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Contamination of water resources in Takwa mining area of Ghana: Linking technical, social-economic and gender dimensions
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Land and Water Resources Engineering, Environmental Management and Assessment. (Miljöbedömning och -förvaltning, Environmental Management and Assessment)
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Land and Water Resources Engineering, Environmental Geochemistry and Ecotechnology. (Miljögeokemi och ekoteknik, Environmental Geochemistry and Ecotechnology)
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Land and Water Resources Engineering. (Vattenförvaltning, Water Management)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6166-4992
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Land and Water Resources Engineering, Environmental Geochemistry and Ecotechnology. (Miljögeokemi och ekoteknik, Environmental Geochemistry and Ecotechnology)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4350-9950
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2007 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Ghana is Africa’s second largest producer of gold with gold deposits in western part of the country. There are seven large-scale mines and 168 small-scale mining concessions valid in the region. Wassa West District is an important mining area, with Tarkwa as administrative capital. In recent years, the area has been exposed to lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury and cyanide. Both small and large-scale mining industries have reportedly contaminated rivers, streams, dug wells and boreholes with heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury and cyanide. There has been significant adverse impact upon health, economy, and social life that may be felt differently by women and men, raising the question of sustainable access to safe water as a millennium development goal (MDG) in the area.

A multi-disciplinary approach was adopted in the project with distinct work components on the technical as well as on social, gender and policy aspects. It also aimed to suggest integrated strategies to address the problem so as to ensure achievement of the MDGs. Based upon a field study in 37 local communities coupled with water and sediment analysis from the area, the research indicated the existence of not only higher levels of metal contaminants in local water resources in Tarkwa area, particularlymanganese and iron, but also arsenic and aluminium in some wells. However, water resources, particularly groundwater is currently safe for human consumption but the spillages of cyanide and other effluents into surface streams have health and ecological implications. Levels of mercury in stream sediments are high with a clear risk of methylation of the mercury and transfer in the food chain via fish to humans.

Regarding the impact of mining, it was found that for women who are the primary domestic water managers, contamination of local water sources has forced them to fetch water from greater distances, and livelihoods are hampered due to the fish loss through cyanide spillages in streams. Another finding was the lack of trust and rising water conflicts between mining authorities and the local communities. Regarding the policy aspects underlying the problem, it was found that there is a lack of coordination between the 3 policy areas, namely, rural water supply, mining, and environmental impact assessment (EIA) and environmental protection to the detriment of women as water users and domestic water managers. While impact of mining is increasingly seen as an issue of human rights violation, little is being done to strengthen participatory approaches especially involving women in rural water supply programs. The detailed analysis of the EIA regulations reveals that most mining have not undertaken any comprehensive EIA guiding their operations.

A number of recommendations have emerged from the integrated perspective attempted to be developed through this research. These include a need for further in-depth explorations on the situation of contamination in groundwater and surface waters as well as stream sediments in the area; the need to resolve the situations of water conflicts between the local communities and the mining authorities by promoting greater public participation; and the need to minimize the gaps between the three related policy frameworks. Also, there is a necessity to strengthen environmental compliance on part of the mining companies so as to uphold the quality of water resources in the area.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
KTH Royal Institute of Technology , 2007. , 31 p.
Trita-LWR Report, ISSN 1650-8610 ; 3016
Keyword [en]
mining, water supply, metals, arsenic, cyanide, women, participation, Ghana
National Category
Environmental Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-60481ISBN: 978-91-7178-759-0OAI: diva2:477471
QC 20120117Available from: 2012-01-17 Created: 2012-01-13 Last updated: 2012-01-17Bibliographically approved

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