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[NAIROBI] I have no doubt pollution is not taken seriously in Africa given the huge amount of raw liquid and solid wastes discharged or dumped  into our environment often.

Pollution, according to experts, pose massive challenges including on our health by causing diseases such as those that affect the heart, lungs and the brain. All these have negative impacts on populations, especially the vulnerable poor who live in squalor in developing countries and hardly have access to affordable, quality and timely healthcare.

Africa should invest in infrastructure and innovative tools for monitoring waste management.

Sam Otieno

The state of pollution and its consequences on the earth was, therefore, one of the prime issues for me during the 3rd session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA 3) in Kenya last week (4-6 December).

The meeting brought together high-level representatives from African governments, multilateral development organisations and the private sector to debate and develop plans to beat pollution from chemicals and other wastes.

Of significance to me were assertions by the experts that accelerating sound management of wastes could reduce the prevalence of toxic chemicals such as from sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia, insecticides, pesticides and fertilisers.

Jutta Emig, head of division, International Chemicals Safety and Sustainable Chemistry, Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Germany, observed that pollution from chemicals and other wastes does not respect the borders of countries in the world.

“Therefore, the continent [Africa] and the rest of the world need to adopt measures to promote thorough management of chemicals throughout their life-cycle,” she said, citing a need for collaboration among countries.

Listening to Emig made me realise more that pollution could be addressed through promoting business models that take care of the environment and wellness of the people, integrated policies and regulations, multi-stakeholder partnerships, innovations and safe technologies.

“It is necessary that environmental policies, programmes and finances incorporate and benefit from the knowledge and leadership of the most vulnerable people such as women and youths in the developing countries as they face today’s unprecedented pollution challenges,” Emig explained. Africa should invest in infrastructure and innovative tools for monitoring waste management and recycling initiatives, especially in the informal sector to create employment for the youth. From UNEA 3, it emerged more clearly, to me, that innovative ideas such as redesigning products to replace mercury emissions could help promote clean and green environment.

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.