Pollution: Why Nigeria needs to monitor air quality
It is now almost impossible to move around in many parts of Abuja without having to deal with stench from waste dumps, sewage and human faeces along the streets and highways and emissions from vehicles, other machinery and sources of smoke.
Living within that foul environment, despite being dangerous to the health has become a condition that many have to endure each day.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 12.6 million deaths are attributable to environmental factors each year, highlighting the importance of a healthy environment to the people’s health.
However, over seven million deaths, one in eight is said to be as a result of air pollution which has been described as an invisible killer. This has made experts to settle that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk, saying reducing it could save millions of lives.
Air pollution, according to reports, continues to rise at an alarming rate in the urban areas wreaking havoc on human health. Diseases, which often lead to death, such as stroke, heart attack, lung cancer, chronic and acute respiratory diseases, asthma amongst others, are attributed to exposure to polluted air.
The diseases are prevalent amongst women and children.
WHO Assistant Director General, Dr Flavia Bustreo, in a report stated that when dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations, the youngest, oldest and poorest are the most impacted.
He pointed out the need for more cities to step up efforts to monitor air quality.
Residents spoken to also expressed worry over the bad air they breathe saying government and other relevant agencies still have a lot to do in terms of making the environment conducive for the citizenry.
A civil servant resident in Kurudu, Michael Okunna said breathing bad air had become a routine whenever he stepped outside his house.
“I don’t need to go far to breathe bad air because as I am coming out from my house I have to walk past waste dumps that are smelly and also pass some untidy drainages as well,” he said.
Okunna said such sights were not only found within the satellite towns but also along some major roads due to the position of sewage, such as along Abacha barracks, Jabi and even Area One in Garki.
He however said Nigeria was yet to get to a position where it could provide a conducive environment for its people.
“We need to learn from developed countries on how we can transform our waste to wealth and how sewages are managed without the stench,” he said.
A worker with one of the federal ministries in Abuja who does not want her name mentioned said breathing of bad air was not only when one went outside but also within the door posts of those managing the environment.
She said bad smell from some of the rest rooms was enough to upset one, adding that it sometimes upset her stomach.
She said: “It is really as a result of our bad habit of managing the environment; we dispose waste anyhow, use toilets without flushing, urinate along highways and inhale fumes from generators and cars. We are bound to remain at risk until we change our attitude.”
Daily Trust also observed that waste tanks positioned by some hotels within Abuja are source of offensive odour within the areas.
According to WHO, most sources of urban outdoor air pollution are well beyond the control of individuals and demanded action by cities, national and international policy makers. The health body also called for promotion of cleaner transport system, more efficient energy production and waste management.
The Director General of the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Dr Lawrence Chidi Anukam, said plans were underway to commence the monitoring of air quality in Nigeria.
Anukam said a national programme involving public/ private partnership was underway to control emission from stationary and mobile vehicles in the country.
This programme, according to him, will make Nigeria a safer place to live.
“The flag-off will be done before the end of the year with a pilot test in Abuja,” he said.
The NESREA boss, who described air pollution as a big problem in Nigeria, said the recent WHO report that indicates fatality arising from this plague is adverse and that we can’t allow that.
He said in a move to actualise this programme, a national regulation to drive the process was already in place and that the programme, which entailed periodic vehicle test, involves the establishment of Vehicular Emission Testing Centres in all the states of the federation.
NESREA, he said, would partner with the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO), the National Automotive Council (NAC) and Nigeria Customs Services (NCS).
“It will help us get a good data base for vehicles, factories as well as generators”, he added.
While calling on Nigerians to collaborate to ensure the success of the programme, he said it would lead to attitudinal change and checks would be placed on obsolete equipment that endanger life and safety.
He disclosed that the agency was also pioneering the Extended Producer Responsibility Programme (EPR), a concept where the producer of a product ensures that such is properly recycled, to make sure that the environment is not degraded.
With a recycling plant in Nigeria, he said the EPR has helped to create wealth; the collectors and recyclers have a role to play.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has said that in order to reduce the risk of air pollution, sustainable transportation, solid waste management, industrial emission reduction, use of clean cook stoves and fuels as well as renewable powers needed to be adopted by nations.
Scavengers working on a dumpsite along Mararaba road.