Sunday, 13 June 2010

Greener cities: an awesome task?

By
Joachim Ezeji

In 2006 the Leicestershire UK based ECHO newspaper had reported that Severn Trent Water had pledged it was carrying out a GBP 20, 000 worth of investigation to discover what was polluting and destroying Black brook Reservoir. The reservoir near Shepshed was said to have become so polluted that there was very little, if any life left in it. The cause of the problem was believed to have come from pesticides used in nearby fields.

No doubt, the tracing of the pollution and destruction of the Black brook Reservoir to pesticides on nearby fields, further makes vivid the implication and consequences of ignoring IWRM as a modern day environmental challenge that seeks to safeguard clean natural water sources as well as protecting public health.

According to the European Commission, the governing body of the European Community (EC), the environment is ‘the combination of elements whose complex inter-relationships make up the settings, the surroundings and the conditions of life of the individual and of society, as they are or as they are felt. All these approaches place humanity at the centre of things; there are no environmental values which cannot be traced to the welfare of human beings.

The environment of the human being includes the abiotic (devoid of life) factors of land, water, atmosphere, climate, sound, odours, and tastes; the biotic factors of human beings, fauna, flora, ecology, bacteria, and viruses; and all those social factors which make up the ‘quality of life’. The concept has emerged of the environment as an assembly of people and things which render a stream of services and disservices to the individual and which take their place alongside the stream of services rendered by real income, commodities, homes, infrastructure, and markets generally.

Essentially, and in its broadest sense, the word ‘environment’ embraces the conditions or influences under which any individual or thing exists, lives, or develops. These surroundings can be categorized as the combination of physical conditions that affect and influence the growth and development of an individual or community; as the social and cultural conditions that affect the nature of an individual or community; and as the surroundings of an inanimate object of intrinsic social value.

Origins of environmental concerns can be traced to the nineteenth century in the area of public health: unsanitary dwellings and streets contaminated public water supplies, drains and sanitation, public nuisances (these include noxious accumulations, vermin, and animal faeces), unhygienic food processing, overcrowding, noxious effluvia, offensive trades, refuse dumps, and epidemics.

The responses by government were largely in the area of public water and sewerage schemes, slum clearance programs, food hygiene drives, regular sanitary inspection, and elementary pollution control. It is noteworthy that the Millennium Declaration in September 2000 led to the 8 MDGs that provide the framework for a new international commitment to address poverty eradication.

The goal most relevant to this fact sheet is Goal 7, “Ensure environmental sustainability” and in particular Target 9, “Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources”. In addition, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) 2002 set the targets for access to water and environmental sanitation. Proper solid waste disposal is an important component of environmental sanitation and sustainability. A sustainable environment and improved waste management offer opportunities for income generation, health improvements and reduced vulnerability. Waste quantities are increasing at an alarming rate.

By the year 2010 the 7 billion people in the world will be producing more than 2.5 billion tons of waste annually Low income countries will be contributing more than 50% of this, but their share will increase with economic growth. Countries with rapid economic growth and large cities such as China and India are already struggling with the proper disposal of large quantities of solid waste.

Currently, the major expenditure is on collection and transportation but with more mechanization and with the need for proper disposal the share of disposal cost will rise. Many low income countries lack the facilities for safe disposal. The current practice in most of the low income countries is uncontrolled dumping and it might take more than 20 years to provide sanitary disposal of municipal solid waste. With the growth of trade and industries the proportion of hazardous industrial waste and its impact will also increase.

With the above understanding of what the environment is and its immediate challenges, it is apposite to conclude that IWRM is at the heart of environmental protection. In Nigeria however, it is still doubtful if the application of the IWRM concept to environmental matters especially those of water source protection and development have been accorded any priority in recent years. The unabated growth of filth in the country’s cities as well as the corresponding abysmal management of wastes (both industrial and domestic) is a sordid reflection of the country’s government and people to safeguard their health and general well being.

Available statistics from the Federal Ministry of Environment show that organic waste tops the list of municipal solid wastes with Lagos generating 33.5 per cent, Kaduna (63.05 per cent), Abuja (46.3 per cent), Jos (56.7 per cent), Port Harcourt (60 per cent), Yola (45 per cent), Benin (54.18 per cent) and Onitsha (61.6 per cent) in 2001.

Even before that survey, the Nigerian Environmental Study/Action Team (NEST) had in 1991, estimated that the annual per capita solid waste generation in Nigeria was 20 kilogram (kg), which translates to an estimated annual average per capita waste generation of about 2.2million tons per year. And 15 years after, the trend continues to increase dramatically as population swells, industrialization booms and urbanization stretches beyond initial city boundaries.

Records from Enugu State Environmental Sanitation Authority estimate that Ibadan, Port Harcourt, Aba and Enugu had an annual solid waste generation rate of 733,542; 285,466; 113,300 and 78,603 tones, respectively while Abeokuta, Kano, Jos and Benin recorded an estimated waste generation rate of 73,386; 72,066; 33,977 and 32,327 tones in that order in 1994.

Perhaps, there is no region with such a feverish population growth, industrial expansion and urbanization rate than the Niger Delta, which competes only with Lagos. This region, in 2003, had an average daily per capita solid waste generation of 3.61kg per day, which represents a daily waste generation rate of about 11.13million kg per day and 4.08million tones per year.

And with a projected 6.0 per cent annual increase in per capita waste generation, the Niger Delta Development Commission’s Waste Management Sectoral Report indicates that the volume of solid waste generated in the region would hit 5.71million metric tons this year and shot up to 12.65million metric tons by 2015, given an estimated population of 34,340,837 and 44,997,065, respectively, based on 3.0 per cent average annual exponential growth rate. Of course, Rivers State expectedly has the highest daily solid waste generation density with values between 2.00 and 2.50kg per day. This is awesome!

1 comment:

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