Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Do you care about your environment?

On Saturday, March 23, I switched off my light for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30pm, in accordance with the injunction from Earth Hour Nigeria in order to demonstrate my support for environmentally sustainable action. I am really worried and concerned at the way we treat our environment. So much devastation and plundering are taking place on the milieu. Pollution ranks among the worst enemies of the atmosphere. Air, water, noise pollution is commonplace. The carbon-dioxide being released into the air from gas flaring, generators, cars, and various industrial machines is partly responsible for global warming and ultimately, climate change.   The liquid waste from our homes and industries is also not environmentally friendly. These wastes are toxic and pose great danger to the environment when not properly disposed. Worse off are oil spillages in the Niger Delta either as a result of pipeline vandalising or industrial accidents. They pollute and degrade the environs.  Some people and organisations are in the habit of causing noise pollution.  There are persons who like playing their musical tapes or tuning their radio and television loud. This is environmental pollution. Religious houses and musicians who also blare their music through loudspeakers to the discomfort of their community are also causing pollution. Reckless drivers who turn un-asphalted roads to race tracks during dry season thereby raising dust on humans and environment also cause pollution.
Solid waste disposal has been a serious challenge in many homes in Nigeria. Yes, many people are in the habit of littering their environment but for the few who want to tidy up and dispose their refuse properly they face a daunting challenge.  There are no approved dumps around their vicinity, hence any available open space or uncompleted buildings are converted to dumps. Those who do not have house helps or children to help empty the dustbin either resort to burning such near their homes or patronise the unlicensed itinerant refuse collector known in Abuja as ‘bola’. These young boys collect refuse for a token. No one knows or cares where they empty such when their cart is full. My guess is that those wastes end up in the community streams and rivers. Now, this unhygienic act blocks the water channels and is partly responsible for flooding during the rainy season.
Another unfriendly act against the environment is the wanton felling of trees without planting replacement. This is one of the causes of desertification in Northern Nigeria. This also contributes to global warming. As trees are cut down either to be sold as planks or burnt into charcoals or firewood; all these are inimical to our environment, particularly if new ones are not planted in their stead. Many people tend to dismiss this serious challenge to the environment yet, it portends a lot of danger. Indiscriminate cutting of trees has turned our forests to arid land with potential loss of habitat for animals. The import of this is that it poses a grave danger to food security as desert or arid land is unprofitable to cultivate for farmers due to low yield. Though there are alternatives to using firewood or charcoal for cooking, these alternatives such as kerosene and cooking gas are very costly to poor rural dwellers. Same for the use of metal as a substitute for wood in terms of building. Steel and metals are costlier than planks and wood as building materials; hence, potential builders prefer the latter to the former.
Bush burning, apart from causing pollution, also affects the ecosystem. Soil nutrients are destroyed when bushes are burnt; this makes the land infertile for agricultural purposes and poses a danger to food security. Building houses on flood plains or river banks, digging across roads without proper repairs, stealing power transmission cables, vandalising street lights and several other similar ignoble acts constitute a nuisance on the environment.
As humans care less about the environment, danger looms. We are all at the risk of disasters such as tsunami, flashflood, earthquake, tremor and the likes. We are also exposing ourselves to diseases such as malaria, cancer, meningitis, cholera, dysentery, cataract, and other similar preventable illnesses.
The good thing is that it is not yet too late in the day for all to adjust and do the right thing. Individuals, corporate bodies, non-governmental organisations and government at all levels must rise up to the occasion. At a personal level, we must exhibit the right attitude towards the environment. We need to tender and nurture it. Destroying the ecosystem, causing pollution and blocking the waterways with buildings and solid waste will cause collateral damage beyond the perpetrators.  Let’s save the tree by using less of paper and more of electronic storage devices; use kerosene and cooking gas rather than firewood and charcoal. Let’s conserve water rather than waste it. We don’t have to be compelled to clean up our environment and should stop throwing our solid waste in the drains. We should actively participate in environmental sanitation. In this 21st Century, it is most unfortunate that many households still embark on open defecation especially in sub-urban areas. Every household needs to have toilet facilities even if it’s a pit toilet.  This might look insignificant but it goes a long way to ensure clean and healthy environment.
At the level of government, there is a lot to do to sensitise Nigerians to what constitutes environmental hazards. It is good that there are federal and state ministries of environment. I am happy also that an agency like the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency was established by the Federal Government to enforce all environmental laws, guidelines, policies, standards and regulations in Nigeria, with additional responsibility of ensuring compliance with provisions of international agreements, protocols, conventions and treaties on the environment. To strengthen what NASREA is doing, we need a legislation on climate change. It is most unfortunate that President Goodluck Jonathan refused to assent the bill when passed by the National Assembly in 2010 or thereabout. The bill has been reintroduced at the National Assembly and it is hoped that when passed this time around, the President will deem it fit to append his signature.
Last year, Nigeria experienced an unprecedented flooding that affected about 20 states. No fewer than 363 deaths were recorded with thousands of homes and farmland destroyed while hundreds of thousands were displaced. The Nigerian Meteorological Agency has again predicted heavy rainfall for 2013, how prepared are our various governments?  Have we cleared the drains and other water channels of any impediments? What rapid response measures have we put in place in the event of a natural disaster? Is the National Emergency Management Agency and its state counterparts well-equipped and financially empowered to prevent, contain and provide immediate assistance to those who might be in need. Once bitten, twice shy, is an apt cliché here. It is high time local governments were alive to their responsibilities. Solid waste disposal and maintenance of environmental hygiene are some of the functions of the third tier of government for which they must be made accountable. Let us save the environment to save ourselves.