Pact to protect

Wednesday 15 January 1997

Five African nations join hands to protect a marine system in the Gulf of Guinea

the urge to protect and conserve shared waters, the ecosystem and natural resources within a sub-African region, recently propelled five west-central African nations to enter into a marine pollution pact.

The nations involved in the new joint initiative, which include Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Benin and Ghana, tagged the venture, "Water Pollution Control and Bio-diversity Conservation in the Gulf of Guinea Large Marine Ecosystem". The project is jointly funded by the participating countries and the Global Environmental Facility.

Preliminary work for the new move which was enacted at Abidjan, capital of Cote d'Ivoire which also serves as the base for the programme, has reached an advanced stage.

However, because of the perceived closeness of ngos to the grassroots and the need to use them to create widespread awareness especially among the rural population, they have been persuaded to become involved. Additionally, plans have been concretised to create, in each of the countries, national focal point agencies and institutions to give the programme the required focus. Moreover, the us and the un are also involved in this project.

While the unep will serve as a coordinating agency, the us department of commerce, through its Natural Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will provide technical support, especially in the area of capacity building.

In fact, organisations like the un Educational, Social and Cultural Organization's Inter-Governmental Oceanographic Commission, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Conservation Union are expected to assist in the different levels of programme implementation.

A consensus on the project, which essentially focuses on the Gulf of Guinea which harbours large marine ecosystems, has been reached by the participating nations for providing facilities including pollution and fisheries monitoring. The programme has the following additional goals to accomplish: develop an integrated information management decision-making system for ecosystem management; establish a comprehensive programme for monitoring and assessment of the living material resources and health and productivity of the Gulf of Guinea; strengthen regional institutional capacities to prevent and remedy pollution of the Gulf and associated degradation of critical habitats; prevent and control land-based sources of industrial and urban pollution, and develop national and regional strategies and policies including forging regional conventions and protocols for long-term management and protection of the Gulf.

Although it was concretised only last July, the project is later expected to provide strong links for effective func tioning of the ecosystem. Several west African nations like Togo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon are expected to be a part of the project.

Now the Regional Co-Ordination Centre (rcc) of the programme, located at the Centre de Recherches Oceanographique in Abidjan, is operating to enhance regional co-operation and coordination for laying a solid foundation for the project. A national project office is likely to be established in each participating country, with the Abidjan rcc liaisoning with each office.

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