By Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang
Dawda Badgie, director of technical services network at the National Environment Agency (NEA) has disclosed that plastic bag pollution rendered severe environmental and health threats to human, livestock and the Marine Eco-system.
Due to its adverse effects and uncompromising hazards, the Government of the Gambia has on 1 July 2015 banned the use, production and sell of plastic bags in the country.
Badgie made this disclosure recently during a press briefing held at the home of the Gambian environment on Jimpex road, Kanifing. He told the gathering and keen listeners that the country needs the blessing support and collaboration of all and sundry in an effort to collectively effect the ban on plastic bags that find their way into our sustainable livelihood support systems.
He further disclosed that plastic bags do not decompose for many years and therefore has potentials to destroy soil nutrients and structure, and affect tree-roots penetration thus threatens productivity.
Buttressing further, Badgie noted that our livestock are also killed with other smaller domestic animals when they ingest or swallow it resulting in huge economic loss to farmers.
“Due to improper disposal systems, many domestic and stray animals end up consuming plastics and get entangled and suffocated to death. Thousands of animals worldwide including cow, goats, sheep, dolphins, turtles, whales, penguins are killed every year due to plastic bags ingestion. Many animals ingest plastic bags, mistaking them for food, and therefore die. And worse, the ingested plastic bag remains intact even after the death and decomposition of the animal. Thus, it lies around in the landscape where another victim may ingest it,” he said.
“The continuous use of plastic bags threatens our food security as they resist decomposition for decades and becomes a virtual eye-sore in public places. Most plastic wastes find their ways into gutters and water ways and cause blockage during rainy season and subsequently lead to flooding of cities and growth centers, he pointed out,” he added.
Counting on the threats of plastic bags, Director Badgie disclosed that when plastic bags are burnt or used for fire lighting, which is a very common practice by the women in the country, it releases dangerous chemicals such as dioxins and furans which are Persistent Organic Pollutants, are casinogenic substance that can cause cancer and other life threatening diseases.
Furthermore, he said Plastic bags are often misused by putting in it hot or cold food like “Ebbeh, Café Touba, Nan-Mburr” etc underlining that the use of plastic bags to package hot or cold food stuff is very dangerous as it releases the chemical residue content of the plastic into the food, and can lead to long-term health problems.
He revealed that the Environmental Education & Communication team of the agency will embark on a nationwide sensitization tour to community radio stations. These local radio FM stations will include Paradise FM in Farafenni, GRTS radio in Basse, Brikamabaa Community radio, Soma FM and Kaira FM in Kuloro. These phone-in radio programs will generate lots of listenership who can also contribute through phone calls.
“The ban on plastic bags is a right move in the right direction as it reflects on the dangers to both human and the environment. Plastic bags are non-biodegradable and can cause serious threat to the fragile eco-system of the country and the environment in general,” Dr. Badgie warned.
Speaking earlier, Barrister Lamin Samateh thanked the Government of the Gambia and the NEA for their foresight and commitment in averting serious environmental hazards by banning the usage, sale, and consumption of plastic bags. He therefore called on all and sundry not to smuggle this banned substance into the country.