By Francis Tandoh,
ACCRA, (Xinhua) --
minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation
Bernice Heloo Tuesday called on African countries to collaborate
to reduce pollution levels across the continent.
She made the call at the
opening of a two-day roundtable discussion on Reducing
Environmental Health Impacts of Harmful Pollutants in Africa
organized by the World Bank (WB) Office here.
Heloo observed that the
piecemeal and country approach to solving the impact of
pollution and other environmentally-related problems over the
years had failed to bring down pollution levels.
“The time has come for
joint collaboration across countries on the continent as
that is the only way we can work to reduce pollution in our
part of the world,” the deputy minister said.
She called for an end to the
talk shop that African countries had been engaging in during
regional and world conferences and come out with concrete action
plans to solve the menace.
The key goal of the Ghana
government, she said, was to support and effectively strengthen
the sustainable management of natural resources and
She said the government was
working to reduce the present levels of both chemicals and air
pollution in the West African country by 50 percent by 2020.
Heloo said the Ghana government
had undertaken various initiatives to minimize the use of
mercury in artisanal and small- scale mining, locally referred
to as “galamsey”.
These initiatives include
contribution to a United Nations Industrial Development
Organization (UNIDO) study in the early 2000s on community
exposure while exploring the use of retort in amalgamation,
integrated assessment of mercury and other related effects, and
injuries in small-scale mining.
Others are a situational
analysis and needs assessment and a national plan of joint
actions for the implementation of the Libreville Declaration as
well as the strengthening of the national committee of the
health and environment strategic alliance.
Waqar Haider, sector leader for
the World Bank Ghana Country Management Unit, called on the
participating countries to discuss and come out with appropriate
measures to mitigate the effects of pollution.
A world Bank statement issued
in connection with the workshop noted that “many cities in
Africa are getting rapidly urbanized, resulting in the
generation of huge quantities of municipal, commercial,
infectious and industrial waste leading to creation of open
waste dump sites, health risks to workers and poor communities
living on their fringes”.
It said the unscientific and
unregulated open burning of waste was impacting urban air
quality and the surrounding environment.
“The health risk associated
with unregulated and informal recycling of electronic waste
and use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining
(ASGM) is creating a legacy of severe adverse and
irreversible environmental health, economic and social
impacts,” it added.
According to the WB, widespread
use of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in electrical equipment
for insulation and in transformer oil is posing serious
challenge in the Africa region.
It is also estimated that 800
tons of mercury emissions are released every year of which 37
percent are from Africa, and 16 percent from the ASGM sector.
The WB says a total of 3.5
million people across the world were at risk of health impacts
in the ASGM sector out of which 2.5 million were in Africa.
It is in light of this
staggering statistics that the WB, in cooperation with the Ghana
Environmental Protection Agency, put together the two-day round
table discussion to identify and engage interested government(s)
and development partners to reduce hazardous waste and toxic
pollution which have adverse health and environmental impacts.
Thirteen African countries,
multilateral and bilateral donor partners, research and
development organizations, local municipalities and selected
private and non-governmental organizations are taking part in
the roundtable discussion.