Executive Director of the National Environment Agency in the Gambia has disclosed that chemicals are important determinants for sustainable development, sound environmental health and quality of life, as we use them in all human activities including agriculture, health, energy production, manufacturing, services and residential that contributes to improving the quality of life. But he also raised concerns about its harmful effects on workers, consumers, the environment and society at large through exposure.
Momodou Jama Suwareh made these statements during a consultative meeting for National Assembly Select Committee on the Environment on Institutional Capacity Building for the Implementation of the Multi-lateral Environment Agreements (MEAs) such as the Stockholm, Rotterdam, Basel, Minamata Conventions and the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), held recently. Further lamenting on, he noted that accidental releases from the distribution, consumption and disposal of chemicals may permanently damage soil, water and air.
According to the NEA Executive Director, the purpose of this cross-learning convergence is to thoroughly scrutinise and discuss the project activities and the roles and responsibilities of National Assembly Members during implementation.
“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. The Gambia is a party to the Stockholm Convention. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) 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 and do affect people and wildlife far from where they are used and released. They persist for long periods of time in the environment and can accumulate and pass from one species to the next through the food chain,” Suwareh pointed out.
The Gambia government in partnership with United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Suwareh revealed that Special Programme Secretariat is implementing this important project as part of the implementation of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), Basel Convention on control of trans-boundary movement of hazardous wastes and their disposal, Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure, Minamata Convention on Mercury, and Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM).
He said The Gambia has ratified all the aforementioned conventions with the ultimate aim to protect human health and the environment and has also recognised the need towards the development of an institutional framework for the sound management of chemicals and waste to enhance implementation at national level. To meet her obligations under these Conventions, he said The Gambia had to prepare a project proposal and submitted it to the Special Programme Secretariat for funding, that led to the present programme with the NAMs.
According to the NEA boss, the objective of the Special Programme is to support country-driven institutional strengthening at the national level, in the context of an integrated approach to address the financing of the sound management of chemicals and wastes, taking into account the national development strategies, plans and priorities of each country, to increase sustainable public institutional capacity for the sound management of chemicals and wastes throughout their life cycle. In addition, he sighted Institutional strengthening under the Special Programme will facilitate and enable the implementation of the chemical convention to which The Gambia is a State Party.
To enlighten the people living in The Gambia on sound chemical management, Suwareh induced that his institution in collaboration with relevant NAMs Select Committees, organised the meeting which aimed at raising public awareness about chemicals and their related issues.
Some of the expected outcomes of institutional strengthening through the special project are to develop and monitor the implementation of national policies, strategies, programmes and legislation for the sound management of chemicals and wastes; promote the adoption, monitoring and enforcement of legislation and regulatory frameworks for the sound management of chemicals and wastes; promote the mainstreaming of the sound management of chemicals and wastes into national development plans, national budgets, policies, legislation and implementation frameworks at all levels, including addressing gaps and avoiding duplication.
He therefore recognised the importance of the participation of NAMs in realising the above outcomes in the consultative forum to gain deeper understanding of the chemical conventions since they impact on many sectors, including policy-making, law-making, environmental protection, and public health, industry and the private sector and various interest groups.
He therefore called on the NAMs to influence and clout to play pro-active roles in achieving our desired goals in environmental preservation. “I challenge all of us both individually and collectively to demonstrate our commitments towards meeting our national obligations in the implementation of the MEAs,” he concluded.
The Chairman of the NAMs Select Committee on the Environment, Sainey Touray, commended the NEA for organising such educative gathering for them at this crucial time of the year when many including farmers are busy dealing with the chemicals with a second thought of its negative impact on both the environment and people.
By Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang