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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Ghanaian minister urges collaboration among
African countries to reduce pollution levels

By Francis Tandoh, ACCRA, (Xinhua) -- Ghana’s deputy 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 environmental governance.

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.

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