The regional meeting on Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) took place in Abidjan with the following objectives; to review the progress of implementation of the Strategic Approach within the region, to enable technical and strategic discussions and exchange of information to take place, to discuss the emerging policy issues and to strengthen and prioritize national chemicals management capacities
GAYO as a stakeholder of the environment was invited to participate and contribute in helping Africa reach a resolution for the second intercessional meeting which comes off in March in Stockholm this year. GAYO has worked with diverse forms of waste including electronic and plastic waste, putting the organization in a position to contribute to issues of national and international interest concerning chemicals and waste.
Key issues discussed were the reports from countries that piloted the Special Programme, reports from civil society groups and other bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), UNITAR and the Africa Institute.
The Special Programme aims to strengthen national institutions and to promote the mainstreaming of the sound management of chemicals and waste. With respect to this Special Programme report, Kenya chopped success on a second attempt and shared their experiences through the programme. One thing worth noting is that after a failed attempt, the country resorted to self-fund 75% of the budget for the programme while reducing administrative cost to below 5% during their second attempt. This helped to ensure almost all monies meant for the programme went into the implementation and execution.
The case in Ghana is different. According to Dr. Sam Adu-Kumi, the country could not succeed after two major attempts which are largely attributable to limited capacity of the staff. Ghana took a decision to carry out the programme without foreign involvement because it is supposed to be a country-driven programme however, the programme failed in all two attempts due to lack of technical expertise and weak institutional capacity to coordinate the implementation of policies, strategies, and national programmes for Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste (SMCW). He therefore encouraged the secretariat to increase financial support to member states aiming at capacity building as well as making the funding processes flexible well enough to help them actively participate in carrying out programmes and projects towards SMCW.
Some emerging issues included Lead in paint, nanotechnologies and naomaterials, Chemicals in products, Hazardous substances within the life cycle of electrical and electronic products (E-waste) and managing perfluorinated chemicals and the transition to safer alternatives.
Another important thing is that, SAICM has a deadline of the year 2020 but so many of the objectives have not being met so, stakeholders sort to know what have been the major challenges and the way forward?
So many issues were discussed which border on the fact that there is a funding gap that restricts access and creates unevenness due to disparities in capacity by stakeholders to effectively carry out SAICM programmes, there is also a weak structure of SAICM especially at the national level which needs to be restructured and strengthened, SAICM has been a voluntary body and this voluntary nature of SAICM makes it difficult to hold member countries responsible for not undertaking its objectives and again, it is too soon to make SAICM a legal binding body without enough resources to enable members to comply.
Therefore, it was recommended among other things that it is time to focus on institutional strengthening of governments’ ability to manage chemicals and waste, to effectively implement enforceable legislations, to ensure integration across sectors and industries and to promote equality across countries where there can be common standards and easy transfer of technologies.
I am an optimist but that does not make me overlook reality. I was quizzed whether I agree with the statement; “Development can never be sustained” and after thinking for minutes, I have this to say; Development is defined by the business dictionary as the process of social and economic transformation that is based on complex and environmental factors and their interactions. Sustainability on the other hand is the act of using resources in a way that grantee their continuous availability. Sustainable development therefore refers to the principle of meeting human development goals for the current generation whilst at the same time not compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. This principle produces a society whereby living conditions and resources use continue to meet human needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the natural systems.
In Ghana, development can never be sustainable until we develop a lasting solution to our socioeconomic and environmental challenges, this is because sustainable development is directly linked and inter-connected with environmental protection, social development and economic development and since it is not possible to sustain these indicators it means development can never be sustainable.
Economic development is not sustainable because resources used are not always completely replaced with time, therefore any positive rate of exploitation eventually leads to the exhaustion of the earth’s finite stock. More so social and environmental sustainability is not realistic because the total land size gradually reduces as humans continue to expand cities and practice agriculture. In Ghana, one could think of the issues of small scale mining, poor agricultural practices, plastic pollution and poor governance as significant obstacles that continues to paint the future unpleasant.
Land degradation is a major challenge in Ghana that has drawn the attention of both local and national stakeholders and yet there has not been a workable solution to it. In Ghana, the major causes of land degradation is small scale mining popularly called galamsey. There has been several destruction to virgin forests, farm lands, fresh water bodies and many other vegetation.
For development to be sustained, these lost lands need to be refilled and re-vegetated, the water bodies need to be cleansed and the soil remediated or at worse the activities need to be stopped so that the environment can recover with time, but this is not a possibility as galamsey has become the single most available and cheapest economic activity for the young people in Ghana. Even though the current minister for lands and natural resources has intensified government efforts to fighting forest degradation and reclaiming lost farm lands to improve cocoa productivity, it is regrettable to hear allegations that politicians and highly influential individuals are deeply involved directly and indirectly in the galamsey activities which hinders the progress of this fight.
Another issue has to do with poor waste management especially in the cities. In Ghana, waste in any form or kind is not properly handled or disposed and this has serious implication on sustainable development. Solid wastes of various grades are disposed indiscriminately on lands which otherwise could have being useful. Liquid wastes such as sewage is disposed wrongly causing illnesses such as cholera and malaria which makes government expenditure in health care high. One major contributor to this is uncontrolled population growth which puts pressure on the natural environment. As a result there are limited government subsidies to accelerate the adoption of less polluting technologies by industries.
What is possible is that, more technologies are being explored and researched into and this will provide alternative livelihoods that will substitute and extend the life span of natural resources or help discover greener ways of extracting resources and all this could add to making sustainable development a reality. To conclude, development can never be sustained until populations are controlled, lifestyles changed and environmental protection becomes a concern for every one.
