The Executive Director of Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh has called for a united front to tackle the menace of plastic pollution across the African continent.
Addressing the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN)’s 18th Ministerial Dialogue in Dakar, Senegal, Tarpeh called for a strengthened role of AMCEN and public environmental institutions to collaborate with health ministries across the continent to combat antimicrobial diseases.
He added that plastic waste is considered a nuisance and a major environmental problem, noting it is a growing environmental problem in most of the cities and towns across the continent. Tarpeh informed the delegates at the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA5.2) in March this year, that Liberia has registered its support for the total eradication of plastic waste.
According to him, African ministers need to speak with one voice in ensuring that the combat of plastic waste will require national and international support, regulated frameworks, capacity building, and cooperation to develop national plastic waste eradication strategy.
“African Governments alone cannot do it alone. We need to promote public private-partnership anchoring with the total involvement of all especially youths that form a significant part of our population in cleaning the environment to promote better sanitation, creating jobs in the frame of the circular economy and promoting sustainable development,” he said.
Tapeh said as the continent embarks on a new global framework to phase out the usage of plastic waste, it is important to integrate traditional knowledge into the eradication of plastic waste.
“Our traditional people are endowed with rich knowledge and information that have guided them over many centuries. Incorporating their knowledge and information will ensure an effective and efficient waste management system on the continent of Africa.” he stated.
Strengthening the role of AMCEN
AMCEN is a regional continental body of African Ministers of the Environment that meets every two years to take stock of the implementation of decisions and to inform decision-making on the continent of Africa in protecting, and managing, the environment and promoting economic development.
Tarpeh, speaking on the topic “Implementation of AMCEN Actions and Decisions (Strengthen the role of AMCEN)” paid tribute to the founders of AMCEN, noting they were farsighted and visionary to ensure that Africa speaks with one voice through a body like AMCEN to strengthen decision role in protecting and managing the environment of Africa that is endowed with abundant resources and also challenge with many environmental problems- drought, deserts, desertification, water pollution, plastic waste, wildlife poaching, coastal erosion, and many others.
He acknowledged that Liberia has had some “serious challenges” in the implementation of the decision made by AMCEN, chief among them include the lack of consistency among national expertise attending the experts’ meetings, low budgetary finance for environmental ministries and agencies, lack of data and information, limited expertise and low level of cooperation and limited coordination, harmonization of policies and laws among ministries and agencies among others.
Despite these challenges, he revealed that Liberia continues to make significant efforts in the implementation of AMCEN decisions. Among these achievements, include the establishment of the EPA in 2003, raising awareness of environmental issues, supervising Environmental Social and Impact Assessment (ESIA) in our development activities, developing environmental regulations, standards, and policies, and mainstreaming environmental issues at the national level through the establishment of the environmental working groups.
He named the establishment of a graduate program in Environmental Science, Climate Change, and biodiversity, promoting cooperation and collaboration with development partners.
Speaking on antimicrobial resistance, the EPA boss stated that the Science of climate change has informed the world that there is going to be an increase in infectious diseases, evidence of the recent global COVID-19 disease that led to the deaths of thousands of the population and disrupted global economies.
The global commitment to fighting COVID-19 that led to a gradual recovery program that is allowing us to meet should be a lesson for all; especially Health and Environment Ministers to forge synergy in addressing infectious diseases which sometimes are transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa.
He called on environmental agencies and ministries to form an enduring partnership with health ministries across the continent to combat antimicrobial diseases.
“Whenever the environment is compromised, it affects the well-being of people. Yes, we should not leave the issue of antimicrobial debate only to Health Ministers.”
He said this will be in line with the Libreville Declaration on Health and Environment which calls for working together closely with these two ministries and other participants.
The EPA director further revealed that In Liberia, his institution is actively involved with the one health platform in helping to strengthen the country’s health sector and protect the environment.