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Ozone depletion a threat to human health, environment

Dec 31, 2015, 10:16 AM | Article By: Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang

The National Environment Agency (NEA) is conducting series of trainings on the detection and management of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) for customs, police, immigration officers, NIA and other stakeholders throughout the country.

The training on ODS related issues is in line with The Gambia government’s commitments to phase out the importation and consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances as enshrined in the Montreal Protocol of 1987 which The Gambia is a party.

The training avails the trainees the opportunity to gained the required knowledge and skills on ODS detection at borders, use of identifiers and safety procedures in handling the chemicals.

Delivering the opening statement at the two-day training workshop recently held at the governor`s chamber in Brikama, the Governor of West Coast Region Aja Sifaye Hydara challenged the participants to take responsibility in protecting the earth from substances and activities that depletes the ozone layer.

Governor Hydara further disclosed that the Government of the Gambia, in manifestation of its firm commitment to phase-out the consumption of ozone depleting substances, has ratified the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol in May and June 1990 respectively.

She disclosed that ozone depletion poses a serious threat to both human health and the environment, and therefore all hands need to be on deck to refuse the entrance of the banned substances into The Gambia.

She said there is no need for complacency as there exist a high possibility of illegal smuggling and trade in Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) thereby posing a big challenge to curb the menace.

Furthermore, she revealed that the Ozone Layer which protects life on earth from Ultraviolet B Radiation is a very important resource for mankind and others living things on earth.

“This radiation from the sun reaches the earth as a result of the refrigerants we use in our air conditioning systems, refrigerators and in fish processing factories.

These refrigerants do not only deplete the Ozone Layer but contribute immensely to the warming of the earth and the atmosphere that surrounds us”.

Governor Hydara noted that a Depleted Ozone Layer leads to the increase in skin cancer, suppression of immune system, and reduction of crop yields and marine creatures like fish.

Speaking earlier, NEA`s senior programme officer, Aji Binta Kinteh, said that the Government of the Gambia ratified the Montreal protocol in 1990.

He said His Excellency, Sheikh Professor Alhagie Dr Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh signed into law the Ozone Depleting Substances Regulations in his capacity as chairman of the Gambia Environment Management Council.

The move led to the successful phase-out of all Chloro-Fluoro-Carbons (CFCs) from the Gambia by 31 December 2010 thereby decreasing the chances of Ozone Layer depletion.

In a bid to ensure that CFC phase-out is sustained, she said the National Ozone Unit of the National Environment Agency with support from the United Nations Environment Programme has facilitated the formation of Refrigeration Technicians Associations in seven regions of the Gambia.In addition, 1,000 refrigeration technicians and hundred customs and other security officers have been trained and certificated.

She further added that the refrigeration associations have also been provided with modern tools and equipment for the recovery of Ozone Depleting Substances as well as the retrofitting of old refrigeration appliances with Ozone friendly refrigerants.

To ensure a continuous monitoring of illegal trade of banned refrigerants, major customs entry points across the county have been supplied with refrigerant identifiers to test any suspected refrigerant canisters.

Alhagie Sarr, ODS co-programme officers at the NEA, called on the participants to take up the training seriously as there is a need for both local and international efforts in saving the ozone layer from depletion.

The world being a global village, he said, the contribution from the security fraternity would no doubt be the greatest factor in reducing ozone depletion.

Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang, NEA`s environmental education and communication officer, said nature is at conflict with mankind.He appealed to participants to use their known talents and skills to detect, deny entry and or confiscate banned refrigerants into The Gambia.

He said sensitisation and awareness creation using different media outlets to reach out to the grassroots on the protection of the ozone layer and the atmosphere as a whole throughout the country, including primary and secondary school schools is ongoing.

By the end of the training, according to Sanyang, participants are expected to clearly understand what ozone and ozone depletion is all about.

They would also understand the reason that they must join the rest of the world to protect the ozone layer by not allowing entry into the country substances that depletes it.