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Lagos, experts warn against burning of sawdust, propose disposal method

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Lagos State authorities have started tinkering with plans for a new set of policies to check the activities of sawmill operators, particularly with respect to the disposal and indiscriminate burning of sawdust across the state.

Already the state environment watchdog, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) has started taking an inventory of all sawmills in the state, following which an enlightenment programme to school sawmill operators on proper methods for disposal of sawdust and wood shavings is billed to take-off.

The programme, The Guardian gathered, is coming on the heels of a study recently conducted by the agency, which revealed serious water and air contamination through frequent burning and improper disposal of the products in water bodies around the state.

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The Chief Public Affairs Officer, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), Bola Ajao who confirmed this development, said it is illegal to burn such waste in the state, as this exacerbates air pollution with a consequential health effect on residents and rise in global warming due to the release of greenhouse gases.

Ajao said: “The Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, as an organ of the State government responsible for the regulation of the Lagos environment, has carried out various studies on the solution to the menace at Oko-Baba and proffered clean alternative use of the saw dust generated. We are canvassing conversion of saw dust to Briquettes, to fuel and kindle fire.

“The use of Briquettes amongst others, include providing energy for cooking, powering of kiln or ovens for burning, baking, drying or firing pottery. Therefore, effective use of Briquettes as alternative to wood amongst Bakers who still use wood oven, as against gas because of cost, will reduce air pollution immensely from that sector.

She noted that Oko Baba Sawmill by the Lagos Lagoon happens to be one of the biggest in Nigeria that contributes up to 85 per cent of the wood used by furniture factories in Lagos and the surrounding states.

Meanwhile, some environmentalists collaborated the government stand, warning that it portends some catastrophic and negative effects on the environment and human health.

Dr. Michael Ahove of the Centre for Environmental Studies and Sustainability Development, Lagos State University, said the effect of open burning of saw dust hinge on the fact that it adds to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, irritates the eyes and the nose.

He explained that sawdust is principally made of wood comprising carbon-dioxide and carbon mono-oxide. The build up, he noted is the same thing like burning wood generally into the atmosphere but the amount of carbon released from the saw dust is lower .

The environmentalist said instead of engaging in open burning of saw dust in Okobaba and other areas in the country, government should support the saw millers by helping them to use the product to generate electricity.

“I will not subscribe to discouraging saw mills from urban areas because the economic power of some of our people is still low and so we can’t begin to push them too far. If there is sufficient fund and spaces, we can relocate them to hinterland and so it will be healthier for that community and of course it is the city people that are buying the wood products that would now bear more cost of transportation”, he stated.

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Dr. Ahove observed that it’s still embarrassing to see open burning of saw dust in some of the most prestigious high ways in the country advising that governments at all levels need to muster enough political will to develop short term solution/plan and stop such activities that endangers the environment and the health of the people.

Prof Edem Eniang of Bio-diversity Preservation Centre said as times rolls by, such activities will reduce without anybody campaigning against it because the woods are finishing from the forest and the volume of wood to be consumed in saw wills would be impacted.

“On the other hands, the issue as its continuing is dangerous to human health because it forms parts of the ozone depleting components of the atmosphere and when the ozone layer is depleted, human health and the environment is threatened”.

Eniang stressed that the bye product is a good material if properly harnessed in the absence of kerosene and gas stressing that it could also be used to make other building materials when well processed.

He said, “Do you know that they used it for pillows in those days and for vehicle manufacturing in the early 90’s especially, for Peugeot car sit. It is no longer used because we don’t have the assembly plants any longer”.

Also reacting, the Assistant Director, Public Affairs, State’s Ministry of Physical Planning and Urban Development, Mr Mukaila Sanusi said the state government plan to relocate the saw millers from that axis to the new site at Ikorodu area, is still on as at three weeks ago before the CoVID-19 lockdown in the State. He, however decline to comment on the stage of work at the Ikorodu site .

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