By Aisha Tamba
& Zainab Sesay
Stakeholders on Tuesday gathered at a validation workshop to review and update the National Implementation Plan NIP for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants POP in The Gambia.
The programme is organised by the National Environment Agency NEA in collaboration with other stakeholders. Speaking at the workshop, the Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources Lamin B Dibba recalled that The Gambia ratified the Stockholm Convention in June 2003 adding that the government is aware of the health concerns resulting from local exposure to persistent organic pollutants.
“In particular, the impact upon women and through them, future generations and considering a community with a low level of awareness, it is important that action is taken, ” he said.
He admitted that The Gambia has recognised the need and over the years taken courageous steps towards the development of an institutional framework for the sound management of chemicals to support a rapidly growing industrial and agricultural sector.
He said the goal of the NIP is to protect human health and the environment from the risks posed by the unsound use, management and releases of POPs.
“One of the key activities is creating awareness and building capacity of the key stakeholders to enlighten the people living in The Gambia on sound chemical management.”In particular consulting with communities regarding the impacts, alternatives, social risks and growing stakeholder involvement associated with persistent organic pollutants was done to enhance opportunities for providing relevant input at national level,” he added.
Hon Dibba further noted the importance of stakeholder participation in the national validation workshop being held to thoroughly review the strategies of implementation and to identify roles and responsibility for different stakeholders.
“The POPs issue impacts on many sectors, including policy-making, law-making, environmental protection, agriculture, public health, industry and the private sector, the public and various interest groups. In order to make an effective and successful NIP, a wide range of stakeholders must be involved and engaged in the process,” he said
He warned that the Stockholm Convention is a legally binding international instrument, designed to lead to gradual decrease of the presence of persistent organic pollutants in the environment.
“Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) he said, are toxic chemicals that adversely affect human health and the environment around the world. Because they can be transported by wind and water, most POPs generated in one country can affect people and wildlife far from where they are used and released,” he said.
The executive director of the National Environment Agency Momodou Jama Suwareh, said The Gambia government in collaboration with GEF, implemented the important national project for the review and update of the national implementation of the Stockholm Convention for Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).
He said the National Environment Agency, in collaboration with stakeholder institutions, conducted such activities aimed at raising public awareness and the situation regarding POPs in the country.
Mr Suwareh said chemicals are important determinants for sustainable development, sound environmental health and quality of life.
“While the use of chemicals in all human activities (e.g. agriculture, health, energy production, manufacture, services and residential) contributes to improving the quality of life, it also raises concerns about its harmful effects on workers, consumers, the environment and society at large through exposure.”
“Furthermore,” he said “accidental releases from the distribution, consumption and disposal of chemicals may permanently damage soil, water and air.”