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40-year-old Refuse Heap Causing Health Hazards In Karimo



TUNDE OGUNTOLA writes on the need to evacuate the over 40-year old heap of refuse dumpsite which has led to untold health challenges for Karimo residents.

Improper waste management has negative impact on both the environment and public health. Illegal waste disposal results in soil, water, and air pollution.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), inadequate disposal of or untreated waste may cause serious health problems for populations surrounding the area of disposal.

This is also as leaks from waste sites tend to contaminate soil, underground water, streams, and produce air pollution through emissions of heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), ultimately creating health hazards.

People exposed to hazardous waste are prone to serious health challenges, more so for children who are considered more vulnerable. Direct exposure can as well lead to diseases through chemical exposure as the release of chemical waste into the environment leads to chemical poisoning to underground water.

This is the situation residents of Karimo, a suburb in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja live with. Findings by LEADERSHIP Sunday reveal that Karimo residents have cohabited with a mountain of refuse dump said to have been generated for over 40 years. Interestingly, the dump keeps increasing by the day daily.

Investigation also reveals that inhabitants of dingy settlement have suffered untold health challenges from the many resultant effects of the cone-like heap of the refuse even as the site has become some sort of public toilet. A large number of dwellers who do not have toilets in their compounds resort to defecating near the site.

One of the residents said they have suffered from diseases like cholera, diarrhoea to frequent malaria and typhoid fever due to the dirty environment and lack of drinkable water.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP Sunday, Ocheke Amos who said he has lived in the community since 1995 said the refuse dump has been growing every year since he relocated from Barkin Ladi to Karimo.

“I have watched it grow to become the tallest structure in this community.

“A good example of the effect of this dump is the difficulty we face when washing, you will have to use a very large amount of detergent to get a foam with the cloths ending up smelling after wash due to the presence and effects of the dumpsite. Water also is a major issue for us here,” he lamented.

Another resident, Mrs. Veronica Ibrahim said children in the community often get seriously sick from the pollution from the dumpsite.

She said some of the children die while on the way to the hospital.

According to her, ‘’I have watched this dumpsite grow on a daily basis since we relocate to Karimo 10 years ago. It is so sad that our children get seriously sick due to the pollution caused by this dumpsite while some die. We will be glad if the government can evacuate the dumpsite for us. Solid waste management is a major environmental challenge to us in the country.’’

Secretary to the Mai Angwa (local Chief) Mr. Solomon who said he grew with the dumpsite since his birth in 1983 disclosed that there have been many attempts and promises from government authorities, different groups and organisations to evacuate the refuse over the years but none of the efforts have come to fruition.

“We in the community through our leaders have tried to intervene on many occasions to try and burn the dumpsite but that in itself is another health hazard for us living here as the chocking smell for the burns either keep us indoors or away from the community during this period.

“We are praying that concerned authorities will come to our aid to save us from this impending disaster,” he said.

A health care practitioner, with Rehoboth Hospital, Franklin Obeth noted that cities around the world are facing great challenges due to increasing urbanization, and one of the major challenges is the rising amount of generated waste and littering due to high demand for food products and other essentials.

He said public waste bins are filling up faster than ever and inevitably many of the bins end up overflowing before collected, causing not only cluttered streets and bad odours but also negative health and environmental impacts.

Obeth said overflowing dumpsites are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, insects, and vermin.

He said ‘’The flies that visit the garbage are also the same flies that roam around your lunch buffet and drop their offsprings on your plate. By doing so, they increase the risk of you contracting with salmonella, which causes typhoid fever, food poisoning, enteric fever, gastroenteritis, and other major illnesses. Besides flies, other animals that thrive from the garbage in and around the containers include rats and other pests.

According to him, ‘’One of the outcomes of overflowing garbage is air pollution, which causes various respiratory diseases and other adverse health effects as contaminants are absorbed from lungs into other parts of the body. The toxic substances in air contaminated by waste include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. In everyday life, we identify the polluted air especially through bad odours, which are usually caused by decomposing and liquid waste items.

‘’Garbage and liquid waste that end up in water bodies negatively change the chemical composition of the water. Technically, this type of pollution is called water pollution. It affects all ecosystems existing in the water, including fish and other animals that drink the polluted water. Hazardous household waste items such as batteries, computer equipment, and leftover paints can be particularly dangerous for surface waters.

‘’For waste collection staff the risks of picking up and handling overflowing garbage include infections, chronic diseases, and accidents. Direct contact with waste can result in skin and blood infections through infected wounds, various illnesses resulting from the bites of animals feeding on the waste, and intestinal infections transmitted by flies feeding on the waste. Picking up overflowing garbage is also risky due to sharp objects, needles and potentially hazardous waste.’’

He, however, explained that besides causing all sorts of health and environmental issues, overflowing garbage is a public nuisance and eyesore. He said everyone wants to live and visit places that are fresh, clean and health,  adding that a smelly city with poor sanitation and trash all over the place does not attract people or tourists, let alone investments. “Cities keep losing money, and they also miss out on the revenue and job opportunities coming from proper waste control and recycling,” he noted.

When LEADERSHIP Sunday contacted the Abuja Environmental Protection Board Director on Solid Waste Management, North, Mr. Amos Odunfa, he said the board is not aware of the refuse dump. “From your description of the dumpsite in Karimu, it is obviously under the purview of the Federal Capital Development Authority, FCDA, not AEPB.”

He, however, decried the situation and the possible health effects on the community.