By Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang
The Director of Technical Services Network (DTSN) at the National Environment Agency has disclosed that the Government of the Republic of the Gambia in pursuance of safe and healthy environment for the present generation and posterity has responded positively and shown firm commitments to phase-out the consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) by ratifying many international conventions and protocols.
These conventions and protocols according to Dr. Dawda Badgie include the Vienna Convention on the Protection of Ozone Layer in July in 1990, Montreal Protocols on substances that deplete the ozone layer in July 1990, London amendment to the Montreal protocol in March 1995, the Copenhagen, Montreal and the Beijing Amendments to the Montreal Protocol in June 2003.
Dr. Badgie recently made this deliberation in an opening statement during a two day training workshop for customs and other law enforcement officers on the importance of controlling illegal trade in Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) and the ratification of the Kigali Amendment on HFCs at the Baobab Resort Hotel in Bijilo. This cross-learning dialogue is being organized by the National Ozone Office of the National Environment Agency (NEA) in collaboration with the United Nations Ozone Action programme.
According to him, 197 countries globally ratified the Montreal Protocol including the Gambia, which sets out time schedule to freeze and reduce the production and consumption of ODS, while the protocol requires all parties to ban export and import of controlled substances to and from parties and non-parties to the protocol.
“Life on earth depends on the protection provided by the ozone layer in the stratosphere, which screen harmful Ultra-Violet solar radiation from the sun. In this process, the ozone layer is depleted as a result of the emission of certain human-made chemicals that react and destroy ozone molecules in the stratosphere,” Dr. Badgie lectured.
Removing the face-mask off the refrigerants, Dr. Badgie further revealed that major ODS including Chloro-Fluoro-Carbons (CFCs) are used in refrigerators and air-conditioning; while Halons are used in fire extinguishers and fire suppressant installations; and Methyl Bromide as an ozone depleting pesticides.
Adding on, Dr. Badgie revealed that over 300 refrigeration technicians were trained across the country in refrigeration techniques, handling, recovery and recycling, while over 200 Customs and other security officers were trained on monitoring and control of ODS imports and exports. The officers are provided with skills that will enable them implement the export/licensing systems, and to easily detect controlled substances getting into our country through our entry points.
“According to the UNEP DTIE report of June 2011, Illegal trade on Ozone Depleting Substances indicated that over 20, 000 tonnes per year worth US$150-300 million, equivalent to over 12% of global ODS production.” He pointed out economic factor provide incentives for smuggling of ODS through porous borders into the country.
Dr, Badgie reported that illegal trade has become one of the major obstacles in achieving efficient phase-out of ODS, and therefore called on countries, international organizations and Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) to work more closely to address this issues, and cooperation between enforcement authorities at the national and regional levels also play a very important role in dealing with illegal ODS trade issues. In conclusion, he hammered that the establishment of a compliance assistance programme in 2002 has significantly intensified the efforts of UNEP regional networks aimed to combat illegal trade on ODS.
Alhagie Sarr, ODS Program Officer at the NEA revealed that his agency has been partnering with customs and other law enforcement officers in the protection and preservation of the ozone layer and in the fight to eradicate illegal trade in ozone depleting substances. “Your role in this fight is therefore fundamental for the fact that you control entry points including the land borders, the sea and air ports. Without your dedication in controlling the trade illegal trade, our fight against ODS will be futile”. He informed.
He buttressed the importance to note that that some refrigerants like R22 used mainly in our domestic and mobile air conditioning systems, chillers, blast freezers in fish processing factories, and cold room in hotels do not only deplete the ozone layer but contribute to the warming of the earth and climate change. He concluded that the Gambia witness extreme damage to the coastline and the fact that it is one of the most vulnerable countries to sea level rise should serve as a wakeup call to fight for a better environment.