The first regional workshop on chemicals risk management got underway in Gaborone this week, bringing together eight countries that have ratified the agreement that established the Africa Institute.
The Africa Institute is the Basel and Stockholm Conventions Regional Centre for all English speaking African countries. It provides training, capacity building, awareness and information exchange among others. The workshop is organized under the chemicals management program supported by the Swedish Chemicals Agency (Keml).
The five-day workshop has brought together delegates from Lesotho, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa and Botswana.
It is the first of the four that will also be hosted by Lesotho, Mauritius and Namibia.
Delegates made presentations on the situation in their countries and the challenges they face with regards to legal and illegal cross border movements and trans-boundary impacts and are expected to chart the way forward.
“The Africa Institute was established as a regional centre to the Basel and Stockholm conventions in recognition of the fact that technical assistance is required in developing countries with economies in transition in order to effectively implement these conventions,” said the executive director of the Africa Institute Dr. Taelo Letsela.
It emerged that while most countries have environmental legislative framework in place such pieces of legislation need amendments. The other downside, it was revealed, is the lack of capacity to enforce laws coupled with the lack of political will to implement international conventions on hazardous wastes. Delegate Moleboheng Petlane, for instance,┬ásaid Lesotho has outdated legislation.
She also┬árevealed that there was no political will to implement chemical risk management.
Ravindranath Gorreeba of Mauritius told delegates that his country has enacted the ‘Dangerous Chemical Control Act 2004′ that enforces effective control of dangerous chemicals.
Botswana herself has domesticated the Basel and Stockholm conventions.
The Basel Convention, which came into force in 1992, deals with the ‘Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous wastes and their Disposal’. The Rotterdam Convention, which came into force in 2004, deals with ‘Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade’. The Stockholm Convention, which came into force in 2004 deals with ‘Persistent Organic Pollutants’.
“Currently there is an ongoing negotiation on the possible mercury convention. We are pleased that in this workshop we are going to hear from some of the key players in this negotiation process,” said Letsela.
A participant from Nigeria reminded delegates of the 1988 Koko incident in which 888 tonnes of assorted toxic waste from Italy was dropped in Nigeria illegally. He said that taught Nigeria a lesson. To date the country has ratified many international conventions on chemical risk management winning a string of awards along the way for her commitment.
“Countries with similar problems need to work together and share information. Countries with Governments cannot do everything. Most of the work must be done by companies,” said Bengt Melsater of the Swedish Chemicals Agency.