Liberia Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have concluded a two-day technical gender participatory training for environmental inspectors and focal points from line government ministries and agencies on the general concepts of environmental monitoring, awareness, climate change and environmental management and compliance with the aim of empowering them tackle environmental pollution and abuses across the country.
The training which ran from August 17-18, 2020 in Gbarnga, Bong County was held under the auspices of the Cross Cutting Capacity Development (CCCD) Project funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Trust Fund or Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF), the United Nations Development (UNDP) TRAC resources.
The project seeks to provide support to the Government of Liberia to strengthen national capacities to meet global environmental obligations with the framework of sustainable development priorities.
The CCCD Project has four components including the establishment of an integrated environmental knowledge management system (EKMS); enhancement of institutional and technical capacities for mainstreaming; improving awareness of global environmental values; and updating the National Capacity Self-Assessment (NCSA).
The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning co-supported the two-day training workshop.
The training covered several topics including ‘The Mandates and Functions of EPA’, the ‘Roles and Responsibilities of Environmental Officers: Powers and Duties of Environmental Inspectors’, ‘Environmental Social Impact Assessment: An overview of the Environmental Protection Standards Guidelines and Procedures’, ‘Harmful Environmental Practices: Enforcement and Control Right’ and Responsibility to a Clean and Healthy Environment’.
Aaron Wesseh, CCCD Project manager said the training was necessary to maintain the pace of emerging environmental challenges and bring to speed environmental compliance of project proponents for the sustainable implementation of projects across the country.
According to him, the EPA currently has a capacity gap and cannot effectively carryout its mandate as provided for in Section 24, subsection 1 of the Environmental Protection and Management Law of Liberia (EPML) which mandates the agency to in consultation with relevant line ministries, monitor all environmental elements connected to project activities with a view of determining immediate and long-term environmental impacts.
He however acknowledged that the two-day training has enhanced the capacities of environmental focal points and inspectors to effectively monitor and report on environmental activities within ten counties where EPA has sub-offices.
The offices in the ten counties are controlled by environmental inspectors or focal points that are sometimes authorized to monitor EPA permitted projects in the counties.
He further noted that the training helped participants understand certain basic concepts, knowledge, and topics on climate change, environmental management, the roles and responsibilities of the EPA, among others.
Speaking at the start of the training, Prof. Benjamin S. Karmorh, coordinator Multilateral Environmental Agreements said considering the task assigned to the EPA it was important that environmental inspectors meet once a while to take stock on progress made and what it intend to pursue.
He said since the establishment of the EPA in 2003, environmental reporting has been a cardinal work of the agency and disclosed that last month the EPA validated the State of the Environment Report, which provides comprehensive information as it relate to the state of the environment in Liberia.
“Today, we are here under the auspices of the CCCD Project that is being implemented by UNDP and executed by EPA. We are here trying to take stock of what we have been doing the past 15 years,” he said.
He lauded participants including representatives from the ministries of Mines and Energy, Gender and Children Social Protection, Agriculture and Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and regretted the absence of EPA Acting Executive Director Randall M. Dobayou who was attending other pressing matter on behalf of the agency.
Frances Browne Seydou, manager for Intersectoral was glad that the training was possible following months of a lockdown caused by COVID 19 and called on environmental inspectors and focal points from line ministries and agencies to fully participate in the training.
For her part, Atty. Salimatu Lamin Gilayeneh, energy and environment coordinator at the EPA hopes that participants will utilize the training by implementing what will be taught during the duration of the training.
She asked participants to follow safety measures put in place by the Ministry of Health and noted “it’s important that we follow all of the safety procedures and guidelines because it is for everyone sake since COVID is real.
“We have to protect ourselves and others, the female lawyer emphasized.
Atty. Gilayeneh disclosed that the training was planned for last year but got proponed due to some issues including the outbreak of COVID 19.
She also pleaded with participants to build new networks with people from different institutions and organizations.