Beat Air Pollution” “Take Action” was the Theme and sub theme of the just concluded world environment Day Celebration across the World.
Although the celebration has come and gone, the message has underscored the need for policy makers across the world to take action against acts that continuously pollute the air.
A statement on the website of the United Nations described the annual celebration as a way of encouraging worldwide awareness and action with a view to protecting our environment.
The World Environment Day is celebrated 5th of June every year, across the world.
The event was first celebrated in 1974. This year’s edition was hosted by China.
Rivers State Government was not left out in the celebration as the occasion coincided with the inauguration of a technical committee to address the problem of soot, a black substance that has polluted the State air wave for a long time.
In the same vein, the Permanent Secretary, Rivers State Ministry of Environment, Dr. Emmanuel Urang had in a broadcast on the occasion of the World Environment Day celebration, drew the attention of the world to the associated illnesses of air pollution.
According to the Permanent Secretary, air pollution is associated with a broad spectrum of acute chronic illnesses such as lung cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases.
“As urban air quantity declines, the risk of stroke, heart diseases, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live there”.
Urang, however, said that with the inauguration of the technical committee, by the State Governor Nyesom Wike, the final stage has now been set to promote a green economy in a healthy and sustainable environment.
The Rivers State Government was not alone in the celebration of the World Environment Day: a number of Civil Society Organisations in the State actively participated in this year’s celebration.
The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) in a statement by its President, Legborsi Pyagbara, urged for action to check the rising level of air pollution, especially in the Niger Delta.
The MOSOP President stressed the need for government to match its words with action by arresting all incidences of air pollution in the country.
Similarly, the Coordinator of Stop the Soot Campaign, Dr. Eugene Abel, also led some groups to plant trees along the Elelenwo/Akpajo road.
Also as part of effort to instill the culture of cleanliness and to keep the air free from pollution, the African Global Development for Positive Change Initiative (ADI) also organised A Clean Environment Campaign at the Rumuokoro main market to instill the virtue of cleanliness among the traders in the market.
ADI was joined in the campaign by another non governmental organisation, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Initiative in the Clean Environment Campaign at the Rumuokoro main market.
Speaking in an interview with The Tide, the African Regional Director of African Global Development for Positive Change Initiative (ADI), Prince Dan Mbachi described “Beat Air Pollution” the theme of the celebration as significant especially in the Niger Delta region where the incidences of Air Pollution are common.
Mbachi said that the presence of the Petroleum industry in the Niger Delta has made survival difficult for the inhabitants of the region as their air, water and land sources have been polluted.
He also said that the Proliferation of illegal oil bunkering in the region has increased the level of pollution of the Niger Delta’s environment.
The activist stressed the need for the United Nation’s and African Union (AU) to set up committees on climate change in the Niger Delta.
Mbachi also called for the speedy cleanup of the Ogoni environment and commended the Rivers State Government for inaugurating a technical committee to find solution to the soot.
Also speaking, Madam Loretta Ahuokpeme of our lady of Perpetual Help Initiative said that a clean environment will make the air clean and free of pollution.
Ahuokpeme stressed the need for both Rivers and Niger Delta people to use the opportunity provided by this year’s World Environment Day celebration by keeping their environment clean at all times.
According to her, the celebration has provided the opportunity for her organisation to demonstrate how people can be involved in keeping their environment clean.
The activist also stressed the need for a policy against plastic production while proper waste disposal habit should be cultivated and described sanitation as key to a cleaner air.
Also speaking, with The Tide, Mrs. Helen Ohaka of the Rivers State Ministry of Environment, stressed the need for a tougher action against illegal oil bunkering and bush burning.
She said that the Rivers State Ministry of Environment will continue to support every action that will promote clean environment in the State.
Other respondent also called for stiffer penalties against persons and corporate organizations involved in activities that cause air pollution.
Rivers State is having its fair share of air pollution in the country. The appearance of the soot three years ago was indication of the level of damages which the hydrocarbon industry has done to the state.
Ogoni Clean-Up: MOSOP Decries Slow Pace Of Work
The Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), has warned of another round of crisis in Ogoniland, if the Federal Government does not fast-track the cleanup process.
President of MOSOP, Legborsi Pyagbara who dropped the warning at the just concluded 24th Ogoni Martyrs Day celebration in Port Harcourt described the pace of the clean-up process as frustrating.
Pyagbara who also described the environmental crisis in Ogoniland as a huge humanitarian disaster said the slow nature of the exercise is not a reflective of the humanitarian response.
“The slow nature of the current efforts are not reflective of a humanitarian response and is becoming for more frustrating and have the capacity to ignite a new round of conflict in Ogoniland if nothing is done immediately.
The MOSOP president also reminded the Federal Government that Ken Saro-Wiwa and to other Ogoni martyrs laid down their lives because of the environmental pollution of Ogoniland.
According to him, “while MOSOP appreciates the efforts of the government to end the environmental nightmare in Ogoni, the intervention approach must be seen from the perspective of a humanitarian response to a dying community which would require that administrative structures and bottlenecks be removed to speed up actions and activities.
“Judged against other humanitarian interventions going on in the country such as the North-East intervention in which new houses and infrastructures are springing up on a daily basis without noise-making and publicity stunts associated with the Ogoni intervention, we fear that the manacles and vestiges of discrimination for which these heros laid down their lives are still with us” he said.
