Government must pay more attention to the environment

Apparently due to poor funding, all the NESREA offices across the nation are in distress, just like the offices of the Federal Ministry of Environment in the states. For instance, the once beautiful lawns of these state offices are overgrown with weeds, and are crawling with all sorts of reptiles and rodents. There are allegations that the Abuja office is conducting nationwide bazaar/auction of some equipment, generators and heavy duty vehicles (some have not been used since they were purchased for field work). These offices are without subvention, without electricity and cannot undertake even routine cleaning without taking collection from staff.

We are not unmindful of the fact that the government is doing all that is necessary not to alarm residents of Lagos and Port Harcourt of the dire health problems they grapple with on account of their degraded environment, particularly in the unsafe air they breathe. But at a period of emergency in Lagos and Rivers, it is regrettable that environmental protection in both states has not received adequate attention.

Most available reports about Lagos and Port Harcourt reveal that both noise and water pollution are high while the quality of air is very low. The long-term health implications of this state of affairs for the residents of both states are dire. Meanwhile, it is the civic responsibility of the government to ensure clean water and air through safe environmental practices. The situation is compounded by the epileptic nature of the power sector, which necessitates the use of the generator in most homes. Yet carbon monoxide emitted from this power source has been established to be a silent killer and has accounted for the death of several people, including in some cases, the entire family.

Until recently, Lagos had a very robust environmental management structure that was coordinated by the Ministry of the Environment. The ministry’s agencies, particularly the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) engaged in the enforcement of environmental laws. But, like its federal counterpart, the activities of the different agencies have shifted from environmental protection to that of revenue generation. The main preoccupation now is how to use waste collection activities to swell the states internally generated revenue.

With all the revenue generated, there is still no functional waste treatment plant in the state. Consequently, raw sewage is pumped into open drains and into the Lagoon. Underground water in the state is also polluted by waste water from homes and factories. The polluted water end up in homes through shallow bore holes that are in every neighbourhood. The Lagos Lagoon smells like sewer because of the solid and liquid waste it receives daily. Incidentally, fishes from the Lagoon are served on the diner tables of both the rich and the poor in the state.

Unfortunately, the situation is worse in Port Harcourt, which has a dense population like Lagos but where the environmental protection agencies exist only in name. The government does not seem to recognise them as veritable institutions established to clean up the environment for the economic growth of the state. The state’s environment is adversely affected by the heavy-duty oil exploration and exploitation activities, as well as by vehicle fuels and electricity generators.

A recent study of the air quality in Port Harcourt showed higher than normal levels of carbon monoxide, lead, particulates, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. The study also revealed that prevalent diseases found as a result of air pollution were pertussis, pulmonary tuberculosis, cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM), pneumonia, measles, chronic bronchitis, and upper respiratory tract infection (URT).

Given the foregoing, there is serious need for awareness creation, particularly on the importance of keeping the environment healthy so that it can protect lives. Humans and other living things need the environment to survive but the environment does not need humans to exist.