By Aja Musu Bah Daffeh
Muhammed Leroy A. Gomez, the Senior Program Officer at the National Environment Agency (NEA), on Tuesday, 14th February 2017 highlighted the harmful effects on the use of plastic bags in response to the call being made by the Latrikunda Sabiji market vendors for its ban to be revoked.
He said the reason why some people are asking for the law banning the use of plastic bags to be revoked is because they do not know the harmful effects it has on both human and animal health as well as the environment.
The senior NEA official said the ban on the sale and use of plastic bags took effect on 1st July 2015 and that his agency is mandated to enforce it.
“Before the ban took place, the merits and demerits of plastic bags where looked into by the stakeholders in the span of three years prior to 2015 and the phasing out process was propagated by NEA,” said Mr. Gomez.
The Senior Program Officer noted that countries like Morocco, Bangladesh, Eritrea, Tanzania, and Rwanda and The Gambia have banned the use of plastic bags.
Gomez noted that in The Gambia, plastic bad pollution is causing severe environmental and health damages through various pathways such as in the Marine Ecosystem in which the plastic bags that find their way to water bodies cause the death of juvenile fish and other marine species by entanglement.
He said on land, plastic bags destroy soil structure by reducing aeration and root penetration and therefore threatens soil and crop productivity, adding that plastic bags also cause the death of livestock when ingested thus resulting in huge economic losses to farmers.
“Most plastic waste find their way in gutters (water ways) and cause blockage and subsequent flooding and when plastic bags are burnt, the process of burning releases dangerous chemicals such as Persistent Organic Pollutant’s (POPs). Plastic bags are often misused by putting hot foods like Ebbeh, Café Touba which therefore causes the release of the chemical content (dioxins and furans) of the plastic into the food, hence causing long term health problems such as skin diseases, eye cataract, different types of cancer (mouth, brain, skin, breast cancer, etc).
Mr. Gomez advises that people should have attitudinal change on the use of plastic bags because it will only do them harm and also cause their death, noting the life expectancy in The Gambia is 58 years, therefore, people should be wise to choose to live their life.
He said NEA will continue to utilize the media, including the community radios, in sensitizing people on the harmful effects on the use of plastic bags and its consequences in order to ensure the protection of the country. He also promises that they will send teams to the various markets to educate the vendors on the harmful effects of plastics.