Also speaking, the representatives of Hydrocarbon Pollution, Remediation Project (HYPREP) at the occasion, Isa Wasa, said HYPREP is determined to fulfill the key demand of the Ogonis which is environmental cleanup.
Isa Wasa who represented Marvin Dekil, HYPREP coordinator at the event said 39 Ogoni youths are being trained in Health Safety and Environment, while Ogoni scientists have been flown to Geneva for further training in environmental remediation.
He said the commission is engaging various stakeholders in Ogoniland with a view to providing potable drinking water to Ogoni communities.
Group Partners Rivers Varsity On Climate Conservation
A Non Government Organization, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) says it will partner the Rivers State University (RSU), Port Harcourt on Youths Development.
To this end, one-day seminar and summit tagged “National Climate Action Youth Dialogue” was held at the university with the theme: Unlocking Youth-Driven Climate Action in Nigeria” which targeted at the youths especially, secondary schools was aimed at enlightening them on how to conserve protect the climate and environment at large.
Speaking at the occasion, ,the Chairman,Rivers State Assembly House Committee on Education Hon. Ahiakwo Christian reminded the students whom he described as ‘the young ambassadors and protectors” of the environment on how important it is to maintain a conducive and provide clean and healthy environment for all to live
Hon. Ahiakwo who was House Committee chairman on Environment in the Rivers State House of Assembly thanked the organizers for the summit and described it as first of its kind
The lawmaker further explained that most of the abuses evident in our environments affect our climate negatively, such as burning of papers, oil flaring, burning of large amounts of refuse, condemned tyres, rubbers, adding that such acts weaken the ozone layers (O3) which protects the earth from direct sun- light.
He said our climate and environment could be protected by planting of trees, like Ethiopia where the youths planted over 350millions trees; a recycling process,, and burying of materials that can decay and become manure.
Stakeholders Bemoan Challenges Of Handwashing Practices
Stakeholders in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Sector have bemoaned the challenges of hand washing practices with soap in the country.
Mr Emmanuel Awe, the Director, Water Quality Control and Sanitation in the Ministry of Water Resources said this while declaring open the Nigeria Handwashing Roundtable meeting on Wednesday in Abuja.
The meeting was organised by the National Task Group on Sanitation (NTGS) with support of the Global Handwashing Partnership and Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC).
The meeting was aimed at reviewing the challenges and how to effectively create awareness on the practice of hand washing with soap.
“In the WASH sector, sanitation is often seen as the orphan, receiving little attention and funding.
“But much more so is hygiene, which is indicated under the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) six as availability of hand washing facilities with soap and water.
“Hand washing with soap is considered as an affordable, accessible “do-it-yourself” vaccine for sanitation and hygiene related diseases like diarrhea, cholera, typhoid fever among others that are prevalent in our communities.
“It is estimated to cut death from diarrhea by almost half and deaths from acute respiratory infections by a quarter. It also helps to ensure the sustenance of effort to end Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) which are endemic in some communities,” he said.
Awe said in Nigeria, about 100,000 children under the age of five die annually due to diseases caused by poor sanitation and unhygienic practices, which about 33 per cent of the children are stunted, limiting their mental development.
The director said according to the 2018, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene National Outcome Routine Mapping (WASHNORM) Report, national access to basic hygiene services was 21 per cent with an estimated 150 million people lacking access.
“In schools and health care facilities, access to basic hygiene is 28 per cent and 40 per cent respectively, while only five per cent of public places such as markets and parks have hygiene facilities.
“The absence of WASH facilities, including hand washing stations in schools, healthcare facilities and workplaces are equity issues for girls and women, particularly for menstrual hygiene management.
“The availability of hand washing stations can stop the spread of diseases in these setting. It must be noted that the benefits accruable through provision of these facilities depends on the utilisation.
“Behaviour change is required for people to wash their hands consistently at key times,” Awe said.
Mrs Chizoma Opara, the Acting Coordinator Clean Nigeria, said that the ‘Clean Nigeria:Use the Toilet’ campaign under the National Programme was aimed at ending open defecation by 2025.
Opara said that the campaign would be officially launched on Nov. 19 by President Muhammadu Buhari to improve sanitation services in the country.
“The campaign will have integral component, hygiene promotion with emphasis on hand washing at critical times to break oral-route diseases transmission.’’
Mr Ron Clemmer, the Global Handwashing Partnership, Washington, U.S., said that hand washing was critical all the time in households, schools, healthcare, workplaces and emergency situations.
Clemmer noted that only 19 per cent of the world’s population particularly wash their hands with soap after contact with feaces.
He noted that only 20 per cent of people wash hands before preparing food, while only 31 per cent of health workers practices proper hand hygiene at critical time.
He said “findings shows that lack of hand washing with soap is a global risk present in all regions and it is a reminder that this nexus of risk is relevant to all countries, not just the poorest.’’
Mrs Elizabeth Warmera, a representative of Water Supply, Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) Office, Geneva, Switzerland said that the SDG six for Water and Sanitation, hand washing with soap was an essential factor.
She said this contributed to other SDGs on zero hunger, child survival, nutrition, good health, among others.
“This has the power to improve access to education for children, protect the health of patients and reduce inequalities which cuts across other goals,” she said.
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