IFCS/EXP.POPs8-28 May 1996
Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety
Secretariat: c/o WHO, 20 Avenue Appia, CH-121 I Geneva 27, Switzerland. Tel: 41 22 791 3581/3596. Fax: 791 48 75

Country Experience:

The Constraints in Managing the Pathways of Persistent Organic Pollutants into the Large Marine Ecosystem of the Gulf of Guinea--The Case of Cameroon

17-19 June 1996
Manila, Philippines

Prepared by: CAMEROON

By DUDLEY ACHU SAMA, M Sc, Senior Engineer Energy/Environment, and National Focal Point to the IFCS Ministry of the Environment and Forestry (MINEF/DE)
17th Floor, Immeuble Ministeriel No 2, Yaounde, Republic of Cameroon, West Africa
Office Tel. and Fax: (237).22 94.84, (237).23.92.3l, Private Tel. and Fax (237).22.66.85

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Cameroon is situated along the coast of West Africa, it has a population of 13 million inhabitants, and depends on agriculture and oil industry for the formation of its gross domestic product. It is also one of the five countries whose coasts form part of the Gulf of Guinea Large Marine Ecosystem (LME). Its coastal line stretches for 1,500 km, while its territorial waters extend over 35,000 km2 . The maritime coast is rich with a variety of fish and plant life such as mangroves which however are exposed land and air pollution generated by agriculture and industry.

It is estimated that 40,000 metric tons of fish are caught annually (from inland and coastal waters) of which about one third is exported. This activity accounts for about 50,000 jobs, of which 34,000 are artisanal.. The maximum sustainable yield (MSY) of fish is about 35,000 tons/yr. In 1994, the export of fish to Europe was worth US$ 60 million, with 74% of catch accountable to the activities of 12 industrial scale fishing companies. Furthermore, mangroves, the natural habitat of a variety of marine fauna life covers a total surface area of 1,000 km2, of which 35 different species have been identified, with the main specie being the rhizophora spp.

About 95% of Cameroon's industry lie along the coastal town of Douala (the economic capital and most populous town in Cameroon) and reject all of their liquid wastes into urban drainage network which in turn is emptied its contents into the Atlantic ocean, without prior treatment. Out of these industries, less than 10% operate and own waste water treatment facilities, and they do so under different standards.

Institutionally, pollution control is dispersed among many Government departments, with little coordination. "Command and-control", in which enforcement is weak, and could be expensive, if widely applied. No national legislation which covers all the aspects of environmental protection exists, as well as sensitization. On the other hand, it is signatory to many international conventions such as the MARPOL, the FAO on pesticides, Bamako convention on the prevention of importation of hazardous wastes, etc., and is still party to the negotiation of other conventions and guidelines, recently the one to implement the PlC procedure in international trade of dangerous chemicals and pesticides. However, it hasn't adequate financial, and managerial capacity to enforce the conventions.

Recent studies show that there has been a steady increase in the destruction of marine life (decreasing fish and mangroves population, in particular), due to pollution from the sources cited above. Among the main contributors to the sources of pollution, heavy metals, pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyl's (PCB) which are persistent and bio-accumulate in food chains. The origins of the above POPs are discharges from the electroplating and oil refinery industries, pest control in cocoa, coffee and banana plantations, and waste organic oils from land transport, process industries and power generation.

The aim of this paper is to present the Constraints Cameroon is facing in the management of POPs which find their 'way into marine environment and contributes to the destruction of the said environment, and responses, policies and mechanisms that can be enlisted to arrest the situation in View to protect the LME from pollution of POPs and enhance economic and sustainable development. The marine ecosystem of Wouri estuary in Douala, the country's main port and industrial town, a confluence of three rivers that drain into the Atlantic ocean has been presented for Purpose of discussion.


Location and Demography

The countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea are Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo,. Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome and the Principe which in reality is an island in he Gulf of Guinea. Together, these countries consist of about one third of the total population of Sub-Sahara Africa (SSA). Nigeria for example, has a population of 107 million people projected to each 157 million in the year 2000 and 286 million by 2025. Ghana has the second largest population estimated at about 14 million and projected to reach 20 million and 35 million in the year 2000 and .025 respectively. The population of Cameroon and ivory Coast are currently estimated at about 12 million each and projected to increase to about 18 million in the year 2000.

