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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Environmental pollution, cause of low life expectancy in Nigeria – Survey

Some stakeholders in the South-East of Nigeria have blamed environmental pollution in some parts of the country for low life expectancy of Nigerians, a survey has revealed.

Bodo oil spill
A fish farmer whose farm was destroyed after the 2008 oil spill. Photo credit: amnesty.org.uk

An environmentalist and university lecturer, Prof. Mike Abaribe of Imo State University, noted that residents of communities with high level of oil spillage are exposed to early death.

Abaribe said that besides low life expectancy, agricultural activities would be adversely affected in any area with high level of oil spillage.

In the case of Imo, the don mentioned Oguta and Ohaji-Egbema as local councils with high level of environmental pollution especially oil spillage.

He alleged that successive governments in the state had not done much to regulate oil spillage and other forms of environmental pollution.

Abaribe said government should enact laws criminalising the use of vehicles and motorcycles with bad exhaust pipes and uncontrolled release of toxic fumes in the air by some factory owners.

A traditional ruler in Awara autonomous community, Eze Okechukwu Ezeala, blamed oil spillage in the community on militancy.

Ezeala said oil spillage became pronounced when some groups of bandits in the area began to bomb pipelines in the disguise of agitation against marginalisation.

Awara is one of the communities in the oil producing areas of Imo with high level of oil deposit.

The traditional ruler said since the militants began their activities in the area, agricultural activities, especially fishing, had been adversely affected.

The Managing Director of Imo State Oil Producing Area Development Commission, Mr Charles Orie, said government was taking steps to check oil spillage in communities under the commission.

Orie said government had also increased level of security for various pipelines to check vandalism by militants.

A director in the Environmental Transformation Agency (ENTRACO), Mr. Eberechukwu Okorie, said government would soon commission its waste recycling industry.

Okorie said although there was a temporary measure put in place by ENTRACO to manage waste in Imo to check environmental pollution, the recycling company would be a permanent solution to waste management.

However, it is understood that there is no law in the state to regulate noise pollution.

In Abia, Mr Gospel Adiele, a native of the oil-rich Owaza community in Ukwa West Local Government Area of the state, said that oil spill constituted the major environmental pollution in the area.

According to Adiele, the menace poses serious health hazard to the people of the community, as it destroys farmlands and aquatic life in the area.

“It has destroyed people’s buildings and means of livelihood, including farmlands and streams,” he said.

Adiele added that the community had written several petitions to the state and federal governments for their intervention “all to no avail”.

Speaking on the phenomenon, Mr Nelson Nwafor, the Executive Director of Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development (FENRAD), called on relevant government agencies “to intensify public enlightenment on the dangers of environmental pollution”.

Nwafor described the spate of environmental pollution in Abia as worrisome.

“In most cases, alleged offenders claim ignorance of the hazardous effects of their actions and the existence of an environmental protection law,” he said.

Nwafor said the development made it imperative for intensive enlightenment campaign on the extant Abia State Environmental Protection Law and appropriate sanctions to offenders.

In Anambra State, Dr Emmanuel Okafor, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment, described indiscriminate waste disposal as the most prominent factor promoting pollution in the state.

Okafor added that other forms of enviromental pollution experienced in the state were noise and industrial waste.

“In Anambra, the sources of waste include noise pollution, industrial waste pollution and activities of an oil and gas company in the state.

“But, the major problem is indiscriminate disposal of waste. That is quite worrisome and the state government is spending about N150 million to manage disposed waste monthly.

“There is Anambra State Waste Management Authority laws which stipulate how waste should be disposed and how much every household should pay,” he said.

Okafor said government was tackling the problems through provision of more waste collection centres and enforcement.

“The government is working to have special management system for medical waste and three contractors have been contacted to manage the three city centres of Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha.

“Pollution of any type is dangerous to health. For example, if it is noise pollution, you will not be able to sleep and that creates fear in people and affects how they react to their environment.

“There is mental problem challenge, psychological challenge and the smoke from burning waste is injurious to the body, they can be carcinogenic,” he said.

In Ebonyi, some stakeholders in environmental management have expressed the need to formulate effective waste disposal management policy to tackle rising environmental pollution in rural and urban areas.

