By Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang
Global efforts have been undertaken in order to reduce and eliminate the presences of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and other hazardous chemical and waste in gearing towards protecting human health and the environment. POPs are chemicals substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment.
In light of the above, the National Environment Agency has organized training and many fora through its Hazardous Chemical and Pesticide Unit for stakeholders on Environmentally Sound Management of Chemicals Particular Persistent Organic Pollutant (POPs).
These trainings are meant to enhance capacities of stakeholders within the service chain including staffers of the agriculture, chemicals and pesticide dealers, importers, security officers on environmentally sound management of chemicals particularly persistent organic pollutants. It is anticipated that these cross-learning platforms will enable the securities to adopt Best Applicable Technologies and strategies in the management and control of Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticide so as to minimize and mitigate its negative impact on our livelihood and natural resource.
The objective of these workshop is to train and sensitize stakeholders within and outside the chemical sector on strategies to safely control and manage hazardous chemicals.
The Gambia does not manufacture chemicals, but it is apparent that they are imported. The fact that the country is full of porous borders, thus the role of securities in the management and control chemical and pesticide is quite crucial. Chemicals and Pesticides, which are instinctive to our livelihood are use with limited knowledge on its effect, therefore the inclusion of agricultural and extension workers is crucial in the training.
The Participants were always challenged to make best use of the synergies and share the knowledge gained with others who couldn`t attending the in-service training, “The training can only be meaningful if lessons learnt are taken seriously and put into practice in your respective works of life”, NEA Executive Director told participants at one of the trainings in West Coast Region.
The Government of the Gambia has shown real commitment to the protection of the environment as a key component of sustainable development by having the Gambia Environment Action Plan (GEAP) in place.
As chemicals are important determinants for sustainable development and their use in agriculture, energy production sectors, concerns are raised over their harmful effects on workers, consumers, environment, etc. through exposures, wrong disposals and accidental releases that may have permanent damage on the soil, water and air.
In the same vain, the Government of the Gambia has ratified many international Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs) such as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the Montreal Protocol, The Bambako Convention, etc, to show her commitment in the global effort for the sound management of chemicals.
The ratification of and implementation of the Stockholm and other relevant conventions represent an important step in solving the serious health and environmental problems caused by hazardous chemicals. The Gambia is a predominantly agricultural country and depends heavily on pesticides and plant growth regulators to enhance agricultural productivity, but has also recognized the need and over the years has taken steps towards the development of an institutional framework for the sound management of chemicals.
In yet another effort to widen people’s scope and horizon on the subject, a consultative workshop on Legislative and Regulatory Framework for chemicals Management and Control in the Gambia was held at the Baobab Resort Hotel in Bijilo, where stakeholders, experts and legal luminaries scrutinized the document, make comments, incorporate and fill the missing gap, suggestions as inputs to the amendment Bill 2017 Aas they play a vital role in the management of chemicals.
In addressing the forum, the Executive Director of the National Environment Agency disclosed that the Government of the Gambia has shown full time commitment to the protection of the environment as a vital component of sustainable development, and since then partnered with development partners such as GEF and UNEP in the implementation of Stockholm, Basel and Rotterdam Conventions.
According to Momodou Jaama Suwareh, these three Conventions aims to address chemicals management through cradle-to-grave approach including Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Counting on the Government`s efforts, Suwareh further disclosed that the Government of the Gambia is among the 181 state parties that ratified the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in June 2003.
The Gambia became a party Basel convention on the Control of tans-boundary movements of Hazardous wastes and their disposal since 1997. 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 of severely restricted to protect human health and environment should not proceed from one point to another without the agreement of both parties (Both the sender and receiver). The Gambia became a member to this convention in 2004.
Describing POPs as group of organic synthetic chemicals that are very persistent, very toxic, bio-accumulative and travel very far within the Environment, Director Suwareh warned that it can cause detrimental acute and long term effects to human health, wildlife and the environment we live in.
The Ratification of these conventions he said geared towards mitigating serious health and environmental problems caused by hazardous chemicals. The Gambia is predominantly an agricultural country and depends heavily on pesticides and plant growth regulators to enhance agricultural productivity to control pest, but nonetheless, it recognized the need to control and advocate for sound use of chemicals as inscribe in the Strategic Approach for the Integration Chemical Management (SAICM) approach.
“The Pesticide and Hazardous chemicals control and management Act 1994 was developed prior to the adoption of the said Conventions. This Act has aged for more than two decades and many chemical related issues have emerge during this time which are not dealt with its provisions. Therefore the need for it be revised and updated is prudent in other to strengthening our national legal capacity towards chemicals management and control”. Suwareh revealed.
The Pesticide and Hazardous chemicals control and management Act 1994 has been a reference material for many countries and Sub regional bodies including CILLS due of its comprehensive nature and therefore updating it will only add value and strength to it.
“I want to thank our donors and partners in the process of reviewing the Pesticide and Hazardous Chemicals Control and Management Act 1994. I also want to thank the legal consultant and team for their effort. I have no doubt that the legal consultant and the technical team have done justice to the document. I hope that the experts present here today will put up a comprehensive scrutiny of the bill as it is a national document and our collective effort to protect our health and the health of generations yet to born and the environment we live in”. He concluded.