By Kingsley Adegboye
Governments, agencies and NGOs across the world last week commemorated World Environment Day for this year, which is the United Nations’ biggest annual event for positive environmental action, encouraging worldwide awareness and commitment to protect our planet.
This year’s celebrations, held under the theme “Beat Air Pollution”, called upon people to explore renewable energy and green technologies, and improve air quality in cities and regions across the world, as more than six billion people, one/third of them children, regularly breathe air that is so polluted that puts their health and well-being at risk.
In Nigeria, stakeholders who gathered under various environmental NGOs to mark the Day, called on Nigerians to explore and adopt renewable energy, clean energy, and live a sustainable life in order to improve the quality of air we breathe in.
Speaking during the celebration, the Director-General, Nigerian Conservation Foundation NCF, Muhtari Aminu-Kano, stated that “Asides the effects of air pollution on the environment such as global warming, acid rain, etc., they have alarming effects on human respiration and health generally. The good news is, we can fix this by embracing practices such as agro-forestry practices, use of clean energy sources like hydro/solar, energy conserving stoves etc.
“NCF is imploring Nigerians to explore and adopt renewable energy, clean energy, live sustainably and be deliberate about conservation to improve the quality of air we breathe in.
World Environment Day, celebrated since 1974 on June 5, every year, is the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect the environment”, NCF boss noted.
In his remark at an event organised by Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development SRADev Nigeria, to mark the Day, SRADev’s Executive Director, Leslie Adogame, said “Air pollution is a deadly, man-made problem, responsible for the early deaths of some seven million people every year, 600,000 of whom are children. It is estimated that 90 per cent of the world’s population breathe polluted air.
“Every five seconds, somebody around the world dies prematurely as a result of polluted air. In Nigeria, the situation is alarming and remotely the major cause of untimely deaths today, and as civil societies, we are deeply concerned about the continued lip-service attention of the government”.
According to Adogame, in Nigeria today, polluted air is creating a national public health emergency, especially in all urban cities, adding that it threatens everyone from unborn babies to children walking to school, to women selling their wares in the open, to industrial workers, and even unsuspecting residential/commercial dwellers to every office worker.
“On the street and inside the house, the sources of air pollution are noticeably seen and evidently alarming with deadly effects such as asthma, other respiratory illnesses and heart diseases etc over stretching the nation’s present inadequate health infrastructure.
“As if that is not enough, exposure to dirty air also harms brain development, leading to cognitive and motor impairments, while at the same time putting children at greater risk for chronic disease later in life.
“As we mark the World Environment Day today, SRADeV Nigeria, a SAICM United Nations NGOs focal point of chemical pollution and management in Nigeria, urges the Federal and State governments and the legislatures to take bold action to beat air pollution, improve health, address climate change, and fulfil citizens’ human rights obligations.
“Pollution and poverty go hand in hand. Nigeria has been described as the ‘poverty capital of the world’. The implication is that more people will likely die from air pollution-related diseases in the coming years if urgent public emergency action plans are not put in place”, Adogame said.
Lamenting further, he noted that another concern is that, in the quest for attracting foreign investment for local growth and employment opportunities, Nigeria in the past 20 years has slid to become a dumping ground for all kinds of unregulated ‘unsound’ industrial practices and activities.
Thanking President Buhari for recently addressing the ongoing theft of Nigerian jobs by foreigners particularly Chinese and Indians, he stated that “Our recent survey carried out between September 2018 and February 2019, at the new Lagos-Ogun state industrial corridor – Ikorodu and Ogijo communities, revealed that about 90 per cent of industries operating in those locations (mostly owned by Chinese and Indians) are operating below the required environmentally accepted standard.
“These companies openly release toxic substances into the atmosphere and ecosystem, in the name of recycling, while government regulatory agencies look the other way. Our finding substantiates that “instead of ‘green recycling’, incessant ‘brown recycling’ activities take place all over. “We are stunned by how these complacent industries impact on the nation’s already huge un-calculated environmental and occupational costs. This unwrapping of the recycling industries’ ‘dirty little secret’ was met with shock and dismay”, Adogame said.
“Our survey also revealed that babies, school children, women in these poorer communities are those most exposed to the recalcitrant pollutants. From our survey, “the country is presented with a nightmarish vision of where another lifestyle of ‘toxic colonialism’ and unregulated industry can lead us”, said Mr.Victor Fabunmi, Senior Programme Officer, SRADev Nigeria.
“SRADeV Nigeria hereby calls on the National Environmental Standards Regulatory and Enforcement Agency NESREA, and State Environmental Protection Agencies EPAs, to be awaken to their responsibility and to urgently undertake immediate national monitoring of air quality and its impacts on human health, assess sources of air pollution, establish and enforce air quality legislation as well as develop air quality action plans to safeguard people’s health towards attaining the SDGs.
Speaking during a clean-up exercise along Mile 2 / Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, in commemoration of WED, the Managing Director of The La Casera Company TLCC, Mr Chinedum Okereke, said that environment should be seen as a trust given to mankind to protect for future generations,
“At TLCC, issues of the environment are not regarded as compliance issues but rather as a responsibility we owe to posterity. TLCC used its tree planting exercise to further draw attention to the fight to reduce air pollution while urging all stakeholders to come together and explore sustainable alternatives to urgently reduce pollution that threatens human health”, Okereke said.
Imploring participants at the event to adopt an attitudinal approach in the fight against air pollution even as he urged those present to be mindful of the environment while making choices on the type and quality of products they purchase.
Corroborating his view, the Assistant Chief Scientific Officer for LAWMA, Mrs. Aderonke Adesoye, commended The La Casera Company, which has been in Nigeria for almost two decades, for its efforts in caring for the environment.
Adesoye said that she was satisfied that there was a conscious effort by TLCC to protect the environment in all their operations and therefore challenged corporate organisations and individuals to do more.
While addressing the need for proper waste disposal practices in the state, Senior Executive Officer, Coker-Aguda Local Council Development Area LCDA, Mr. Samson Adediran, commended The La Casera Company for its commitment to the environment.