Samira Bawumia

Mrs Samira Bawumia, the Second Lady, has called on Ghanaians to commit to making changes and decisions that will positively impact on the environment and make it safe for all.

She said as Ghana joined the global community to celebrate World Environment Day this year, people could improve on their lives by using clean, safe and efficient cook stoves that could reduce exposure to harmful emissions.

“Let us strengthen synergies to ensure that cooking no longer kills” Mrs Bawumia said during the observance of World Environment Day marked in Ghana on Thursday.

The Day, which fell on Wednesday June 5, but marked in Ghana on Thursday  was on the global theme: “Air Pollution”.

However, Ghana, observed the day under the local theme:  “Clean Air, Our Lifeline and Shared Responsibility”.

The day is set aside by the United Nations to create awareness to remind the world of their mandate as the custodians of the earth, and their obligation to protect the environment.

Mrs Bawumia said being an Ambassador for the Clean Cooking Alliance, and a passionate advocate for issues of the environment and its impact on health, she saw the occasion as an importance one, as it encouraged global awareness and action for the protection of our environment.

She said air pollution and its effect on health remained a major challenge, particularly in parts of Asia and Africa, while indoor and outdoor pollution were currently the most significant environmental contributors to premature death in Africa, outpacing that of malaria and HIV.

The UN Environment also states that air pollution causes one in nine deaths and that it was the most important environmental health risk of our time, she said.

She quoted a WHO report which indicated that globally, seven million people die every year due to the combined health effect of both Ambient Out-door and Household Air pollution.

Also, 97 per cent of cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants in developing countries did not meet WHO air quality guidelines.

The Second Lady said in Africa, air pollution was not easily quantifiable due to the lack of monitoring devices and stations. Many countries also lacked quality standards that made it difficult to know the exact degree of air pollution.

She, therefore, expressed the happiness that as part of the celebration, Ghana would be launching its Air Quality Standards later in the day, and emphasized the need to put quality data collection and assessment systems in place “so that we can plan and monitor progress.”

Madam Patricia Appiagyei, Deputy Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, said the theme was apt and timely, in the context of the current state of our environment; “when we are informed by our own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that 2,800 preventable deaths occurred in Greater Accra alone in 2015, due to the effects of Air Pollution.

She emphasised that the effects of air pollution must be a worry to all of us, since the WHO estimates, air pollution as being responsible for about 25 per cent of all adult deaths from stroke, 24 per cent of from heart disease, 43 per cent from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29 per cent from lung cancer.

She said many Ghanaians still relied on solid fuels such as charcoal and wood for cooking in open fires and leaky stoves, both indoors and on our streets by food vendors.

“Therefore, it is very important that as we celebrate World Environment Day today, we entreat all stakeholders to support the call to control emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere to reduce these health hazards. By so doing, we also help to prevent global increase in temperature due to climate change”, Ms Appiagyei stated.

Professor Alex Dodoo, Director General of the Ghana Standards Authority, said the Authority had partnered EPA to come out with national standards that would protect public health and the environment.

In all, the Authority had published and notified in the national gazette seven environmental quality standards

“These environmental standards cut across various subject areas such as vehicular emission, noise control, effluent discharge, air quality and point source/stack emissions and conformity assessment standards (test methods).

Source: GNA