By Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang
The Government of the Gambia has shown full commitment to the protection of the environment as a vital component of sustainable development and has collaborated with developing partners such as GEF and UNEP in the implementation of Stockholm, Basel and Rotterdam Conventions.
These three conventions aim to address chemicals management through cradle-to-grave approach, mostly comprehensive in the case of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
These were the statements uttered by the Registrar of Pesticides and Hazardous chemicals Omar Bah at a two-day consultative meeting on legislative and regulatory framework for chemicals management and control in the Gambia that recently took place at the Agricultural Training Centre in Jenoi, LRR.
The meeting aims to review, incorporate comments, contributions and suggestions on hazardous chemicals and Pesticides Control and Management (Amendment) Bill 2017.
The Government of the Gambia is among 181 state parties that ratified the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in June 2003, and according to him, the ratification of and implementation of the Stockholm and other relevant conventions represent an important step in solving the serious environmental and health problems caused by hazardous chemicals. The Gambia is predominant an 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. He pointed out.
“The Gambia does not manufacture chemicals, but we do import them. The fact that most of our borders are porous, makes the role of security officers very crucial and important in the management and control of chemical and pesticide. Chemicals and Pesticides, which are instinctive to our livelihood are use with limited knowledge on its effect or use, therefore the inclusion of agricultural and extension workers is also crucial in the training,” NEA’s registrar of chemicals and pesticides lamented.
As chemicals are important determinants for sustainable development and their use in agriculture, energy production sectors, raised concerns 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.
Omar Bah further revealed that The Gambia became a party to 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, Registrar Bah 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 is geared towards mitigating serious health and environmental problems caused by hazardous chemicals, 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 Conventions and the Act has been in existence for over two decades and during the period many chemical related issues that have emerged during this time are not dealt with in its provisions.
Therefore according to Omar Bah, the need for it to be revised and updated is prudent in order to strengthen our national legal capacity towards chemicals management and control.
Lamin Jaiteh, laboratory analyst and project coordinator disclosed that the 1994 Act has been a reference material for many countries and sub regional bodies including CILLS due to its comprehensive nature and therefore updating it will only add value and strength to it.
“I applauded the genuine efforts of donors and partners in the process of reviewing the Pesticide and Hazardous Chemicals Control and Management Act 1994, and the legal consultant and team for their effort by doing justice to the document. I therefore anticipated that the caliber of experts present here today will put up a comprehensive scrutiny of the bill as a national document and our collective effort to protect our health and the environment for future generations,” he concluded.
Over thirty-five (35) participants were drawn from North Bank, Central River, Upper River and Lower River Regions took part in the cross-learning dialogue.