Gaining On The Environment
Industrialisation is central to economic development. Its impact does not only reflect in the growth of the nation’s economy but also in the wellbeing of the citizens. However, these industrial activities are often accompanied by serious environmental degradation which has negative effects on the health of the nation as well as the environment.
Pollution of terrestrial areas, air and water bodies as a result of hazardous wastes deposited on the environment where these industries are located have become a norm and a source of worry in many developing countries. It is against this backdrop that the need for effective waste disposal and a proper legislation on the environment is necessary.
Unlike in developed nations, the African continent has for so long lacked effective waste disposal management and as such industrial waste is often discarded on public lands, in rivers, or in sewers designed to carry only municipal waste.
Furthermore, pollution is almost unchecked in some African countries; some have even become a dumping ground of toxic waste from the western nations. In South Africa, the industrial sector is the major contributor to air pollution. More than 93% of South Africa’s electricity is generated from the combustion of coal containing about 1.2% sulphur and about 45% of ash.
Coal combustion can lead to increase in particular matter in the air as well as contribute to acid rain. While major cities in South Africa do not possess pollution levels comparable to many major cities in China, U.S, India or Mexico, pollutant levels are not insignificant. Nitrogen dioxide levels in Cape Town, for instance, have been found to be significantly higher than those in Calcutta, India, and surpassed the World Health Organisation’s annual guideline for air quality standard of 50 micrograms per cubic metre.
Regulations on disposal of industrial waste abound, unfortunately, enforcement is weak and sporadic. Lagos State, once considered to be among the dirtiest cities in Africa has in recent times undergone massive environmental restructuring and transformation; however, it still faces a broad range of environmental issues. These are mainly due to its industrialised status, rapidly growing populations and high population density, resulting in problems of solid waste management, blockage of drainage systems, soil, and air pollution.
With a large population in a small land-mass area, over 70 per cent of the nation’s industries are located in the city, approximately a million cars on the road daily and about 40 percent of Nigeria’s total fuel used by the its residents. Furthermore, Lagos is estimated to inject about 3 tonnes of lead into the air daily.
In addition, improper or incomplete combustion of waste at the industrial level releases contaminant levels of carbon monoxide and nitric oxide among other harmful oxides. Specifically, research done on Lead levels in Lagos State has shown that the lead from dust in automobile and industrial emissions is being deposited in soils and other ecosystems, and steadily finding its way into the atmosphere, food, drinking water and ultimately into the body system of residents.
Lead particularly is a cumulative poison whose effects include damage to the brain and central nervous system but symptoms may not appear until after several years of exposure.
Other chemical substances which have also been found in high concentrations in the environment include mercury (found in high concentration in Lagos lagoon fish and transferrable to humans on consumption), Zinc, Nickel, Copper and Cadmium among a host of other chemical substances present in pharmaceutical industrial effluents (with the concentrations far higher than the WHO recommended maximum contaminant concentration levels).
Effluents from textile, extraction, construction and agrochemical industries especially are known to be toxic. These toxic substances accumulate in the body and result in a number of health disorders, most of which are often fatal. Other forms of waste are dumped by industries along with household waste rather than being contained, converted or disposed of in a manner befitting chemical waste.
While these industrial wastes have severe implications for human health, they also contribute to global warming through pollution and destruction of the environment. Industrial waste management (especially gaseous emissions) is an important aspect of waste management, which unfortunately, appears to be overlooked by the relevant authorities.
While it is evident that the agencies responsible for waste management (LAWMA) and environmental protection (LASEPA) in Lagos have made commendable improvement in ensuring a cleaner, safer environment, there remains a lot to be done. On his part, Philip Jakpor, Head of Media at the Environmental Rights Action (ERA)/Friends of the Earth International, Lagos, is of the opinion that in spite of efforts, these environmental agencies are not doing enough to prevent industrial pollution.
He asserts that environmental agencies in the state must go all out to educate people so that they can resist pollution and sue organisations that pollute their immediate environment through release of effluents into the atmosphere or communal water bodies. “If you go to some places in Ikorodu, there are companies that dump effluents in community rivers, all you need to do is to go to majority of shorelines and lagoons in Lagos, you will see the volume of waste you have there, most of which are from companies.”
While he declined to speak categorically on whether or not the state environmental protection agencies in the state are doing their work, he said a lot is lacking in terms of education and enforcement of environment protection laws in the state and prosecution of companies which flout existing laws. Jakpor further stated that industrial pollution is affecting more people as a result of situation of a number of industries near residential areas, an action which he attributed to lack of enforcement of environmental/urban development laws on the part of agencies responsible.
On the other hand, Otitoloju Adebayo, an Associate Professor and expert in ecotoxicology at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, posits that the environmental agencies have put up a fairly good performance compared to those in other parts of the country. He argued that while the agencies have engaged in compliance monitoring, there are still a myriad of environmentally-hazardous situations and issues which are yet to be attended to.
The emissions of toxic gases by the numerous industries in the state for instance remains a huge contribution to environmental pollution and apparently is not being regulated in anyway, at least not as effectively as solid waste dumping is being regulated and managed.
