People in Sierra Leone are suffering daily exposure to toxic waste and the government needs to do more, a United Nations environmental rights expert warned Friday.
According to a statement released by the UN, the environmental expert says more actions are needed by the government to address the problem.
“Many cost-effective measures are yet to be taken,” said Special Rapporteur on human rights environmental management Baskut Tuncak after acknowledging the steps made towards establishing stronger protections since the end of the civil war in Sierra Leone in 2003.
“I observed severe impacts on human rights from hazardous substances and waste. I witnessed communities in and around Freetown’s largest waste dump - including children and pregnant women - breathing the dark haze of air pollution, drinking, bathing, and cleaning in toxic water, and eating meat contaminated by waste.” Tuncak added.
The UN environmental expert said: Despite the visible evidence, the magnitude of the impacts of hazardous substances and waste on human rights in Sierra Leone remains largely unknown.
“Of serious concern is the lack of reliable data on emissions to air, water and soil of pollutants. It is essential that the government undertake robust monitoring of water and food contamination, air pollution, labour conditions and key health indicators to map priority areas for intervention,” He stressed.
Mining and agriculture needed particular attention, and the government should also ensure that municipal waste, air pollution and chemicals were being properly dealt with.The Special Rapporteur said people were unaware of the contamination levels of air, water and food.
He said the government should speed up the adoption of critical new laws and policies on labour, pesticides and industrial chemicals which had been drafted but had not progressed.The UN Special Rapporteur on environment will present a comprehensive report and recommendations to the UN Human Rights Council on Sierra Leone in September 2018.