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Odeyemi: Industries must comply with environmental laws


Prof. Odeyemi

Prof. Odeyemi

• Local Government Should Train, Educate Local people

Olu Odeyemi, environmentalist and professor of Microbiology at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife told FABIAN ODUM that untold health challenges await unprepared and exposed city dwellers, as a result of unrestrained discharge of untreated effluent in the environment.

On the effect of industrial effluent on the environment

Lagos has very large population that contend with domestic and industrial waste. The temptation is there for the people, due to sheer size of the metropolis and inadequate manning of the environment, to dump things in the canal. It would have long and short term consequences, of course.

Major, is the disease like cancer because of the chemicals in the dye; they are strange to the body. These chemicals, when they get into the water ways, they undergo what is called ‘bio-magnification,’ whereby, the concentration increases along the food chain – from plankton to fish. When people eat fish from the contaminated water, the concentration of the chemicals also increases in human beings and can lead to cancer and toxicity, affecting the organs of the body.

Many people do not know these things as they consume products of the affected riverine areas. These chemicals can cause defect in unborn babies through the pregnant mothers. It can also lead to changes in the chemical composition of the body, and trigger different forms of cancer – of the lungs, colon, etc.

It can also lead to the thickening of the skin and cause death of fish in water and small water plants. Water can also be discoloured irreversibly and that makes it even more difficult for human use. But even domestic animals like goats and sheep could stray to the point of drinking the affected water and also end up being eaten by man, unfortunately. These chemicals pass from animals to man and the effect is the damage in the organs of the body.
On planting crops on dredged silt

Crops grown on the dredged silt from such canals, where they do not find access to any other water than the one available absorbs that from the canal. It picks up the chemicals and may store in the tuber or leaves and in turn may get to the dining tables of consumers. It has adverse effect on crops, animals and man.

On Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA)

LASEPA, as an environment protection agency, must work very hard and quickly to intervene, and help stop the discharge of such chemicals to the canal. They have the responsibility of educating people on the dangers of what they are doing wrong. That is why the national environmental protection agency was formed, and by 1999. Just before the advent of the Obasanjo administration, some stakeholders and environmentalists pressed for the agency to transit to a full-fledged Ministry; that is the Ministry of Environment of today.

As Lagos wing of the environment ministry and agency; they should work to protect the people of Lagos from being haunted by the malaise of pollution. Offenders and all those that contravene the environmental laws should face the music, one way or the order. The law is clear on this; if this is not happening, then LASEPA is not doing its work. A situation where factories, cottage industries and the like just discharge anything into the surrounding environment is not acceptable.

On pre-treatment of effluents

Obviously, there are many ways to pre-treat effluent from these industrial and cottage or other miscellaneous activities. What should be done is to divert such products to a sewage or effluent treatment ponds or plants. Effluents arising from the canal can be sent to an oxidation tank(s), a collection point to process these pollutants. Lagos could construct such units, if they are not yet in place. Here, the pollutants are broken down and neutralised to a safer level before being released into the lagoon or rivers.

Way back in the 90s, one of the breweries in the Oyo-Osun axis had to work on their effluent that was being discharged into the surrounding streams and bushes because it was constituting threat to plants and animals. Prior to the construction of the oxidization system, it was discovered that there were increasing number of dead animals floating in the waters there – fish, snakes, rabbits, snails, etc as a result of the toxic nature of the pollutants being discharged from the breweries.

The problem ceased and even now, a more modern treatment plant has been constructed, and this is what should be done all over Lagos industrial estates for a safer Lagos environment. It is compulsory that every industry discharging anything to the outside must construct a treatment pond or plant to do a proper treatment. Industries must comply or face sanctions or be forced to close down depending on what has been done.

Lagos State government should convoke an environment summit to take a more holistic view of the issues facing the state and its dwellers to chart a way forward. He said that even the gaseous pollution in the air, arising from both industries and fumes of vehicles and generators should be given attention, too.

On an overwhelmed agency

For an effective way to manage the environment, corruption must be dealt with such that officials of the environment agency and industries are clear of deliberately turning the other way and operators continuing in perpetrating environment atrocities. Well managed, the fines from sanctions of offending companies and industries could be a very important source of revenue for the State government.

It is not only the stoppage of industries from pumping dangerous effluent to the environment, for even when that is drastically reduced or stopped, the other challenge is dealing with the pollutants already released to the environment. These are issues raised in several United Nations summits on environment and climate change.

Whether LASEPA and the Ministry of Environment are overwhelmed or not, they must constantly meet to evolve ways of tackling the various challenges arising from these human activities in the state; the same holds for the entire country.

On ‘tie and dye’ effluents

For some of the dyes coming from the small scale sector people, even the ones poured on the ground has the chance of rubbing off on the quality of the underground water around the areas where these textile people are working. These also contain some amines, which could eventually transform to nitrosamines that cause cancer. Unfortunately, these people are unaware of the consequences of the effect of these chemicals.

On Educationally disadvantaged people

The very weak educational level of too many Nigerians, and also the scandalous level of illiteracy among the populace is worrisome. They do not even know how these things affect them; all they want is just the product. They are looking for money and damning the consequences of their wastes on the environment; it also affects them and the future of children adversely. People should not claim to be educated and enlightened, and continue to leave as if they were illiterates. People should know their rights as a result of being educated.

Government must go all out to educate the people, even to the level of the local government chairmen. It does not mean that everybody must go to universities, polytechnics or colleges of education to be educated; the local government should train and educate the local people at that level.

At the local government level, the chairmen should organise workshops to inform and educate the people for their own good. If the local people or processors are educated, they would be a little bit more careful about what they do.

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