“As a cross-cutting issue, environmental challenges are paramount to any sustainable development establishment, and therefore positive attitudinal change towards the environment particularly waste management becomes a driving force for any country’s socio-economic development.”
Momodou Jama Suwareh, the Executive Director of the National Environment Agency in The Gambia made these statements recently during an exclusive interview with EnviroNews in his Kanifing office.
This came against the backdrop of numerous reports that some communities are addicted to throwing their domestic waste into the run-off water during the rains, and this cocktail complex of waste are eventually deposited into the marine systems. A practice common with the women folk, Suwareh called on the general populace to desist from such behaviour as it not only affects human health and the ecosystem, but also threatens man’s existence.
A considerable percentage of Gambians entirely depend on the marine systems as their source of protein and other potential benefits, then, are we not poisoning our own source of livelihood? he questioned and called on the public to put away such ungodly attitude.
On an equal footing, the executive director extended the warning to motor maintenance garages locally called Fitter-Garage to immediately cease spilling used oil on the ground or into waterways. He disclosed that environmental inspectors would access and monitor such garages in an effort to curb the negative operation.
Environmental awareness, he said, is inadequate in many developing countries including The Gambia. Therefore, inhabitants must take ownership of their surrounding environment to prevent the prevalence of transmittable and other environmental related diseases that we can contact through poor waste management.
Dilating on, Suwareh revealed that the population is growing rapidly while many of the urban communities are also experiencing the negative effects of unplanned urbanisation particularly the impacts on sanitation and waste. This, he warned, would steadily but surely erode successes achieved, and could prevent the nation attaining environmental and health objectives of development blue prints.
Counting on, he posited that waste management in African countries including The Gambia is emerging as a key threat to health, environment, economy and quality of life of millions of Africans as the level of urbanisation, motorisation and economic activity increases. Negative attitudes towards the environment deteriorate the air quality, cause pollution, contamination, etc. that lead to adverse effects on the poor, the elderly and the children, he pointed out.
Suwareh noted that these unwarranted behaviours led to the establishment of the Anti-Littering Regulation that was put into law on June 14, 2007 with the objective of strengthening the irrefutable positive links between a clean environment and good health. The regulation would also serve as a deterrent for individuals, companies and communities not to abuse the process of waste management.
The Executive Director of the NEA suggested a mass mobilisation of the public to conduct cleansing exercises that is extremely necessary at the very commencement of the rainy season, to avoid creating conducive breeding place for mosquitos.
He further disclosed that certain waste types such as the empty glass bottles, metal cans, tyres etc. capable of holding rain water, serve as perfect breeding area for the larvae of mosquitoes and other vector-borne insects. To remove all such empty canisters capable of holding rainwater from compounds and other public facilities at this very start of the rainy season should be accorded the highest priority by the public, he pointed out.
In conclusion, he stressed that attitudinal change towards waste would have a direct positive result on the prevalence of malaria cases, being one of the killer diseases in the country.
“Without the necessary mass mobilisation of the public, a large portion of these waste volumes would remain uncontrolled thus posing lots to environment and health threats, as they may end up in our marine water ways,” he warned.
By Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang