Desmond Mgboh, Kano.
Pollution is a dangerous phenomenon. It is typical of industrialised cities and developed towns. Where it is not checked and cleaned up, it becomes harmful to man and his environment.
Kano, Nigeria’s second most industrialised state, has a stunning record of pollution. To say that the environment is clean in the ancient city is to vote for a lie. With scores of industries situated along Challawa, Sharada and Bompai Industrial layouts, the state is one with an unusual burden. But checking this burden too has been usually difficult.
In the years after Audu Bako, the numbers of industries in Kano State leaped in their numbers while the leather tanneries flourished in their figures. The result is that in layouts where these industries are domiciled, the natural air is suffused with offensive odour while the gutters are laced with a slush of industrial waste.
A technical report submitted to the ecological unit of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF) way back in September 2018, clearly documented the unhealthy situation, wherein it was stated : “The direct discharge of effluents from tanneries into the environment, especially bodies of water, has given rise to a growing environmental concern.”
The report further stated: “There have been complaints about the effect of increasing pollution from industrial activities with discharges into the Challawa River from Challawa Industrial Area, Salanta River from Sharada Industrial Area as well as the Jakara dam from Bompai Industrial Area.”
A credible source told Sunday Sun in a brief chat: “Although the state government is fully aware of this and is deeply disturbed by this lingering issue (pollution), it has not been able to effectively respond to the problem, maybe due to paucity of funds or absence of will.”
The source explained that following this reality, the state government, alongside the Kano Emirate Council decided to seek the intervention of the Federal Government, towards addressing the hydra-headed problem of industrial pollution confronting the state.
“These correspondences materialized and gave rise to a number of preliminary studies on the management of the waste produced by the industries in Kano,” said the source.
A technical committee was inaugurated by the Federal Government in July 2018. The committee, after it had done its examination of the menace and was satisfied that it posed a potent threat, recommended that a central effluent treatment plant (CETP), with both primary and secondary treatment and capability to treat 4,000 cubic metres of waste per day be constructed in Sharada area of the state.
It also recommended that a similar treatment plant comprising both primary and secondary treatment with a maximum capacity of 15,000 cubic metres of waste per day be built in Challawa while adding that a primary treatment plant only with capacity of 1,000 cubic metres of waste per day for Bompai.
Also, the committee in the report, sighted by Sunday Sun, recommended the construction of closed effluent conveyance pipes or closed culverts in all the industrial sites as well as road improvement, especially at Challawa and Sharada industrial areas.
On the basis of the above, the Federal Government awarded a contract for the construction of the effluent channels. At the sites last week work was going on in earnest. It was observed that the company had since mobilized to site, with a number of its workers on ground and engaged in their work.
Murine Ademshola, an engineer handling the project In Challawa industrial layout recalled that the firm commenced work in April, 2019, and would hand over by next year.
He explained that the project involved mainly laying pipes and constructing reinforced concrete chambers, which would be used to evacuate the toxic water from the open channel to the closed channel.
“At the end of day, the toxic water would be collected and treated and thereafter, released to the environment, instead of the untreated toxic water that is flowing out currently,” he said.
On threats by the members of the communities to obstruct the project if they did not get their compensation, he said that the matter was being handled by the state government.
During a visit to the Kano State Commissioner of Environment, Dr Kabiru Ibrahim Getso, the issue of unpaid compensation to the communities and their threat to obstruct the project returned to the front burners.
The Director in the Ecological Office, Mr Etim Bassey, who led the team on the facility visit, explained that they were in the state at the directive of the Office of the Secretary to the Federal Government.
He observed that although the beneficiaries of the intervention were very happy, they were however skeptical about the payment of their compensation.
“They appreciated the Federal Government for the laudable gesture of executing the project. Of course, they remarked that they had been suffering, they talked about sicknesses, about pollution and how their streams had been affected negatively.
“They want the issue of their compensation to be looked into quickly, so that it would not hamper the progress of work being done in the area,” Bassey told the Commissioner of Environment, adding, “The communities have some concerns and that is why we are also using this opportunity to encourage you to have a more robust interaction with them.”
In his response, Getso revealed that the state government accorded priority to issues about the environment, stressing that environmental issues affect everybody.
He recognized the complaints of the affected communities and assured that he would personally follow up their concerns with a view to ensuring that they were addressed in good time.
He expressed gratitude to the Federal Government for executing the infrastructural project in the state and gave assurance that the state would give its maximum cooperation to the execution of the project.
An industrialist, Dr. Mohammed Usman applauded the federal government for its intervention, and said: “When we saw the government doing this project, when we saw their bulldozer, we were very happy. In fact, we slaughtered rams and gave the meat to the poor.”
Usman, who is the Managing Director of Lukat Classic Nigeria Limited, a firm that produces leather in the state, further remarked: “Now with the government project underway, I am sure we would benefit a lot. I understand that this project is to take care of the secondary treatment and once you do the secondary treatment, it has two advantages. The water can be recycled, that is, come back to us to be used. And then secondly, it would reduce the cost of our doing business; it would make us competitive in the world market for leather.
“Nigeria has the best leather for shoes and bags, but one of the major problems we face is that we are not competitive in the global market because of the cost factor. The cost we pass through, especially in the treatment of the waste makes us a bit uncompetitive in the world market. But now with the intervention of the Federal Government, we are preserving the environment and at the same time paving the way for Nigeria’s return to the global league of competitive leather producers.”