The National Environment Agency (NEA) on Tuesday joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Day of the Ozone Layer at the NEA head office along Jimpex Road, Kanifing. The day was set aside by the United Nations to create awareness on the dangers created by Ozone depletion.
The Ozone Layer plays an important role in reducing harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun from reaching the earth's surface, as it provides a protective shield for plant and animal life. The harmful effects of Ozone depletion include increased skin cancer, eyecataracts, suppression of the human immune system, damage natural ecosystems and adverse impact on aquatic life and climate change.
Addressing the gathering, Madi Jatta, the permanent secretary at the Office of the President, on behalf of the secretary general & head of the Civil Service,and also minister of Presidential Affairs, conveyed His Excellency President Jammeh's relentless support, in his capacity as the chairman of the National Environment Management Council (NEMC), to NEA and other stakeholders present at the celebration.
PS Jatta said the theme for this year's celebration is 'Protecting the atmosphere for generations to come'. The theme he said is apt, for the fact that the world is experiencing a lot of changes due to the refrigerants using and emitting into the atmosphere. He explained that some refrigerants known as ozone depleting substances identified as controlled substances by the Montreal Protocol, when vented into the atmosphere destroy the stratospheric ozone rendering mankind and other terrestrial living things and marine creatures vulnerable to the negative effects of the ozone layer. "Ozone layer exposes us to the ultraviolet B radiation from the sun that increases the occurrence of skin cancer among others," PS Jatta noted.
He however reiterated government of the Gambia's deep gratitude to the Montreal Protocol's Multilateral Fund, managed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for their continuous support. He said : "Due to such support the Gambia is today in full compliance with the requirements of the ozone treaties".
Mustapha Darboe, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Forestry and the Environment, on behalf of the his minister, Fatou Ndeye Gaye, disclosed that this year's World Ozone Day marks the 25th celebration, Silver Jubilee, which he noted, made it a special one. He said that the protection of the earth by generations inheriting it has been a subject of discussion for decades, informally at first by concerned individuals and then formally during the Stockholm Conference in 1972.
"Declaration was reiterated during the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio and the Rio Declaration reinforced the concept of owing a duty to all people both today and in the future as it states that the right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet development and environmental needs of present and future generations," Darboe added.
The permanent secretary disclosed that with the signing into law of Ozone Depleting Substances Regulations by His Excellency, in his capacity as chairman of the Gambia NEMC, The Gambia has successfully phased out all chlorofluoro carbons (CFCs) since 1 January 2010.This he said, the NEA over the years has made tremendous strides in its efforts to continually sensitise and create necessary awareness, capacity building of stakeholders and reaching out to the grassroots on the protection of the ozone layer. "The dedication has resulted in the award of a prize by the UNEP to The Gambia," he said.
"This award signifies the importancegovernment attaches to the well being of our environment, and continually raising the profile of the sector, with its recognition that sustainable development must include the efficient and effective preservation of the environment," he noted.
The permanent secretary therefore encouraged the collaborating partners, including the donor community, to continue to support the sector through improved technical assistance,fund and technology transfer.
Samba Badjie, the programme officer, Ozone Unit, NEA, said the plaque is in recognition of the government's vital role in the protection of the ozone layer for generations to come, which is co-incidentally the theme for this year's celebration. Badjie then congratulated the government of The Gambia on her highly successful efforts to comply with the time-targeted international environmental commitment.
However, the Ozone Unit programme officer challenged the entire management and staff of the Agency to givethe same dedication, energy and resourcefulness as shown for the CFC phase-out to be applied to the new challenge; that is the phasing out of the Hydro Chlorofluoro Carbons (HCFCs). According to him, the Montreal Protocol requires countries to freeze consumption of HCFCs by 1 January 2013 and to reduce it by 10% by 1 January 2015. "This is a big challenge and the 1st target is only a few weeks ahead," he noted.