By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya
With the support of the United Nations Environment Programme, the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone is currently working towards the development of an integrated air quality and pollution regulation for the country. On 16th February 2022, key stakeholders of government gathered at the Civil Service Training College for a one-day preparatory meeting on drafting instructions on air quality and pollution regulations.
Over the years, Sierra Leoneans have been battling with issues of air quality and pollution as well as constraints of other environmental governance. It could be recalled that air pollution contributes to the death of 5 million people every year and about 6% of the global population, according to ‘’Our World in Data’’. The lethal combination of outdoor air pollution and toxic emissions from burning fossil fuel has been one of the leading causes of chronic and often terminal health issues including heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and lower respiratory infections. The World Health Organization estimates that nine out of 10 people breathe air that contains high levels of pollutants. In 2017, close to 15% of population deaths in low-income countries like South and East Asia are attributed to air pollution, while the higher income countries experience only about 2%.
Sierra Leone is not exempted from the harmful effect of air pollution. Hence, the development partners through funding from the Small-Scale Financial Assistance (SSFA) to support the idea of managing the air quality in the country with the project aiming to address environmental challenges through the law. The project will strengthen the national legal frameworks to address priority environmental issues in an effective and inclusive manner as well as enhance the understanding of civil society organizations, private sector institutions, the media and the public towards environmental legal frameworks especially on rights and obligations and measures taken to strengthen the legal frameworks.
The project will ensure the assessment of the current legal framework, the sources of air pollution and the role of various stakeholders in addressing air pollution; assess the training needs of judges and magistrates, law officers and judicial staff on compliance, enforcement processes and procedures of environmental law and develop training manual on compliance, enforcement processes and procedures of environmental law.
During the one-day stakeholders preparatory process at the Civil Service training College, key presentations were made and Tamba Emmanuel Nyaka, the acting Deputy Director of the Climate Change Secretariat made a presentation on the national circumstances on air quality and pollution as well as what has been done so far by the Environment Protection Agency, whilst Mohamed Abdulai Kamara made a presentation on the World Health Organization’s framework guidelines on air quality and pollution.
Mr. Gibrilla Kamara from the Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Unit also made a presentation on the proposed substantive elements for the air quality and pollution regulation as well as substantive and procedural elements and institutional and compliance mechanisms.
Section 12(f) of the Environment Protection Agency Act of 2008 requires the EPASL to ‘‘issue environmental permits and pollution abatement notices for controlling the volume, types, constituents and effects of waste discharges, emissions, deposits or other source of pollutants and of substances which are hazardous or potentially dangerous to the quality of the environment or any segment of the environment’’.
It could be recalled that the EPA had in the past established National Environmental Quality Monitoring Committees for pollution control; identified and selected monitoring stations/sites, drafted environmental air quality monitoring, drafted Air Quality Standards and Vehicle Emissions Regulations, developed standards in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Standards Bureau on Air, Effluent/Wastewater, Ozone Depleting Substances, noise among others.
After developing the said air quality and pollution regulation, it would be submitted to the house of Parliament for deliberation and approval before implementation across the country.