By Codratus Godson
Air pollution mostly from gas flaring and soot from illegal refining as well as underground water poisoning may conspire to snuff out lives in the oil region, a group has cried out. The cry came on the World Environment Day. The group has itemized steps to halt the menace including banning cars that use fuel.
Three major factors in the pollution industry may wipe off majority of the Niger Delta population, if urgent steps were not taken, according to a human rights activist group.
The head, Environment and Conservation Programme of the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), warned on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, high levels of gas flaring, poisoned water and soot have caused over 90 per cent pollution in the region.
He said there is evidence that 92 per cent of people globally do not breathe in clean air, and that ground level ozone pollution is expected to reduce staple crop yields by 26 per cent by 2030. “This spells doom for the Niger Delta region whose primary livelihood is agriculture. Most unfortunate is the perennial soot that has characterized ambient air quality in coastal communities in the Niger Delta. Specifically, for over three years, Port Harcourt and many communities in Rivers State experience intense suspended particulate matter (also known as soot) that has caused myriad of health, environmental and socio-economic challenges for the citizenry.”
He went on: “Evidence also linked heightened air pollution in the Niger Delta to different respiratory tract diseases, skin infections, breathing difficulties and other socio-economic defects.”
On this score, CEHRD joined the world to mark the 2019 World Environment Day tagged “Air Pollution”. He said; “We can’t stop breathing but we can do something about the quality of air we breathe”.
He said the 2019 World Environment Day celebration which focuses on ‘greening the blue’ could not have come at a better time given the increasing use of fossil fuels globally which alters air quality with a measure of biological, chemical or physical pollutants. chemical, biological or physical pollutants. Environmental degradation is a major issue, which affects human and ecosystem well-being and economic development. Not much has been done in developed and developing countries to address issues related to air pollution as most economies remain fossil fuel dependent. The concern is grave in developing ones given that they lack effective mitigation policies and technologies and form the base of impact sufferers.
Specifically, he said, “Nigeria is the top oil producer in Africa and 6th globally. The 2019 World Environment Day theme contributes to several aspects of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), including climate action, life on land, and life below water. These SDGs form the major environment burden for people in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, as the traditional livelihood structures of the people -farming and fishing, are tied to the goals.
“Unfortunately, Nigeria still flares daily millions of metric tones of commercially viable crude oil associated natural gas, while the hub of oil production, the Niger Delta, consistently experience dark clouds and soot occasioned by diverse flaring activities. The Nigeria Government has proposed many dates to end gas flaring in the country but none has been achieved due to the ad-hoc approach adopted.
“In addition, open waste dumping system practised in the country releases immeasurable harmful dioxins, furans, methane and black carbon (when burnt) into the atmosphere. Contributing to the air pollution burden is artisanal oil refining in the Niger Delta region. Artisanal refining of crude oil complements gas flaring to cause unimaginable air pollution across rural and urban areas in the region.
For solution, he said, is to reduce the use of fossil fuels with alternative energies such as solar, wind, and water, but regretted that Nigeria’s parliament does not like laws banning cars using fossil oil. “Also, citizens’ education across levels could create the needed awareness and expected behavioural changes to end air pollution. Currently, CEHRD operationalizes Environment Clubs in secondary schools in the Niger Delta and uses the platform to develop capacity in sustainable environmental practice, including air pollution reduction.”