24 Sep 2019 Story Chemicals & waste

Eswatini stepping up efforts to curb threat from mismanagement of chemicals and waste

Despite its small size, the Kingdom of Eswatini has a rich natural landscape and supports a high degree of biodiversity. Grassland and savanna ecosystems make up over 90 per cent of the country, allowing for a plethora of different animal and plant species to thrive.

But the country’s natural beauty could well be under threat due to gaps in chemicals and waste management programmes. Industrial pollution continues to threaten the Usushwana River, for example, while urban waste and agricultural chemicals pose a serious risk both to the environment and to public health.

Over the last few years, Eswatini has stepped up its efforts to meet these challenges head on. It has recently established a national Environment Coordination Department under the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs for policy coordination and to oversee all environmental issues including the nation’s waste management. Implementation of waste management initiatives is tasked to the Waste Management Unit in the Eswatini Environment Authority. Eswatini has also ratified the Basel, Stockholm, Rotterdam and Minamata conventions.

In order to support these ongoing efforts, and to ensure chemicals and waste management becomes an integral and sustainable part of Eswatini’s environmental policy, the government has partnered with the Chemicals and Waste Management Programme on a three-year project to strengthen the capacities of relevant institutions, update regulations and facilitate enforcement at the national and local levels.

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Electrical and electronic waste management training of inspectors from municipalities on safe handling and dismantling of electronic equipment to retrieve any valuables for recycling.

The project’s proposed activities include formulating a national policy on chemicals and waste management; developing a five-year national strategy and action plan on chemicals and waste management; reviewing and developing regulations on the control and management of chemicals of concern like mercury; carrying out an assessment on institutional capacity gaps; training regulatory authorities, workplace inspectors, agriculture extension officers and municipal councils; and developing a national database on chemicals and wastes.

Eswatini will also establish an interdepartmental advisory committee on chemicals and waste management, which will be responsible for not only overseeing this particular project, but also implementing and assessing the country’s environmental policy beyond the project’s completion.

There will be a particular focus on capacity-building for the both the Coordination Department and Eswatini Environment Authority – Chemicals and Waste Management Unit, with extensive training carried out among staff at the Waste Management Unit to create a team capable of overseeing chemicals and waste management projects and programmes.

This training programme will include law enforcement agencies, such as the police and army, as well as the justice system, to effectively arrest and prosecute environmental cases. The project will also develop a training manual for law enforcement so that this kind of capacity-building can continue after the project concludes. Data collection and archiving will also be strengthened and relevant institutions capacitated to better manage chemical and waste data and information.

Awareness raising and information sharing will include not just government agencies, but also civil society and the private sector. Through advocacy and information dissemination on sound chemicals and waste management, Eswatini will ensure more effective participation, consultation and reporting under national laws and multilateral environmental agreements.

Since there are differences in the way women and men are exposed to chemicals and waste there is a need to take gender issues into consideration. As such, the project will work to identify the different impacts of hazardous chemicals and wastes on men and women, boys and girls within the context of the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, and use this as a basis for policy and programme implementation going forward.

At the end of the project, an analysis of the effectiveness of activities employed throughout will be conducted. This analysis will continue even after the project concludes at regular intervals, so that key outcomes and indicators set out by the project form the foundation of Eswatini’s chemicals and waste management programme long into the future.

For further information please contact the Special Programme Secretariat at [email protected]