Residents of the Bewadze community and its environs in the Efutu municipality of the Central region of Ghana have been pushed into what they fear might be perpetual poverty. They watch helplessly while water bodies, that support their livelihoods, are poisoned with toxic substances discharged by operators of the Nixin Paper Mill Ghana Limited, a Chinese firm. Bewadze is a small farming community with about one thousand population. There are at least, four streams, located in the vegetation of the community. that serve irrigation purposes during the dry season.
Besides peasant farming, streams in the community for ages have served as another source of livelihood where community folk harvest fishes for sale during peak season and for domestic consumption during the off-season.
The community is host to Nixin Paper Mill Ghana Limited and Casa de Ropa. The expectation was that the mill would serve as a rescue for paper waste in Ghana as the country grapples with the challenge of sustainable management of wastes across all sixteen regions. Wastes have been a major contribution to greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change and global warming in Ghana, like many others, including neighbouring Nigeria in the Africa region. While its operation rids the country of paper waste through recycling into large cardboards, its liquid waste has become the bane of its host community, Bewadze.
“We noticed in November 2019, that the stream that runs through the Ramsar site had been polluted and when we traced- we discovered that the pollution was from the household waste of residents of the Nixin Paper Mill. At the time, the production section was still under construction,” the acting site manager-Muni-Pumadze Ramsar site, Vivian Aye-addo told ZAMI REPORTS.
Commercial and domestic fishing and farming lasted but for a short period as the tributaries of the Pru river were gradually stripped of life. By April 2020, all streams in the Bewadze community had begun giving up life. The activities of Nixin Paper Mill Ghana Limited caught media attention in July 2021 when production commenced.
“There’s no life in the streams. The fishes are dead and the streams stink honestly, especially in the night,” Michael Mensah, a resident in a sad tone revealed
Essoun and most of the youth have been stripped of their livelihood support, leaving them idling.
“We used to fish in these streams during bakatue (a festival celebrated in the Central region of Ghana to usher in the fish harvesting season). They take their source from the Pru river and pass through Winneaba from our community. I used to trade my catch and also reserve some for consumption and it was enough that I never bought fish from the market,” Kwabena Essoun, another a resident whose livelihood had been cut off said.
“I have friends who used to prospect for land to build residential accommodation and businesses but they have all abandoned the idea because if they have to endure the stench for as long as Nixin is here…I don’t think you’d want to be in an environment like that. We need this resolved urgently because the chemicals are toxic and we don’t know the health implications of that,” Mensah added.
A March 2021 media publications triggered a nationwide discourse and visit from the institutions mandated to protect Ghana’s water bodies and environment.
“EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) told us they were testing their machines when we found out that they were producing,” site manager, Muni-Pumadze Ramsar site Aye-addo hinted.
The Ghana Water Resource Commission, the Wildlife Division of the Ghana Forestry Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the District Assembly, and the Town and Country Planning in March 2021 stormed the premises of Nixin in what was an attempt to ensure the company adhered to the environmental protection policies amongst other regulations of Ghana.
“We closed down the company when we visited. We organized stakeholders meetings with the owners of the nixing company, the environmental protection agency, water resources commission, wildlife division, the Police, and the Fire Service. Once those institutions came in, we thought the issue will be resolved,” an amazed municipal chief executive of Efutu, John. B. Ninson said after I showed him images from my visit.
Images captured were also shared with the chief basin officer of the Ghana Water Resource Commission, Dr Ronald Abraham.
“They (Nixin Paper Mill Ghana Limited) were directed to halt production until the proposed measures are initiated and approved by authorities. We gave them a three-month ultimatum to build a treatment plant for their liquid waste.”
But months on, none of these have sufficed. Production is ongoing at the blind side of authorities with the water bodies gone from colourless to black as captured by ZAMI REPORTS during a visit on August 31.
Ramsar site on the brink of collapse.
“Now the estuary is blocked which means there will not be water from there and now that the water is polluted-it will all flow into the lagoon and if we don’t take care, we’re going to lose the lagoon”, a helpless site manager of the Muni-Pumadze Ramsar site Aye-addo lamented
The main stream that is being polluted lays behind the wall of Nixin Paper Mill. ZAMI REPORTS discovered that the owners have covered pbc pipe connected from the compound of the mill into the stream to cover their act. One needs to explore deeper into the stream to locate the pipe.
The operation of Nixin is endangering Ghana’s eco-system and the habitats of the rivers especially, reptiles and amphibians in the Muni-Pumadze Ramsar site and lagoon. Management declined the request by ZAMI REPORTS for comments but rather referred us to the office of the municipal chief executive.
“These Chinese people…. they might be doing something untoward and that’s why they don’t want the media there. You know they’re smart,” the municipal chief executive Mr. John B. Ninson said authoritatively.
Meanwhile, a Memorandum of Understanding between stakeholders including the Ghana Forestry Commission-Wildlife Division to commit the owners of the company to best practices has been completed and expected to be signed by Nixin Paper Mill Ghana Limited and all stakeholders.
The writer is a fellow under the 2021 NAREP Climate Change Media fellowship of the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism.
By: Zubaida Afua Mabuno Ismail| www.zamireports.com|Ghana.