Carrying capacity is the maximum number of people the Earth can hold without causing environmental degradation. I believe this was coined with the assumption that “ALL HUMANS ARE SUSTAINABILITY INCLINE” but the way most humans are handling the environment nowadays, we don’t need to reach the carrying capacity before environmental degradation occurs.
Many nations are concern with maintaining the balance between resource use, population and environment but it seems to me that is just word of mouth because actions remain the same in most places. We need to go beyond this and be pragmatic in our approaches which mean working to close the gap between armchair theory and practice.
I often say that Issues of environment and development are political hence our success in sustaining the environment depends on how the solution addresses questions of control, power, and self-determination in the social engagement with nature. “The planet is not a machine to be controlled by privileged super-mechanics but by those passionate about environmental housekeeping” so come out and put to test your idea or join force and build a momentum with others with similar minds to make the world a better place.
Last month, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) launched below50 initiative hubs in North America, South America and Australia, to create much bigger demand and markets for sustainable fuels. Below50 is a global collaboration that brings together the entire value-chain for sustainable fuels, that is, fuels that produce at least 50% less CO2 emissions than conventional fossil fuels.
I believe these are the policy innovations and new ways of collaborations that could put the world on track to achieve the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. We need clear national and local action plans that encourage the masses to be climate sensitive; this is especially needed to guide attitudes in the global south where overcoming poverty is still the top priority of most countries.
The central goal of the Paris Agreement is to keep the average global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. About one degree of that rise has already happened, underlining the urgency to progress much further and faster with the global clean energy transformation. Off course, this is also tired to the success of the 2030 Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal 9: to build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. To pursue this inclusively, the global south will need to actively involve its informal economy as well as add value to some of its primary products.
Professor Frimpong Boateng, minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, at a media briefing on responsible and regulated mining methods made known that the government of Ghana is currently strategizing to place a ban on the import of mercury by the end of the year. Mercury, which is a primary resource used by illegal small scale gold miners, pose a lot of health threat to humans and the ecosystem at large as the substance is widely recognized to be carcinogenic.
The minister highlighted that, “the importation is under the ministry of Trade but inspection at the port is done by the EPA.” He added that discussions between his ministry and the ministry of Trade is underway.
The Minister is confident that implementing the ban will not take too long and this is because, Ghana has signed onto the Minamata protocol – a protocol that bans the use of mercury in the countries signed to it.
The fight against illegal mining has reduced the turbidity levels of the water which has translated into lower cost in treating water – something that needs to improve even better to ensure that Ghana doesn’t become a country with issues regarding water insecurity.
This a significant step in the right direction in the fight against galamsey. We at Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO) are happy with the progress of Ghana towards eliminating galamsey and saving our water bodies and forests.
“Happy World Wetlands Day to everyone who works to protect global wetlands” – From Our Founder, Joshua Amponsem.
Wetlands are the link between land and water, and are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Some common names for different types of wetlands are swamp, marsh and bog. To be called a wetland, an area must be filled or soaked with water at least part of the year.
As wetlands are continuously threatened by human activities, this is a day to spread awareness on the importance of wetlands and call on more people to join hands in protecting wetlands.
In Ghana, we are loosing our wetlands (especially, Mangrove wetlands) at an alarming rate despite the many projects carried out by conservation groups. During 2015 World Environmental Day, I coordinated the Ghana Youth Climate Coalition to join a tree planting exercise at the Muni-Pomadze Ramsar site in Winneba – which is globally known for wetland Turtle conservation. It was sad to see plastics all around a ramsar site which accommodates over 13o species of organisms. In other places across the country, mangroves at some wetlands are being harvested for fish smoking. Interaction with fishmongers reveals that smoking fish with the mangrove gives the fish a better taste. This act has led to the loss of mangrove vegetation in the Central Region, and parts of the Volta Region.
At the Kakum estuary in Cape Coast, which is surround by a mangrove wetland, it is heartbreaking to witness the frequency and speed at which people are encroaching the wetlands. People are erecting buildings so close to the wetlands and some sitting right on the wetlands. This has contributed to a chronic flooding events within some parts of the Cape Coast metropolis. The Kakum estuary alone contains over eighteen species belonging to 18 genera and 12 families of marine, brackish water and freshwater fishes. If the wetland surrounding the estuary is threatened so is the estuary. Additionally, as a very sensitive ecosystem, it is disturbing to find people practicing open defecation and throwing refuse (mainly plastics) in an around the wetland.
Why protect Wetlands?
- Wetlands function like a sponge, soaking up water that comes in with the tides, or from periodically flooding rivers. In fact, they control floods much more effectively and efficiently than any flood wall.
- Wetlands are Carbon Sink. Because the soils found in wetlands can store carbon for hundreds of years, they play an important role in fighting climate change.
- Aids in Sea Level Rise Mitigation. As global warming increases and sea levels rise, wetlands are the first barrier to protecting people living closer the sea and within flood zone area.
- Recreation and Tourism. Spanning from bird watching, biking, hiking, and kayaking, wetlands provide people with many ways to enjoy nature. In Ghana, we receive migratory birds at our estuaries and wetlands – this is something the Ghana Tourism Authority needs to look at.
- Wildlife Nursery. Because of its unique location between water and land, salt and freshwater, wetlands shelter a wide range of vulnerable species while serving as a breeding site for many organisms. Without wetlands, a huge number of songbirds, waterfowl, shellfish, and other mammals just wouldn’t exist.
- Fertile Farm Land. The staple diet of half the world’s population is rice, which grows in wetlands in many parts of the world.
There are many more benefits of wetland that cannot be mentioned. The frequent flood events in most coastal cities in Ghana can be attributed to destruction of wetlands. As we celebrate Wetlands today, I call on all global citizens to advocate for the protection of wetlands.