At country level, there has been a remarkable increase in the population along coastal cities and towns. In Ivory Coast, it is estimated that approximately 2 million people live in the urban metropolis of Abidjan. with and annual urban growth of 5%, the population of Abidjan is expected ) be about 8 million in the year 2025. In Nigeria, the population of Lagos is about 7 million. In Cameroon, Douala which is situated on the Wouri estuary is the largest city with a population of about 1.4 million. In Ghana, Accra and its metropolitan area has a population of about 1.6 million ~d it is expected to increase to about 4 million by the year 2020.

common with other developing countries (DCs) in the continent, the countries bordering the Gulf, industrialization and export of primary agricultural goods and raw materials along the coast saw impressive growth between 1963 and 1973. both import substitution and export oriented industries ere promoted by Governments. industries established include inter alia industries producing beer, textiles, edible oils, fertilizers, leather and leather goods, aluminum, oil refineries, etc. The contribution of industry to GDP, which was about between 8 to 14% in 1960 in most countries rose about 14 to 2O% by 1970 and to 17 to 25% by 1977.

Marine resources

The Gulf of Guinea is rich with marine life and well endowed with fisheries (deep sea and coastal). It is estimated that some 1 million metric tons of fish are caught annually of which about one third is exported. In addition, invaluable species of other animal and wild life are known to exist in the sub region. Extensive mangroves, primarily Rhizophora spp. occur long the coast and constitute critical habitat for many crustaceans, molluscs, fish and birds. approximately 6.5 million hectares of mangrove forest exist off the coast of Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, ivory Coast and Ghana. Even though mangroves provide critical spawning grounds for numerous species of fish, including many important commercial species, Africa has few conservation reserves to protect its mangroves, and these can rapidly disappear, which makes mangroves preservation an important global consideration.

Main sources of marine pollution by POPs

The rapid growth in the sub region also led to an increase in the volume and diversity of industrial wastes which are being discharged without treatment into rivers, lagoons of the Gulf of Guinea, thereby threatening marine environment and human health. The main Sources of pollution by POPs are industry, agriculture, to a lesser extent, municipal wastes.

It is estimated that over 60% of the existing industries are in the coastal cities and towns. Apart from manufacturing industries, solid mineral mining and oil drilling and petroleum refinery are major causes for surface and underground water pollution and ecological degradation.

Due to fast urbanization, municipal sewage with high organic loads (in some cases BOD of 22,400 mg/Kg) and in most cases without sufficient treatment is discharged into the Gulf. In the background, in most cities, population access rate to sewerage system and ownership of septic tanks are at 30% and 45% respectively.

Export of agricultural produce such as coffee, cocoa, bananas, palm oil, cotton, etc., arc on the rise and more land is cultivate for this purpose. The production of these crops implies the application of imported pesticides and fertilizers. For example, in Cameroon, the main types of fertilizers applied contain urea, ammonia, and phosphorous. Most pesticides applied are DDT and other derivatives of organohalogens such as aldrin and dieldrin, toxaphene.

Oil spills and occasional catastrophic oil blowout have released thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf Though the exact total discharge is unknown, the quantities spilled so-far have created problems ranging from the contamination of beaches and physical infrastructure of ports, destruction of sea birds, to the killing and contamination of marine life resources such as mangroves. In fact mangroves are very fragile to oil pollution.


The institutional framework

Historically, pollution control is an activity that is legislated upon and controlled by Government. Most countries in the sub region are signatories to international conventions, though few have ratified, on the protection of the marine environment. For example, most of the countries in the Gulf are signatories to the London and MARPOL conventions against the pollution of the seas by ships, local enforcement is weak due to lack of financial resources, equipment and personnel. Even when the international convention on the PlC procedure and the action plan on POPs would have been signed by DCs, very few will be in a position to implement them at their local levels, for reasons already stated.

The institutional framework on environmental protection in general are still in their embryonic stage, some and one notes the multiplicity of government departments involved in pollution control matters, by the use of the "command and control" approach. Compared to economic incentives, this approach is ineffective and expensive to enforce. Because polluters can pay for pollution charges (calculated out of the basis of opportunity cost of forgone or destroyed resource), the incentives to prevent pollution is absent. Pollution monitoring is a recent event in most countries, and even where it is undertaken, the foreign standards are applied. Most industries found in the Gulf area do not operate the minimum pollution control measures nor own abatement infrastructure, and in cases it is found, there operate out of universally acceptable standards. High pollution loads of heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium have been registered in some beaches, due to continuous deposition over the past years.

