The Executive Director (ED) of the National Environment Agency (NEA) has urged custom officers to be very vigilant over what kind of materials come into the country including Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
Momodou Jama Suwareh, who was speaking during the opening ceremony of a two-day workshop for representatives from The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), Ministries of Justice and Finance, High Court and Police Prosecution Unit on Stockholm Convention and other related chemical conventions, said chemicals need good handling and care, while taking into account the magnitude of their effects on human health.
He affirmed that each of these institutions has a vital role to play in protecting, restoring and remediating the environment and making it a safe and a conducive place for us and those yet to be born.
POPs are a group of organic synthetic chemicals that are very persistent, very toxic, bio-accumulative and they travel very far within the environment. They cause detrimental acute and long term effects to human health and the wildlife. They also affect the environment we live in.
Enforcement officers, he noted are crucial to ensuring that chemicals and waste laws are enforced and complied with a view to better safeguard our environment and meet our obligations to the international conventions.
“The Gambia government has shown full commitment to protect the environment from anthropogenic releases of Pollutants,” he said. “Among the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is to ensure sustainable consumption and production pattern.”
The Government of The Gambia therefore, has partnered with development partners such as Global Environment Facility (GEF) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in the implementation of Stockholm, Basel and Rotterdam Conventions, Mr. Suwareh added. He explained that due to the alarming rate at which humans are being exposed to chemicals, no single convention is enough to address chemicals and waste.
He indicated that in addition, other regional conventions (e.g. Bamako), national laws (Hazardous Chemicals Law) and international conventions (Basel and Rotterdam) were developed to address chemicals and pollutants
The Government of The Gambia ratified the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in June 2003,” he said. “It’s a global treaty signed by 181 states parties as of October 2017.”
Mr. Suwareh informed participants that the Stockholm Convention's financial and technical assistance programmes are meant to complement national efforts to control chemicals and waste, arguing that the government should make efforts to complement the efforts made by the international community. “The Gambia became a party to the Basel Convention on the control of trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal since 1997.”
He further expounded that the Rotterdam on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) is based on the principle of Prior Informed Consent that international shipment of chemicals that are banned or severely restricted to protect human health and environment should not proceed from one point to another without the agreement of both parties, of which Gambia became a member.
“The Ratification of these conventions are all geared towards mitigating the serious health and environmental problems caused by hazardous chemicals,” Mr Suwareh said. The Gambia is predominantly an agricultural country and depends heavily on pesticides and plant growth regulators to enhance agricultural productivity to control pest, he reminded the gathering.
Mr. Suwareh further argued that the country also recognizes the need to control and advocate for sound use of chemicals as inscribed in the Strategic Approach for the International Chemical Management (SAICM) and the Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides Control and Management Act 1994.
The training activity is being funded by GEF and executed by Green Cross Switzerland and Basel Regional Centre-Dakar under the project: Capacity Building and Technical Assistance for the Implementation of Stockholm Convention National Implementation Plan (NIPs) for Persistent Organic Pollutants for the Africa Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in the ECOWAS Sub-Region and Central Africa.
Author: Bekai Njie
The Point Newspaper