“If you look at the totality of what they should be doing, you will see that there is still a lot that can be done. What they have been doing so far is more of ambient monitoring, monitoring the ambient environment, which we may say is better than not doing anything at all, I think to an extent it is an issue of capacity. They do not seem to have the capacity to do some of these things the way they should ideally be done.”
Essentially, therefore, he believes that these agencies need to be better positioned to enable them tackle the problem of toxic waste generation by industries.
The General Manager of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency. Engineer Rasheed Adebola says the agency has set up a standard for Lagos State and the state will start an emission test with the Ministry of Transports in Lagos and hopefully the exhausts from cars will reduce. He said that people are not ready to assist the government when it comes to the issue of environment; “people have this attitude believing that it is only the government that can keep the environment clean.”
He said the environment belongs to all and the future generation and our job is to make sure we have a better environment. As Lagos continues on its way o
joining the top three mega cities in the world and as the number and operations of its industries expand as well as population density, the need for effective management of industrial waste becomes ever more crucial, a city situated within a failing, poisoned environment will be doomed.
Another industrial centre in Nigeria is Kano State known for its industrial activities and has been rated as the second leading industrial centre in Nigeria after Lagos. Though, the state has witnessed a massive decline in its industries and industrial activities, the state can still boast of over 350 large and medium industries. In spite of this, there is still reason for concern as domestic and industrial wastes are reaching a dangerously high level, the soils and water channels are also becoming increasingly polluted.
In spite of efforts by the state environmental protection agency, the Kano River Basin that serves as the main source of water supply to the metropolitan city is also being used as a dumping place for industrial wastes from major industrial estates.
Industries in Africa must be compelled to abide by world environmental standards as they carry out their business. There is also need for use of more up to date equipment, establish proactive maintenance schedules for ageing and corroding pipes that cause leaks. Before drilling commences in an area, a satisfactory and exhaustive environmental impact assessment should be conducted to ascertain the impact of prospecting in the area.
“What if” scenarios must also be developed to proactively study the impact of a spill in the area.
Green-It Front Page
From The Publisher
This is a publication of necessity. For over a decade, this concept has been on the cards. I always knew, we will do it but could not put a finger to its commencement date.
AND THE DESERT ENCROACHES…
The statistics on desertification in Africa is alarming, for most nations of the continent, especially those in North Africa, the “sand” is a feared enemy. In Nigeria, the situation is not much different, the desert is expanding, Lake Chad is a shadow of itself, people are being displaced and pastoralists in search of pasture clash with farmers. If the trend persists, the consequences will be dire. In this report, OluseyiAdegbola examines issues crucial to the fight to stop desertification.
In Bauchi, a state in Northern Nigeria, they drift along the cobbled streets, often barefoot.When the heat of the sun becomes unbearable, they take shelter beneath extended eaves, behind large plywood doors, in shady alleys – anyplace that’s hidden enough but with sufficiently quick access to the main streets where they resume their trade – begging alms when the sun goes down. Their skin is fair, hair curly, and by their features, you could quickly discern that they are not from around here.They are natives of the Republic of Chad, an African country ravaged by war, drought, desertification and famine; they are here seeking to preserve a livelihood which the desert stole from them.
WANGARI MAATHAI- BACK TO NATURE
“The planting of trees is the planting of ideas. By starting with the simple act of planting a tree, we give hope to ourselves and to future generations”.–Wangari Maathai
As a child Wangari Maathai, Africa’s first female environmentalist to win the Nobel peace prize (2004), adored the sites of nature- the hundreds of tadpoles that enjoyed the freshness of the marshy waters in the village, and the green natural expanse. To her, this was perfection as the environment all around exudes the warmth of nature and the peaceable state of Mother Nature.
PERSONALITY INTERVIEW: NNIMMO BASSEY
The state of the environment is at the centre stage of global discourse. Nations are faced with ecological disasters: floods, drought and desertification among other environmental hazards which to a large extent have been accepted as being effects of climate change.
Amidst these tragic events, renowned environmentalist and chairman, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth International, Nnimmo Bassey speaks with Green-IT reporter Oluseyi Adegbola on issues critical to the preserving of our environment.
PERSONALITY INTERVIEW: OMISORE
“Green Building is a must… a government providing mass housing for her people is exercising a social and political responsibility” - Omisore
The state of our environment is a critical issue that deserves the attention of all, government, organized professionals and technocrats. In this light Chief Tokunbo Omisore, the incumbent president of Africa Union of Architects (AUA) bares his mind on related and germane issues. Excerpt:
What is the vision and mission you want to enliven as the helmsman now at Africa Union of Architects, AUA?
First, I was elected President of Africa Union of Architects on the 16th June, 2011, before then I have been Secretary General in the last 6years. The mission and vision I will say commenced 6 years ago as secretary general but with an opportunity now to actualise what have since commenced with other council members to put in place. The aim in my 3 years as the President is to rebrand the African architect and architecture and this hinges on what you can refer to as the architect and her society.
WORLD POPULATION LEAP TO 7 BILLION
According to the United Nations on October 31, 2011 the global demographic projection is now estimated to have reached 7 Billion from the previous 6 billion ascertained on October 12, 1999 that had been increasing steadily geometrically right now at the rate of around 1.10% per year.