The stakeholders who spoke in Abakaliki described environmental pollution as a “menace” threatening human existence.

They, however, applauded efforts of the present administration led by Gov. Dave Umahi and his urban waste disposal management policy aimed at combating the phenomenon.

An environmentalist, Dr Kelechi Okezie, says that wastes are inevitable consequences of human activities.

According to Okezie, wastes are either by-products of initial production processes or they arise when objects or materials are discarded after they have been used.

The environmentalist is also the Executive Director, Neighborhood Environmental Watch- Foundation.

Okezie says that waste products that cause environmental pollution are more in the urban centres due to high demography in these areas.

He noted that a lot of hazardous waste, either solid or liquid, were released daily and were harmful to humans and the environment.

The environmentalist observed that open defecation contributed to a large percentage of environmental pollution, adding that water bodies, air, and the earth surface, were negatively affected due to the practice.

He commended the Federal Government for launching action to end open defecation in Nigeria by the year 2025 adding that Ebonyi government also launched “Use the Toilet Campaign” to fight the deadly practice.

Okezie said that Ebonyi was rated among the highest, in respect of states practising open defecation with about 1.6 million people without access to toilets.

“The state, in a bid to achieve open defecation free status and contain environmental pollution and degradation, on Nov. 25, 2020 launched the ‘Clean Ebonyi, Use the Toilet Campaign’,” he said.

Okezie noted that mining activities, emissions from industrial activities and carbon monoxide from engines also contributed to environmental pollution.

He called on authorities to ensure that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) signed by mining operators are complied with.

Mr Jonah Egba, Commissioner for Environment, said that his ministry was synergising with line ministries and civil society organisations to tackle rising environmental challenges in the state.

Egba said the state government in 2020 rolled out policies to enhance the environment, saying it had become an offence for mining and quarry companies as well as businesses, not to adhere to provisions of EIA documents they signed.

Mr Emeka Atukpa, environmental activist, said that Ebonyi government had done a lot to enhance the environment through its waste management strategy as well as urban renewal programme.

On environmental laws, Mrs Chinwe Nwuko, Head of Department, Pollution Control Department, Enugu State Ministry of Environment, says the ministry is yet to make laws against environmental pollution.

Nwuko said that the ministry was using regulations and laws made by the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency and the Federal Ministry of Environment.

She said that the ministry through its Pollution Control Department had adopted measures to control noise pollution in the environment, including those from places of worship.

Nwuko said that some of the regulations included but not limited to, those prohibiting places of worship from operating with their public address systems outside their auditoriums.

She also said that the control of noise pollution affected the activities of music vendors and mobile sales promoters.

According to Nwuko, the permissible noise limit during the day should not exceed 60 decibels while that of the night should not exceed 40 decibels.

She said that places of worship, music vendors, mobile sales promoters and others were expected to get a noise permit from the ministry and strictly abide by the terms.

“The ministry ensures that factories establish dumpsters for solid waste disposal and effluent treatment plant for liquid waste treatment before disposal into the environment,” Nwuko said.

However, the Chief Vehicle Inspection Officer, Enugu State Ministry of Transport, Mr Val Chime, said that the state had a law against excessive release of toxic fumes by vehicles.

Chime said that the law was known as “Enugu State Road Traffic Regulation 2014”, adding that violators were liable to a N10,000 fine and the affected car impounded.

The Head of Environmental Health of the ministry, Mrs Joy Nwagwu, said it would be difficult to strictly enforce laws on emission of fumes and smoke from road vehicles into the environment.

Nwagwu also said that certain industrial waste could not be controlled “because even if you use waste/exhaust pipes, such waste will still end up in the air which is part of the environment”.

“For waste like sullage or sewages, they can be controlled by digging a catchment pit with cover slab for the waste water to be collected,” she said.

On open defecation, the Coordinator, Small Town Sanitation Unit, Enugu, Mr Christopher Ogbu, said that such practice could cause water borne diseases like typhoid, cholera, diarrhea and others.

Ogbu said that the best remedy for open defecation and urination was for the authorities to build public water closet toilets at strategic places and offices.

By Razak Owolabi

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