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Sunday, July 3, 2022
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EPA ends regional consultations for the development of air quality and pollution regulations

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

In order to effectively address environmental and health issues relating to air pollution across the country, the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone (EPASL) with support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has ended regional consultations in the South, East and Northern provinces on the development of air quality and pollution regulations. During the regional consultations held in Kenema, Bo, Makeni and Kono, participants who were drawn mostly from government agencies such as city and the district councils, Ministries Departments and Agencies, Civil Society and the media played key roles in validating and making meaningful contributions to the draft framework document on air pollution.

The participants came up with important recommendations which they wanted to be considered during the drafting of the regulations and called on the drafters to incorporate them into the final regulations before they are enacted into law.

Earlier, key stakeholders of government also gathered at the Civil Service Training College in Freetown for a preparatory meeting on the development of drafting instructions on air quality and pollution regulations.

It was noted that whilst other countries have specific regulations or legislations dealing with air pollution, Sierra Leone only has draft standards on air pollution which have never been adopted and enacted into law. This absence of a comprehensive regulatory framework on air pollution has significant environmental and health implications for Sierra Leone, including increase in the decease burden of the country.

Consequently, Sierra Leone, through the Montevideo Environmental Law Programme, approached the United Nations Environment Programme for support in formulating air pollution regulations for the country. This is in line with the initial priority area identified for the implementation of Montevideo V Programme for the Development and Periodic Review of Environmental Law: “legal responses to the air pollution crisis”. Sierra Leone therefore became one of the first countries to respond to the objective of the United Nations Environment Assembly and the global community in addressing issues relating to air quality through the law.  

Air pollution is the contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. Household combustion devices, motor vehicles, industrial facilities and forest fires are common sources of air pollution. Over the years, Sierra Leoneans have been battling with issues of air quality and pollution as well as constraints of other environmental governance.

The Manager for the Legal Affairs, Compliance and Enforcement Department at the EPASL, Gibrilla Kamara, while addressing participants in the regions emphasised that Sierra Leone will not address air pollution in isolation but rather need the “continued collaboration with partners both at home and abroad”. He also mentioned that air pollution does not only pose serious environmental problems but also have serious health implications which required the urgent attention of all countries and Sierra Leone in particular.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and the Executive Chairman of the Environment Protection Agency, the Assistant Director for the Legal Affairs, Compliance and Enforcement, Mr. Tamba Sangba, thanked the participants for attending the consultation workshop. He made reference to the mandates and functions of the EPASL in ensuring that the Sierra Leonean environment is protected for a better future.  He confirmed that the air we breathe is polluted as a result of inadequate regulation of industrial, transport, mining and even some domestic activities which are all causing environmental and health problems to people which must be urgently addressed.  He informed participants that the regional consultations were organized to get and incorporate the inputs of national stakeholders in efforts to address air quality and pollution challenges in the country. He noted emphatically that “there is presently no law on air pollution and air quality despite many industrial and mining activities as well as the pollution of water bodies and the air across the country”.  Mr. Tamba also noted that “if there is a need to charge anyone for violation of the law, there must be a law or regulation to reference but as it stands now this cannot be presently done for any crimes on air pollution unless one has to rely on international instruments which may sometimes have difficult legal interpretations”. In addressing the participants, Mr. Tamba encouraged them to make meaningful input so that Sierra Leone will have a comprehensive regulation on air pollution and air quality in order to ensure a better future for all.

Tamba Emmanuel Nyaka, the Acting Deputy Director of Climate Change said “as part of its mandates as stated in Section 12 of the Environment Protection Agency Act of 2008, 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”.

 Key presentations were made by Mr. Tamba Nyaka and Mr. Joseph Sapunka Turay, Acting Deputy Director of Climate Change and the Assistant Director for Natural Resources Management respectively on the national circumstances on air quality and pollution and what has been done so far and the World Health Organization’s framework guidelines on air quality and pollution. Mr Gibrilla Kamara and Mr. Tamba Sangbah also presented on the proposed substantive elements for the air quality and pollution regulations as well the institutional and compliance mechanisms for implementation.  

After urging all participants to make meaningful contributions, Mr. Sapunka also informed them that the Agency expects the final regulation to be enforced by the law enforcement authorities.

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