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Towards Ending Air Pollution In Nigeria

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CHIKA OKEKE writes on the need for collaborative efforts between all levels of government and the private sector to reduce the effect of air pollution on the environment.

According to Health Effects Institute (HEI) and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations (IHME), about 114, 000 Nigerians died of air pollution in 2017.

HEI is an independent, non-profit corporation specialising in research on the health effects of air pollution, with headquarter in Boston, Massachusetts, United States while IHME is an independent global health research center at the University of Washington.

Added to this is the fact that about 3.8 million premature deaths are caused by indoor air pollution annually, with majority of the deaths recorded in developing countries.

However in 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that around 7 million people die every year from exposure to fine particles in polluted air.

The report indicated that such exposure was responsible for diseases such as stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.

Worried by the debilitating effect of air pollution, the United Nations carefully selected the theme of 2019 World Environment Day (WED) celebration as ‘Air Pollution’.

Recall that on June 1972, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) designated June 5, annually as World Environment Day, meant to create awareness on the need to preserve biodiversity and inspire people worldwide to safeguard the environment for posterity.

This year’s WED was hosted by China while other countries including Nigeria commemorated the day by planting more trees and raising awareness on the dangers of air pollution.

Findings revealed that air pollution is an acute problem in developing countries especially in the cities.

In Nigeria, the sources of air pollution include vehicle exhaust aggravated by the increased number of cars, industrial emission especially from petrochemical industries and cement manufacturing companies.

Other sources are use of gasoline generator as a result of unstable power supply, use of fuel wood for domestic purposes and energy for small scale industries.

In line with the global commitment, the Federal Ministry of Environment, European Union, OXFAM, Development Exchange Center (DEC) and CRUDAN joined the rest of the world to kick against poor air quality in the country.

Permanent secretary, ministry of Environment, Mrs Ibukun Odusote, said that its frightening that about 7 million people worldwide die untimely due to  poor air quality, adding that 92 percent of the world population breath unclean air.

This she has caused global economy about $3.5 trillion annually, stating that ozone layer depletion exacerbated the world temperature, with the resultant effects on agriculture, human health and biodiversity.

She said that the theme is apt given the threat posed by pollution worldwide especially in cities with increased number of industries that releases dangerous gases and pollutants into the air.

Odusote,who was represented by the director of human resources in the ministry, Mr Daniang Peter hinted that there is a need to double efforts at community, corporate and policy levels if the world would still be a habitable place.

She stated that the ministry has worked assiduously to make the environment safe and conducive for productivity by creating waste recycling projects in various states.

In addition, Odusote said that the ministry was pursuing the low sulphur policy and ozone friendly refrigeration policy, targeted at reversing the adverse effects of both land and air pollution.

She listed the ministry’s achievements on issues of air pollution as ratification of the Kigali amendment to phase down HydroFluorocarbons (HFC’s) under the Montreal protocol on substances that deplete the Ozone layer in 2018.

Other achievements include the ratification of Minimata Convention on mercury in 2018, ratification of Paris agreement on Climate change, flag-off of Ogoni land clean-up exercise and the ongoing enactment of national policies on plastic wastes and air pollution.

She however appealed to Nigerians to heed the clarion call by halting further release of pollutants into the air, just as she urged individuals to engage in practices that would lead to zero emissions.

The permanent secretary pleaded with communities to dissuade from careless burning of tyres while motorists should ensure that their vehicles are road worthy and do not emit fumes.

Also, the director of planning, research and statistics, Dr Bolatito Obisesan,regretted that its been very difficult to achieve cooperation for air control in Nigeria whose main concern is to provide basic needs such as food, shelter and employment for the citizens.

The director requested for sustainable solutions such as vehicle inspection, enforcement of legislation, effective refuse collection and evacuation, likewise steady supply of electricity to halt use of gasoline generators.

According to her, “The biggest changes and effects Nigerians and all humans can experience from air pollution are not the real damage to the environment but also bad changes in the quality of life and severe issues to human health.”

Obisesan stated that in appreciation of the need for clean air, that federal government put in place several measures for air pollution control in the urban centers such as environmental legislation, establishment of State Environmental Protection Agencies (SEPA) and environmental education.

She said though pollution control has been the priority programme of all levels of government in the country, environmentalists have suggested that controlling pollution would be more difficult in the future.

To guarantee sustainable living, Obisesan sought for the enforcement of preventive measures so as to guarantee safe environment for the population.

She added, “ The world is moving ahead and Nigeria cannot be left behind, so I call on all stakeholders to join forces with the ministry to beat air pollution.”

The country director of OXFAM, Mr Constant Tchona, noted that the ground level ozone pollution was expected to reduce staple crop yield by 26 per cent by 2030, stating that around 3.8 million premature deaths were caused by indoor pollution each year.

He asserted that the majority of deaths recorded from air pollution were from developing countries, even as he called on all critical stakeholders to put resources together in order to beat air pollution by planting more trees.

The country director called on stakeholders to channel resources towards beating air pollution in the environment by planting more trees.

Tchona disclosed that EU and OXFAM introduced a 4-year food security project tagged, Pro Resilience Action (PROACT) targeted at assisting communities battered by insecurity and to address climate change in States of Adamawa and Kebbi.

He noted that PROACT is expected to end in April 2020 adding that vulnerable rural people across the 70 rural communities in the two states have benefitted immensely from the project.

Tchona hinted that PROACT reached more than 48, 000 rural households directly and 390, 000 beneficiaries indirectly with different interventions that is relevant to their needs, as against the targeted 35, 000 households.

Citing example of how PROACT impacted the lives of vulnerable people in the benefitting states, he said that about 350 functional community managed food reserves were built through the project.

He asserted that more than 8, 000 rural households escaped the shame of hunger and were able to sustain their livelihood activities without using any negative coping strategy, as PROACT provided support during the hunger season of June to September 2018.

The country director disclosed that more than 8000 households received the social protection of food aid, while over 1, 400 metric tons of food commodities were distributed on a loan basis to households across 70 rural communities.

He noted that the communities agreed to return close to 800 metric tons of the loaned food commodities into the 350 community food reserves, which he described as more than 55 per cent recovery rate of the disbursed food.

Lending her voice, the executive director of Development Exchange Center (DEC), Mrs Titi Yakubu, sought the creation of environmental clubs in primary schools so as to teach children the need to plant and nurture trees, which she said it’s also a means of survival.

To this end, she enjoined the media to create a platform for enlightening Nigerians on the need to keep the environment clean and plant more trees.

Yakubu called on the private sector and individuals to join forces with government in protecting the environment, adding that there were lots of employment opportunities for youths in waste management.

In his contribution, the director of programme, CRUDAN, Mr Oluwatobi Salawu, pleaded with governments to support Nigerians in promoting good environmental practice.

The expert appealed to Nigerians to imbibe the attitude that could transform the environment positively.

He enjoined governments at all levels  to subsidise alternative energy like renewable energy, solar, biogas and among others in order to reduce emissions and beat air pollution.

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