Monitoring of Marine pollutants in Cameroon : The case of POPs in the Wouri Estuary

In the main coastal port of Douala in Cameroon, recent studies on the evolution of POPs in the Wouri estuary since 1992, show increasing loads of mercury and lead deposition at the beaches,

while the influx of chemical wastes such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) such as benzo(a) pyrene, benzo(k)fluorantane, etc. are on the increase. the possible sources are waste oils from process industries, cold deposition of exhaust gases from vehicles and power stations. PCB loads of upto 210 mg/Kg have been registered in inland water courses, found 50 miles from major power stations employing them. It is highly probable that leaching due to poor disposal on the soil is the main reason. Other POPs are benzene and its derivatives such as xylenes, phenols, which originate from oil refinery and discharges from some plastic and paint industries.

Importation of DDT and other organohalogens increased from 548 metric tons in 1980 to 719 metric tons in 1994, i.e. annual growth rate of about 1.8%. Due to wrong handling methods, such as poor packaging, transport and storage, use by industrial plantations, spillage in the order of 15% of total purchase quantity have been recorded. Since most plantations and farms lie along water courses which in turn drain into the Wouri estuary, the apart from pollution of underground aquifers, food and surface waters, pollution of the Gulf by pesticides and fertilizers is considerable.

Other air pollutants which are POPs degrading into Dioxins such as TCDD-2,3,7,8 and Furans such as TCDF.2,3,7,8 originating from uncontrolled incineration of municipal wastes have not been monitored, however, one 'would expect that, these should be on the rise in urban towns, given the refuse collection and disposal are still problematic, and daily par capita discharge load in Douala is about 180 Kg, of which 48% is solid) with 22% being plastics.

So far, continuous monitoring of pollutants in the marine environment is absent, though a few industries under the obligation of reporting industrial activities to government departments1 monitor the concentration of their liquid discharges on a monthly basis. The major variables monitored are pH, salinity, turbidity, BOD, COD, TSS, etc., without undertaking measures to reduce pollution loads.

Impacts on the marine environment and human health, and socio-economic

POPs are also known to bio-accumulate in food chain, and cancerous, also impact negatively on 'human health. Few studies have been undertaken on the impacts on human health. However, as concerns marine environment: the major conclusions from IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) study on mangroves in Cameroon in 1991, show; (i) decrease in fish population (about 15% per year) either due to migration, deaths or over harvesting, (ii) 2,6% annual decrease in the surface area covered by mangroves, particularly in zones near to oil refineries and oil driIling activities, (iii) high content of Tri-Butyl Tin (TBT is an anti-algae paint used in shipyards) in the flesh of molluscs, and reduction in the harvest of crustacea.

The per capita consumption of fish in Cameroon is 18 Kg/yr., of which 39% depend on coastal harvested marine fish. Fish contributes to 44% of protein intake in the general population. The 'crease in concentration of POPs in fish is therefore dangerous to human health. Secondly, the economic loss is enormous about 4,500 tons/yr., which is valued at about US$ 5.85 million at local prices today (1 M8 fish US$ 1.30). It is equivalent to about an annual loss of 7,500 jobs in the fishing industry.

The marine environment and human health are exposed to unsustainable practice of industrial and agricultural production in the region, and in face of increasing population the damage will become visible potential in the next few years, if no measures are taken now. A regional effort to manage pesticides and other persistent pollutants must be adequately addressed immediately.


The growing need between coupling economic growth with sustainabledevelopment

It has been noted that the institutional framework of environmental protection in general, and pollution prevention in particular is still weak in the sub region Governments are still embarked in the traditional approach of "command and control" when dealing with pollution matters. The are ineffective, arid expensive to enforce, particularly in the absence of standards and equipment. Secondly, in a trend of globalisation of the world economy, competition in tradable goods is getting more related to environmental quality, and sustainable development is now the major concern of nearly all domains of the world economy. Countries in the LME area must therefore overcome challenges currently faced with depletion of marine resources, which constitute an important segment of their trade, and embrace measures to regenerate the resources and promote Sustainable economic growth.

At national level, because the coastal marine of Cameroon forms a continuum of the Gulf of Guinea LME that is also exposed to transboundary pollution from other countries in the area through ocean currents of the Atlantic Ocean that converge along Cameroon's coastline. To conquer the growing challenges arising from the increase in POPs, concerted action is needed to prevent pollution of the large marine ecosystem by enlisting the following response, policies and mechanisms, 'which are less capital intensive, and proven in other countries, should be addressed.

a) Response strategies

(b) Policies and Mechanisms

Finally, given the common links between the Bamako and the Basle conventions, on the control and the transboundary transport of hazardous substances and wastes, of which African countries are not party to the first convention, and are unable to execute the second convention due to financial difficulties, there is an urgent need for the IFCS to assist the UNEP and the FAO to merge the two conventions, and elaborate a single workable convention.