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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Clearing up Nigeria’s beaches is a community project

Nigeria has the worst level of air pollution in Africa and has been ranked 4th worst in the world. Unless there are changes made, then the rate of fatalities – currently 150 out of every 100,000 people – will continue to rise. It isn’t only the air quality that is a problem in Nigeria; solid waste and waste disposal are also causing extreme issues for the environment.

Bar Beach
Waste products dumped by a Lagos beach

Nigeria creates 32 million tonnes of waste every year, yet only 30% of this waste is collected and processed. Improper collection has led to catastrophe and without the proper allocation of funds to deal with this, the problem is set to continue.

How is waste affecting the beaches?

On the beautiful beaches of Nigeria, the issue of waste is almost insurmountable. The pollution isn’t just causing health problems for Nigerians – it is harming wildlife, particularly turtles that consume more rubbish than food. People dumping their waste is a daily event and the inadequate public waste management systems are not helping the matter.

There is also the epic problem with plastics – 78% of hazardous waste in Nigeria are plastics. They are strewn across the beaches in all forms, bags, bottles and food sachets. The chemicals in the plastics are seeping into the oceans and killing the fish. Local wildlife are ingesting plastics that people have left on the beach and are dying as a result.

What can we do?

Solving the problem of beach pollution in Nigeria has to start at grassroots level – it is down to the individual. Firstly, people must think about their purchases. If you are having a day on the beach, don’t purchase plastic water bottles to take with you. Instead, invest in a reusable eco-friendly water bottle that you can use many times.

Choose beachwear essentials that are free from chemicals. If the demand for plastics is reduced, manufacturers will naturally make less of them. Secondly, individuals must assist with the clean-up operation. It is extremely unlikely that there will be municipal funding to dispose of waste, so Nigerians need to pull together as a community and help.

Kids Clean Up Club

In the Lekki neighbourhood of Lagos is the Kids Beach Garden Project. Every week, local children from the city visit the project to learn about the oceans, the aquatic creatures that live there, recycling, plastic pollution and the environment. The project organises demonstrations, activities and they also work with local fishers to reduce the hunting of sea turtles. Every week, the Kids Beach Garden Project hosts a weekly beach clean up where they scour the beach with rakes unearthing rubbish.

On the shores of the beach they find PET bottles, styrofoam containers, toys, earbuds, lollipop sticks, flip-flops, beer bottles, toothbrushes and discarded nets. Involving the community is the only way of tackling the substantial problem.

Raising Awareness of Beach Pollution

Doyinsola Ogunye is one of the champions of the clean-up project in Lagos. She is an environmental activist that organises groups of volunteers to dispose of rubbish in places like the beautiful Elegushi beach. This massive undertaking however, is sadly a rolling project as people discard more waste of the beaches of Nigeria. Doyinsola says that the key to reducing beach pollution is education and this needs to be done on a community level. In interview she gave a very simple message: “I want in my lifetime to see Nigerians and Africans taking care of the environment”.

The waste pollution that is left on the beautiful beaches of Nigeria is killing wildlife. It is only by taking personal responsibility for the clean-up operation that we can make a difference.

By Cassandra Ally

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