Instituted by the United Nations (UN) in 1974, it is celebrated on June 5every year to promote awareness and action for the protection of the environment.
It has, thus become the UN’s flagship platform for campaigning on emerging environmental issues from marine pollution, human overpopulation, and global warming, to sustainable consumption and wildlife crime.
This year’s celebration is on the global theme, ‘Beat air pollution: Together we can’, and Ghana is marking the event on the theme, ‘Clean air: Our lifeline and shared responsibility.’
Addressing participants in Accra yesterday, the Second Lady, Samira Bawumia, said both household and outdoor air pollution was one of the significant contributors to premature death in Africa.
She said emissions from industries, coal plants, bushfires, cook stoves, fumes from cars among others, polluted the air, which resulted in the death of about seven million people globally as estimated by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
As a major environmental health risk, Mrs Bawumia, who is also the Ambassador of Clean Cooking Alliance, reiterated the need for collective action to reduce the release of harmful emissions to pollute the air and promote the use of clean, safe and efficient energy.
“The United Nations (UN) Environment state that one out of 10 deaths is as a result of air pollution. It is a high environmental health risk of our time and we have to all play our part in dealing with it. We must commit to making changes in our everyday life by avoiding actions that cause air pollution and use clean, safe and efficient energy,” Mrs Bawumia stated.
The government, through the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), she said, was in the process of implementing the Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) project to make LPG accessible and promote its domestic and industrial use.
Deputy Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI), Patricia Appiagyei, said the theme was timely for Ghana following report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that 2,800 deaths occurred in Greater Accra in 2015 due to the effects of air pollution.
Appiagyei said release of toxic fumes from open burning of plastic and e-waste as well as car emissions especially in Accra and its environs, contributed to serious health risks within the area.
In this regard, she said the ministry was working with the World Economic Forum and the private sector to implement Ghana’s national policy and tackle the menace of plastics as well as partner Germany to deal with challenges with hazardous and electronic waste.
Mrs Appiagyei said the ministry, through the EPA, would also intensify the enforcement of the environmental laws and guidelines, including the vehicular emission standards to ban vehicles which do not meet emission and efficiency standards from plying the roads.
Acting UN Resident Coordinator, Sylvia Lopez, said this year’s event was a much-needed wake-up call for the world to work together towards reducing the impact of air pollution on health, economies and the planet.
She stated that air pollution was a threat to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as it cost the global economy about US$5 trillion each year.
She reiterated calls on all stakeholders to work together to find lasting solutions to air pollution to protect lives and the environment.
BY CLAUDE NYARKO ADAMS