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Towards a sustainable waste management

By Henry C. Edebeatu
16 May 2016   |   3:11 am
Waste management in all societies is as important as any other aspect of management because waste hazards can be devastating if defectively managed, chiefly in the thickly populated urban areas...


Waste management in all societies is as important as any other aspect of management because waste hazards can be devastating if defectively managed, chiefly in the thickly populated urban areas. Sad enough, most metropolis in Nigeria remain an eyesore because of the heaps of waste scattered on streets, roads, seashores and water channels. Many notable locations in Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Ilorin, Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Owerri, just to mention but a few, remain filthily rich with atmosphere that is never depleted of horrid odour. These wastes include solid and gaseous gases which may be toxic, poisonous or radioactive.

The negative attitude of the government towards efforts to maintain hygienic environment has continued to inspire citizens to advance in dirty culture and become nonchalant towards tidiness. Shamefully, many are still seen today dropping off their sacks of refuse across the roads, in the drains and even on the high motorways. Some deliberately fling their bin bags in the floods whenever it is raining, to be disposed for them, without the slightest imagination of the end voyage of such debris.

Indeed, it is high time governments, especially states and local, thought of proper and effective waste management process by which the various rubbish generated by citizens within the built-up areas are disposed, transported and perhaps treated. There is urgent need to start thinking of how best to manage both the household and industrial waste which would continuously inevitably be generated, anyway.

Invariably, there are hidden severe consequences of filthy environment resulting from improper management of waste. Waste hazards can include toxicity and flammability as well as chemical characteristics that can render the waste harmful to the environment and humans if neglected or poorly managed. In most advanced countries, waste management is paramount and is never treated with levity because of the grave consequences of poorly managed waste which could ruin the agricultural lands, residential areas and in some cases, public drinking water.

No doubt, proper waste management would ensure free environmental pollution and degradation of the land, less destruction of the ecosystem and lack of the diseases caused by pollution.

Notably, there appears to be sufficient laws that ought to have guaranteed that generated wastes are properly managed. The problem hinges on the execution and implementation. Chapter two, item 20, under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution of Nigeria states that “the State shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wildlife of the Nigeria.” Other laws which are present to help in the proper environmental protection include: Federal Environmental Protection Agency Act of 1988 which deals with effluent limitation regulation; Pollution Abatement in Industries and Facilities Generating Wastes; National Environmental Protection Management of Solid and Hazardous Waste; Harmful Wastes Special Criminal Provision Act of 1988; Nigeria Local Agenda 21 Programmes, Urban and Regional Planning Act CAP N138; Environmental Impact Assessment 1986, National Policy on Environment1989 which was revised in 1999, Land Use Act 1978, Nigeria Criminal Code which makes it an offence punishable with up to six months imprisonment for any person who violates the atmosphere. The ministries of environment should rise to the challenge.

Under the Buhari military administration, a programme (environmental sanitation) was initiated to keep the environment clean. To yield substantial result, the exercise had to come up every Saturday, lasting for five hours, from seven O’clock in the morning. Later, in order to reduce monotony and perhaps uplift its sense of value, the duration and frequency of the exercise were reduced. So far, citizens are yet to inculcate the required habit of cleanliness, as we cannot walk through the streets without stumbling on loathsome sights and despicable stench.

Government should initiate fresh schemes that would give the people the required orientation relevant in environmental knowledge transformation. The citizens should be educated to know the harmful effects of wrong waste disposition and how they contribute to harm the environment and human beings. Government should ensure that all three tiers of government are responsible for managing waste and ensuring that the environment is safe. Citizens should be made part of the management of waste generated by them.

Waste management levy could be initiated whereby every household would be required by law to have an approved waste drum in front of their houses and only the government approved waste managers would pick the refuse up to appropriate disposal sites as against the current practice where truck pushers are in charge. The use of modern technology and ideas are essential in this regard. Apparently, government should focus more on constructing standard drainages and good roads as that would entice citizens to pay the highest respect to the environment by not dumping garbage indiscriminately.

Besides, special waste management committee should be created in both the National and State Houses of Assembly. The committee should focus on sponsoring bills that would enhance the safety of the environment. Special mobile courts should be created to try sanitation offenders while punishment for environmental degradation should be reviewed with a view to making them more stringent. For example, those leaving septic tanks gushing out or excreting on public grounds without respect to decency. Both the landlords and tenants should be sternly penalised for filthy frontages.

A broad review of the existing waste management laws, implementation and processes would obviously create more jobs and help to reduce the current unemployment rate.

Above all, there should be annual award and incentive for the cleanest neighbourhood so as to encourage everyone to live up to expectation. Our dream should be a Nigeria whose environment is sparkling, where no one is permitted to litter and abuse the land, one where water in the gutters which though may remain darkened is free and distinctively free of any decomposing odour, flowing noiselessly and finding its channels without any interference; the environment where the bugs and pests would have to shift their bases from the vicinity of homes to waste dumping sites.
Edebeatu, tender manager/bid packaging expert, contributed this via