Pol­lu­tion: Why Nige­ria needs to mon­i­tor air qual­ity

Daily Trust - - EN­VI­RON­MENT - By Chidimma C. Okeke

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.

Photo: Ikechukwu Ibe

Scavengers work­ing on a dump­site along Mararaba road.

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