Scientist alerts residents to risks of polluted river
Residents of Owerri Municipal, Imo State, have been cautioned on the risks they face from the emerging high level of pollution from the multi-faceted degradation of the Otamiri River.
Professor of Marine Biology, Dr. Lucian Obinnaya Chukwu, who raised the concerns, noted how rapid industrialization, poor waste management or absence of proper waste disposal, uncharted urbanization and various unhealthy practices are raising the pollution level in the Otamiri River.
The Otamiri River sustains and engenders rich aquatic life for the various communities, which it flows through as well as being a major source of surface drinking water for the large population of residents in Owerri Municipality and environs.
Chukwu, the Guest Lecturer at the Benjamin Maduagwu Distinguished Lecture Series, had pointed out in his lecture, “Otamiri River: The Colours and Colourations” that “a properly managed water resource is a critical component of poverty reduction, growth and equity.”
The lecture series organized by the Benjamin Maduagwu Endowment and Christian Life Resource Centre, and held at the Harmony Heights, Egbu Owerri, is designed to being academic concepts to the development of the people.
Worried by the risks to health and the ravaging effects of continued degradation, he described as significant an idea of calling “on the indigenes of these communities who claim Otamiri River as their own to mobilize and rise to the occasion to save what has supported their existence even before the advent of modernity.”
The professor noted: “The results of various analyses indicate that colour and turbidity of the water samples all exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO) permissible limit for drinking water. The total faecal Coliform counts were relatively high.”
According to him, “this raises some concern as Otamiri River water serves the populace within Owerri municipality and environs for domestic purposes.” This he noted has become imperative because “source water protection of any surface and or underground water is crucial for the sustainability of drinking water quality and quantity of any community.”
The don, who is also the Director, Quality Assurance & SERVICOM Unit in the office of the Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, Akoka, lamented that the complex issue of the pollution of the river is championed by the combination of human population explosion and industrialization.
Harping on the contributions of lack of adequate urban planning to the further degradation of the river, he stated that the growing population has led to the indiscriminate erection of houses leading to the “mountains of refuse in every corner as there is no waste disposal management at the local level. When it rains, most of the litter is washed into the Otamiri River engendering pollution with dire consequences.”
While admitting the boost in the population of Owerri metropolis and the attendant rise in domestic and industrial waste, Chukwu insisted that it is sad and unacceptable that “the waste disposal system has grown as fast as the waste being generated.”
Beyond the indiscriminate disposal of refuse, the lecturer noted the “run-off from agricultural lands treated with fertilizers and pesticides. According to him, “agricultural intensification around the catchment area of the Otamiri River has impacted highly on the water quality,” through biological contamination in use of manures and chemicals from fertilizers and pesticides.
Rating other factors and activities that have contributed to the degradation of the Otamiri and aided its pollution, Chukwu stressed that the dredging, sand mining and quarrying activities had impacted negatively on the Otamiri River. He disclosed that fears have been raised by environmentalists over the impact of such activities on the river, which despite habouring aquatic life served as the sole source of treated water and recreation in the area.
He stated: “When there is heavy rainfall in the area, the flowing water exhibits turbulence, resulting in the upsetting of particulate matter from the quarry sites. These suspended particulate matter are then washed into the river thereby making it very turbid. This turbidity also corresponds with the colour values of the water.
“In addition, turbidity plumes created as a result of dredging have been reported to cause a reduction in the population of phytoplankton and zooplankton. During dredging, waterway sediment, soil, creek banks and vegetation along the way of water are typically removed and deposited as dredge spoils at the bank of the newly dredged canal.”
To deal with the concomitant risks of the pollution in the River, the Guest Lecturer harped on the “need for sustainable solid waste management, requiring re-use, recycling and recovery.
He noted further that “the populace within Owerri municipality that depend on the river water especially for domestic purposes should endeavour to subject the water to thorough purification processes such as chlorination, boiling, ozonization, etc before usage.”
Chukwu called for a partnership between the state government and stakeholders to turn around the deplorable state of the river into conserving its economic benefits.