Editorial : Threat of heavy metals in soil and water-bodies frightening

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The United Nations proclaimed May 22 The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.

Globally, around 25% of all animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Nowadays, while gaps in knowledge still exist – particularly with regard to the interlinkages among nature’s systems – the knowledge base is getting increasingly clear that biodiversity underpins human well-being and livelihoods, and is vital to the achievement of most SDGs.

Reflecting on the importance of biodiversity, we feel the need to re-visit the issue of illegal mining and how it is negatively impacting the environment. Issues pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic have relegated to the background destruction wrought by illegal miners.

An analysis of soil and water in mining communities showed a high concentration of mercury. Research classifies mercury as a highly toxic element, and that is why we should be worried. When ingested into the human body through feeding, it damages the central nervous system, exposing the human body to many diseases.

We cannot compromise the health of people in communities where ‘galamsey’ or illegal mining is rife; and hence a renewed call on the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology not to renege on the fight against illegal mining.

Scientists from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) have discovered high mercury concentrates in soil and water-bodies, which only goes to demonstrate the severity of illegal mining and the long-term effects it has on both communities and the environment at large.

High readings in a maximum of 3.50 milligrammes per kilogramme in samples analysed as against 0.3 milligrammes per kilogramme – which is the standard from the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States of America, demonstrates the extent of abuse.

Researchers with the Sheathe Project, a research into heavy metals and impact on human health, describes the figures recorded as worrying. It is not far-fetched to imagine the amount of soil that is washed into water-bodies, particularly when it rains; and suggests a lot of contaminated soil enters water-bodies, thereby endangering the lives of communities surrounding them.

In reflecting on Biodiversity Day which fell last week Friday, we need to recommit to the fight against illegal mining and ensure that such activities do not endanger Ghanaian lives as well as the environment. As we battle COVID-19, lets also protect the environment.

 

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