WHO ranks Onitsha as world’s most polluted city
The word “Africa” often evokes romantic images of elephants crossing the Kalahari, thundering water at Victoria Falls, or panoramic views from Table Mountain. But an increasingly common sight for Africans – especially those in Nigeria – is that of smog, rubbish and polluted water, according to a new report.
Four of the worst cities in the world for air pollution are in Nigeria, according to a data released by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Onitsha, in Anambra – a city few outside Nigeria will have heard of – has the undignified honour of being labeled the world’s most polluted city for air quality, when measuring small particulate matter concentration (PM10). Onitsha recorded 30 times more than the WHO’s recommended levels of PM10.
The other three cities named and shamed in the WHO report for high PM10 levels are the transport hub of Kaduna in the north, which came fifth, followed by the cities of Aba, in sixth place, and Umuahia, in 16th position, which are both trade centers in southern Nigeria.
Last year, the World Bank reported that 94 per cent of the population in Nigeria is exposed to air pollution levels that exceed WHO guidelines (compared to 72 per cent on average in Sub-Saharan Africa in general).
The cause of Nigeria’s pollution problem is a complex story. “The contributing factors to pollution are a reliance on using solid fuels for cooking, burning waste and traffic pollution from very old cars,” Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, tells CNN.
At home, due to unreliable electricity supplies, many Nigerians rely on generators, which spew out noxious fumes often in unventilated areas. On the street, car emissions go unregulated.
Neira adds: “In Africa, unfortunately, the levels of pollution are increasing because of rapid economic development and industry without the right technology.”