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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Stakeholders in South-West express concern over unabated environmental pollution

A Professor of Immunology at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Arinola Ganiu, was emphatic in his condemnation of unabated environmental pollution, like other South-West stakeholders who spoke in a recent survey.

Mohammad Abubakar
Minister of Environment, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar

According to Ganiu, women with high exposure to oil pollution experience more adverse pregnancy outcomes.

“They are at higher risk of infant mortality and stillbirths,” the professor added in the survey, conducted on effects of oil spills and and other activities that constitute pollutants on the environment.

He said that oil spills increase the risk of low birth weight.

Ganiu also said that exposure to gas flaring, industrial pollution and exhaust fumes emitted into the atmosphere adversely affects health as they contain carbon monoxide which is a poisonous gas.

According to him, prolonged exposure to these pollution agents may result in coughing, breathlessness, asthma and other adverse health conditions.

In his response, a physician, Dr Akinropo Olawumi, said that open defecation constitutes a major public health problem which should be urgently addressed.

Olawumi said that open defecation could easily lead to disease outbreaks like respiratory illnesses, cholera, typhoid, diarrhoea and tuberculosis.

According to him, water supply becomes contaminated with germs and bacteria due to open defecation.

Mr James Olaore, a Director in the Oyo State Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, said that open defecation was a major health and environmental challenge, but added that the government was not folding its arms.

According to Olaore, the present administration in the state is taking the challenge head on by organising sensitisation rallies, constructing public toilets and strengthening its water and sanitation programme.

As for farmers in Kwara State, they say a major environmental challenge facing them particularly during the dry season, is indiscriminate bush burning.

According to them, this not only constitutes a health risk because of carbon monoxide dispersed into the atmosphere, but also economic loss due to farms that are destroyed.

Mr Babatunde Audu, one of the farmers said that part of his farm was burnt recently without him seeing the perpetrators who fled after causing the havoc.

“I got to the farm very early around 7 a.m., but to my surprise, part of my cassava farm has been burnt. I cried and felt bad because I don’t
know who was responsible for such act,” Audu said.

A rice farmer, Mr Ezekiel Obadare, said he was worried because most of the farms around him were burnt already.

“My mind is not settled at all since we are gradually entering the peak of the dry season. We always suffer from this bush burning crisis every dry

“Almost all the rice farms surrounding mine are burnt. It is not good because people don’t just care about others, they only care about
themselves. We suffer a lot during dry season,” Obadare said.

Similarly, Mr Bayo Aina, a farmer said that bush burning had caused havoc in most farms in Kwara.

According to Aina, most of the offenders just set fire on bushes the way they like.

The farmers urged the government to initiate campaigns against indiscriminate bush burning to curb the act.

Also, a professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Ilorin, David Ogunniyi, has deplored the filth in the environment caused by use of non-biodegradable polymers.

Ogunniyi said that though polymer has made improved standard of living which many people enjoy, possible; it has the tendency to become litter since most grades are not biodegradable and they are invariably found in every municipal waste.

The expert listed such polymer waste to include thermoplastics and tyres, adding that tyres constitute the main rubber waste.

Ogunniyi advocated the use of biodegradable plastic, adding that though it is expensive and not yet a commercial success, it does not constitute litter after its content has been used.

In all the states in the South-West, a major environmental challenge facing residents and visitors is noise pollution.

From honking of vehicle horns to blaring music from loudspeakers and even the loud noise of power generators at night due to irregular power supply, residents are daily drowned in the high decibels of sounds around them.

Some residents also attribute noise pollution to some religious organisations including churches and mosques that place loudspeakers outside their premises thereby disturbing the peace of their neighbourhood.

One of the residents, Mr Depo Aina, described religious houses as major source of noise pollution in the country and urged local and state governments to punish offenders.

“Churches and mosques are the main source of noise pollution. They place their loudspeakers in the open for public awareness, and disturb the peace of the neighbourhood,” Aina said.

Dr. Segun Adekola, an environmental health expert in Ogun, said that government needed to check various forms of environmental pollution in the state because of their health implications on the residents.

Adekola, who spoke in Abeokuta, noted that noise pollution, which he described as an indication of urbanisation, had become a menace in major cities particularly from activities of religious centres.

He listed some of the side effects of noise pollution as hearing impairment, sleep disturbance, annoyance and negative social behaviour.

Another environment expert, Dr Olatunji Okunuga, said there had been incessant cases of spillage of petroleum products around Ota town due to frequent accidents involving tankers and barges, as well as pipeline vandalism.

Okunuga who spoke in Ota, attributed the situation to bad roads adding that the spillage often resulted in water pollution which might lead to outbreak of diseases like dysentery and cholera.

He also said that incidents of industrial pollution had continued in the area, particularly at Agbara, because of high concentration of manufacturing industries.

The Permanent Secretary, Ogun State Ministry of Environment, Mr Razaq Ojetola, however, reiterated government’s commitment to checking various forms of environmental pollution in the state.

At Okitipupa, Ondo State, an environmentalist, Mr Gbenga Ikuomola, identified erosion, bush burning and oil spillage as environmental issues affecting the area and other southern parts of the state.

“A problem we face here is the oil spillage which results from the activities of oil exploration companies.

“Oil spillage has made life difficult for most of us in the riverside communities as we can not find potable water anywhere,” Ikuomola said.

He said oil spillage also causes deaths of aquatic animals, destroys the oxygen being released to human beings, pollutes the rivers and makes it undrinkable and unsafe for residents and causes widespread diseases.

Ikuomola appealed to governments at all levels to engage in public enlightenment programmes to sensitise the people on the dangers associated with environmental pollution.

He said government should show concern over the issues and ensure residents are living in cleaner environments.

In Ekiti State, the Commissioner for Environment, Mrs Iyabo Fakunle-Okieimen, said government has not shifted ground on its current war against filthy environment and open defecation.

“It is now an offence in the state for anyone to build a house without constructing at least a toilet under the Operation One-House, One-Toilet,” Fakunle- Okieimen said.

Also, Mr Bamidele Faparusi, the Commissioner for Public Utilities and Infrastructure, said that Ekiti State Government had declared a state of emergency in the WASH sector and initiated a road map to make the state Open Defecation Free by 2022.

Faparusi said government, in its determination to ensure a safe environment, had also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with UNICEF.

He said the memorandum with UNICEF was because of a damning report that Ekiti was the second in open defecation practice in the country.

Faparusi said government would embark on the construction of public toilets across the 16 local government areas of the state, in collaboration with UNICEF to drastically reduce open defecation.

By Razak Owolabi

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