Heavily armed galamsey (illegal mining) operators have invaded the main intake points of the Ghana Water Company (GWC) on the Prah River in the Mpohor Wassa East District in the Western Region.
The illegal miners have completely blocked the company's intake points at Bosomase and Daboase and officials of the company have to employ manual labour at very high cost to clear the blockage.
At the moment the GWC has been compelled to shut down operations as a result of the blockage and the little water that flows in is treated and rationed.
The company's officials said they were left with no option but to ration water to millions of customers in the twin-city of Sekondi/Takoradi and other parts of the region served from the intake area.
To ensure effective rationing the metropolis has been divided into four zones and some zones are supplied two days in a week and others a day in every week.
Currently it is estimated that there are more than 300 different groups of illegal miners, made up of over 5,000 individuals on the Pra River operating from Beposo to Assin-Praso with their self-styled floating dredging mining equipment and using mercury and other dangerous chemicals to extract the gold.
The activities of the illegal miners lead to discharge of heavy metals into the water, which agitates the riverbed, leading to blockage and damage to pumps.
Aside the expensive nature of treating polluted water for consumption, the discharge of heavy metals into the river poses a direct threat to millions of people whose lives depend on the rivers that flow through their communities.
The illegal miners also discharge uncontrolled levels of arsenic materials directly into the river that feeds the communities, which a mining engineer said was dangerous to the health of the affected communities.
Arsenic, according to the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), is a natural semi-metallic chemical that is found all over the world in groundwater.
The Regional Head of the FDA, Mr Solomon Agampim, said the symptoms of people who have taken in arsenic materials are pain or dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, confusion and terrible diarrhoea.
When the Daily Graphic visited the Mpohor and Shama districts the illegal miners were seen openly carrying out their activities near the pump station at Daboase and Bosomase. Some of them had even moved closer to the Beposo Bridge.
Members of the communities in which the illegal miners are operating told the Daily Graphic that they had planned to attack the 'galamseyers' but they were armed and very good what was needed was finding a solution to the problem by completely flushing out the illegal miners from the banks of the river from Beposo to Assin Praso, and gave an assurance that the GWC was committed to providing good service for the people.
The Shama District Chief Executive, Mr Enoch Appiah, said the problem was a source of worry to the GWC.