way to help protect our water bodies.”
He added that the river wardens who will be stationed permanently on water bodies “will be working closely with the Riverine Command of the Navy and Operation Halt II Contingent from time to time. A clear reporting line have been established, through which all complaints of illegal mining will be reported to the National Control Center at the Minerals Commission Head Office, Accra”.
Needed operational support
The Deputy Minister assured that the necessary atmosphere has been put in place for the river wardens to efficiently deliver on their mandate of providing a 24-hour security to the country’s various river bodies to save them from further destruction as a result of illegal mining activities.
“As you already know we have put five boats on various water bodies. These boats are connected to the newly established situational room at the Minerals Commission. Government will procure more speed boats, especially the locally manufactured ones in the coming days to support the activities of the river wardens.”
According to him, his ministry is in the process “to procure body cams for the river wardens for the purposes of their operations. Each and every River Warden will be fitted with one body cam to monitor their activities at the National Control Center. This will help monitor their own safety and also track those that may be compromised through receiving bribes”.
“Life Jackets will be provided to all in line of duty. Arrangements have been made for some motorbikes and pick-up vehicles to support your operations.”
He announced that the situational room which will monitor and receive real-time information on illegal mining activities from the various districts is ready for use.
To ensure that the river wardens are highly motivated to do their work devoid of any compromises, Mr. Mireku Duker said “we have put various performance monitoring systems in place and will ensure that, hardworking river wardens and groups are rewarded”.
“I have also indicated to the CEO of Minerals Commission that, renewal of your contracts will be based strictly on your performance appraisals. I must also indicate that, the permanent status of river wardens will depend on how successful this exercise becomes.”
Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Minerals Commission Samuel Tika, on his part, stated that to prevent the river wardens from becoming too familiar thereby sowing seeds of collusion they will be rotated.
“You have offered yourself because you think you can contribute to stopping the illegality going on. What we will do is that you will not be stuck at one place because of what we have seen with a lot of people doing this work. Some have succeeded, some have not. Mostly because I think it is familiarity. Because when you become familiar with the place and the people, if you don’t take care with the little enticement, you may fall prey to it and we want to check that.”
Some of the river wardens emphasized that they fully appreciate government’s desire to stop illegal mining and pledged to work assiduously to ensure that it is achieved.
The first batch of the 87 river wardens have successfully undergone a four-week intensive pre-deployment training programme at the Eastern Naval Command, Tema.
They have been equipped with swimming techniques, water confidence, boat handling among others which were achieved through classroom lectures, practical demonstrations, physical training and drills.
All 87 River Wardens will be deployed along the Ankobra, the Bonsa and the Pra Rivers.