The increasing presence of piles of garbage (trash) along streets, roads, and market squares in Imo state presents a great threat to human health and the environment. The irony is that there are available technologies to manage waste in order to reduce the potential impact. Municipal solid waste can be treated sustainably by maximizing the value from it as a resource of materials and energy while minimizing the visual and environmental impact. Protect this environment; it is the only one available.
Most aspects of our lives are linked with the environment. The quality of the air we breathe, the safety of our food and drinking water, the land we live and work on, and the manner in which we spend our recreational time outdoors- hinge on the condition of the environment. For our families, we want the healthiest environment possible.
The development and implementation of a sound environmental policy to protect its human and natural resources consistent with sustainable economic development is very important to all Imo State citizens. That is even more reason why the environmental protection agency in imo state must have the goal of clean air, clean water, and safe management of wastes generated in the state as part of its environmental responsibilities. It must be emphasized that any financial resources dedicated to environmental issues should not be looked at as an expense but rather as an investment in the health, safety, and welfare of all Imo State citizens. To this end, I am proposing a comprehensive management of municipal solid waste generated in the state. Adequate and effective management of municipal solid waste is very necessary for sustainable economic development and healthy living in this state. While there are serious concerns about, municipal solid waste management in the state, I must commend the state leadership for the efforts made so far towards environmental protection. My suggestion or proposal is offered only as a supplement to the state leadership’s on-going effects to solve this problem.
The question then is what is municipal solid waste and why is it important to manage it effectively? Municipal solid waste is a subset of solid waste and is defined as a solid waste resulting from or incidental to municipal, community, commercial, institutional, and recreational activities, including garbage, rubbish, ashes, and street cleaning debris, dead animals, abandoned automobiles, and any other solid waste other than industrial solid waste (us epa, 1996). Let us look at why municipal solid waste management is more important and necessary at this time than in the past. The fact that Imo state is home to abundant human and natural resources has proved to be a blessing and responsibility. These abundant resources make Imo State a desirable place to live and work especially in its major urban centers such as Owerri, Orlu, Okigwe etc… to name just a few. This has prompted tremendous growth in the state. In addition, with such growth comes a host of waste generation, disposal and management issues especially municipal solid wastes that must be addressed to protect the public health and the environment due to increased urban growth. For instance, more people mean more residential and commercial property development, which inevitably results in more municipal solid waste generation. If the increased municipal solid waste is not properly managed, the citizens would be in danger of being exposed to infectious diseases resulting from decomposed municipal waste scattered all over shopping centers, market squares and roadways. Remember that wastes that are mismanaged can enter the ecosystem, potentially damaging the quality of land, water and air. When the environment is contaminated, the harmful effects could affect human health as well as the health of plants and wildlife, which in most cases are sources of our food and nutrition.
The state, therefore, needs to address the increasing volume of municipal solid waste that is generated on daily basis in the state by constructing landfills. Landfill may not be the only solution to municipal solid waste problem but it is the permanent solution. It must be emphasized, however, that effective municipal solid waste solutions are a combination of landfill, recycle, reuse and reduce. Each of these solid waste management alternatives is important but for now, I am concentrating on landfills.
Would it not be a source of pride to actualize the dream of Imo state being the first state to construct landfill in the nation? This particular piece may have focused on waste management in Imo state but the ubiquity of garbage/trash is a national problem that deserves national attention and solution. In fact, the national government should be at the forefront of this issue that poses health, economic and a esthetic challenge to the nation. To this end, I urge federal lawmakers to establish a framework for national action that will involve strong legislative mandate with its associated regulatory guidelines and meaningful enforcement mechanism. The Senate and House leadership should take up this challenge at the national level. Remember that landfill is not a dump but rather an engineered facility. There are many benefits of landfill facility for any government and its people. Below are some of the selected benefits:
Healthy environment and healthy people: The goal of any landfill is to accept tons of wastes generated by the community including private citizens, businesses and governmental facilities. By providing an efficient and effective waste disposal, landfills ultimately protect human health and the environment. A healthy environment supports a health community. A healthy community generates a healthy workforce. A healthy workforce is a productive workforce which is not only good for attracting new businesses but also encourages retention of existing ones. With reduced environmental health related problems, the state can concentrate its resources to other health issues.
Employment: Apart from the health and environmental impact of landfills, the most direct beneficial effect of landfill is increased employment in the state. The construction phase of a landfill is estimated to generate more than 1000 new jobs within the locality. This is also in addition to indirect jobs due to subcontracting and supplies. With increased employment opportunity, there is a proportional decrease in the number of unemployed persons, thus reducing social services cost to the state. The operational phase of a landfill would also add more permanent jobs to the state.
Reuse & recycle: Some of the wastes sent to the landfill such as concrete, asphalt, brush, old tires, glass, plastics and metals can be diverted, crushed, and reused. For instance, crushed concrete and asphalt can be used for new road construction; metals and plastics, used batteries, and glass can be sold as scrap to recycling outfits either locally or exported for cash. In addition, other states may be utilizing Imo landfill for their waste management and that could be another source of revenue for the state.
Energy recovery: Landfill with time generates landfill gas (lfg). Several million cubic feet of gas may be generated on daily basis which could be processed and sold to the local market. This becomes additional revenue to the state coffers. Generally, lfg is composed of approximately 55% methane, 44% carbon dioxide, and 1% trace elements (us epa, 2011). The methane gas can be used as natural gas substitute for household and industrial uses. It may be of interest to note that an average landfill site can produce gas for more than 25 years. Moreover, gas production can be accelerated through a form of biotechnology known as enhanced leachate recirculation (elr).
A landfill operation buttressed by regulatory enforcement encourages attitudinal changes among the citizenry. This is because; all of a sudden it is no longer cool to be careless with trash and waste. The net effect is a community that is conscious of their attitude which ultimately leads to clean, healthy and safe environment.
Landfill construction is a major undertaking that needs the support of everyone to be effective especially laws and regulations. We will be very glad to assist the legislative branch of government to draft appropriate and applicable regulatory guidelines for municipal solid waste generation, disposal, and management in the state if the opportunity is extended. In addition to the regulatory guidelines, there must be enforcement mechanism to send a clear and loud message about the level of seriousness the state attaches to waste management in the state.