By: Charles Ikedikwa Soeze fhnr, fcida, fcai, cpae, son, emba, ksq.
It is gratifying to state that environmental sanitation is now being pursued with a much determined vigour by the Delta State government. To the extent that it is no longer only last Saturdays of the month. A very good example is that which was executed in Sapele on week-days in order to make the ancient town retain its past and lost glory.
It is most appropriate to say that lack of proper environmental sanitation control can affect health and buildings. We are all aware of many collapsed buildings in cities like Abuja, Lagos, Warri among many others and many people lost their lives and properties worth millions of Naira. It was disclosed by an eye witness that a building which collapsed in Lagos on the 19th of April, 2003 was due to flood of the building as a result of blocked drains in the area. Furthermore, blocked drains and solid dump sites can give room to disease vectors to thrive which can affect human beings.
Where there is no clean environment, it will lead to mismanagement of solid waste, that is where these wastes are generated and disposed into drains, roads, dump sites between buildings or even kept in the homes. This practice leads to environmental pollution. Many urban and rural dwellers in developing countries don’t really know the negative effects from solid wastes, when handled carelessly. For any environmental sanitation to succeed, solid waste management must be taken seriously that is to ensure all forms of waste are sanitarily stored at the appropriate places, collected promptly and transported to final disposal.
Realizing the implication of blocking water ways, the Delta State government through the Ministry of Environment recently destroyed many buildings that were on waterways in major cities in Delta State like Warri, Asaba, Sapele. These towns among others have been suffering from perennial flood. However, the big question is who gave the approval to erect such buildings on waterways? Such government officials need to be indicted to serve as deterrent to others who may want to go into it in the future.
Happily, the Delta State government is very serious on environment days. The officials of the Ministry of Environmental go round to inform people on the need to clean their environment. In order to effectively punish offenders, the government establishes mobile courts on environmental days. The mobile courts sitting are really working hard from the news over the radio and on television. The seriousness of the mobile court in Warri must be because of the sitting magistrate who is an indomitable public servant, without any biased and corrupt mind as well as ‘superlative’ Chief Magistrate Grade 1, in person of Ena Ojugo. The good work he is doing at the Sanitation Mobile Court and other courts where he has worked is quite noticeable and he should keep the flag flying while his efforts should be recognized by the state government.
Furthermore, improper storage, collection, treatment and disposal of solid waste can lead to both short and long term environmental problems such as air, water and soil pollution. In most of our urban towns, despite governments clearing of refuge, we can still see heaps of waste in public places. There is therefore need for Deltans to help themselves and the government so that a first time visitor cannot see the state as filthy. Those who channel their waste into drains or dump them in unauthorized places should be made to receive serious penalty so that others will learn their lessons. It is crystal clear that most of the environmental laws or policies in the past have not been enforced and so, people just heard about them that was all.
The abysmal level to which environmental sanitation consciousness has degenerated in the country underscores the need for enlightenment campaign to educate the people on the implication of living in a dirty environment as well as the importance of keeping their environment clean. More disturbing is the mountainous dump of refuse in market places by traders and also that of some persons living close to the market places turning it to the refuse dump. Some buildings around the places do not have toilets, as a result, tenants put their excreta in cellophane and dumped by the market place.
In his 2002 speech before the United Nations to mark the 5th anniversary of the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit (1992), former American President, Bill Clinton, made the salient point that: “In our era, the environment has moved to the top of the international agenda because how well a nation honours it will have an impact for good or ill, felt across the globe. Preserving the resources we share is crucial not only for the quality of our environment and health, but to maintain stability and peace within nations and among them”. However, Nigerians are showing increasing concern over environmental sanitation and waste management practices, a sore point in the country’s national development efforts. Many experts believe the issue rather is about non-management or wrong approaches to solid and hazardous waste handling methods. This national malady is considered a near-fatal threat to the health, economy and ecology of the nation. Most foreign visitors frown at dumpsites by Nigerians because the country for now cannot boast of any public “engineered landfill”.
Finally, as part of efforts to improve on environmental sanitation in Delta State, the government should urgently and holistically address the issue of devastating erosion menace in some towns like Ubulu-Uku in Aniocha South Local government and Agbor, administrative headquarters of Ika South Local government among other towns.
Charles Ikedikwa Soeze is a mass communication scholar from first degree to doctoral level, a public relations expert and Assistant Director (Administration)/ Head, Academic and Physical Planning (A&PP) at the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI), Effurun, Delta State, Nigeria. (08036724193).