All these ultimately lead to global warming, which grounds the change in climatic condition today. Today, weather situation has largely defied the traditional predictions. Rainfall continues unabated during the conventionally dry spell while heat condition soars in a period expected to be winter. The impact of this on food security, water struggle and conflict is better imagined. Adjunct to the above is noise pollution.
This has assumed dangerous dimensions but without commensurate attention from all those concerned. In Nigeria, it is derivable from multiple sources such as noise from religious homes, bus terminals, generating sets, motor vehicles, industries, nightclubs, music retailers, hooting and tooting, construction sites, social events like parties and concerts, indiscriminate use of sirens, etc. I recall a study on some pupils that revealed hearing impairment for majority of them. Children (pupils) in the poor areas often perform badly in the examination due to the uninvestigated facts that they suffer hearing impairments due to the various noise conditions they are subjected to.
As they pass through noisy garages, tooting cars, loudspeakers from religious homes, grinding machines at the back of their bedrooms, the din from the play of musical instruments, both commercial and leisure, that emanating from electricity generating sets (commonly referred to as, I better pass my neighbor), they continue to damage their ear drums. Unfortunately, nobody ever audits their hearing capacity, no routine audiological tests as reputable generally in the country compared with the practice in other advanced countries. At the end of the day, we continue to chastise the pupils for not performing well in school when, factually, they do not hear what the teachers are passing across. I dare say, communication is perpetually impaired.
What do you, therefore, expect from them academically when they cannot hear the communication from their teachers? Your guess is as good as mine. Similarly, adults are not spared the catastrophic effect of noise pollution. For example, a person returns from work into the noisy environment at home, night vigil and other noisy events, had a sleepless night and left early morning into hooting and other noise events, in not too long a distance, he develops high blood pressure, leading to stroke and eventual death. Even if he does not die, his productivity declines gradually.
The situation, in terms of soil and water pollution, is not so much different. We are all living witnesses to the abandonment of shipwrecks on our waterways and the consequential effect of lead on the aquatic life, the indiscriminate dumping of feces in the lagoons producing pathogens as well as other forms of waste, leakage and deliberate discharge of oil on our waters, channelling of harmful industrial effluents into the water, discharge of sewage into the water, etc. In fact, the impurity that comes to our water is incalculable.
Is it in terms of the quantity of grey and black water dispensed daily and ending up in our lagoons and soil? By grey water, I refer to waste water from activities such as baths, showers, hand wash, water from washing dishes and clothes, while black water refers to products of feces and urine.
The soil pollution suffers the same fate of penetration of chemicals and similar dumps as in the water pollution. Dumping of hazardous wastes on the soil, electronic wastes, plastic bottles and nylon bags, particularly the coloured ones. At the global level, the Lancel Commission on Pollution + Health, October 2017 research revealed six impacts of and solutions to pollution globally. The study reveals inadequate data reflecting the real state of the impact of pollution on our health, more devastating impact on the vulnerable, linkage with the climate change and biodiversity which is still much neglected by all, the huge cost implication of the impact due to our neglect, reduction of gross domestic product (GDP) in low and middle-income countries by up to 2% per year, and most importantly, massive deaths of people arising from environmental pollution.
Available data from the study reveals 9 million premature deaths (16% of all deaths worldwide), three times more than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined, 15 times more than all deaths from all wars and other forms of violence.
The study confirms that it kills more people than smoking, hunger and natural disasters. The suggestions made towards resolving the above according to the researchers range from both national and local recognition of pollution as a major source of death and integration of same into planning processes; increase in the budgetary allocation of fund to pollution control; monitoring of pollution engendered health diseases; development and consolidation of inter-ministerial and agencies collaboration; treatment of pollution triggered as part of non-communicable diseases; increased research into the pollution impacts and control. The picture painted above obtains in Nigeria largely also.
Thus, I advocate the adoption of the suggestions, with necessary modification to our local circumstances. Beyond the foregoing, however, I will equally advocate the recall of the various efforts we put in place during my tenure as Commissioner for the Environment in Lagos State towards reduction and/or abatement of environmental pollution. To tame air pollution, we put in place efficient waste management strategy with emphasis on the 3R’s, “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”. This discourages the incineration of refuse. Sorting culture of waste was midwifed substantially in schools as school pupils are the greatest change agents. Tree planting was institutionalized as a way of sequestrating the pollutants. This cleans the air for us and reduces the incidents of respiratory ailments. Advocacy on climate change, particularly the causes of global warming, was prosecuted locally and escalated internationally. Virtually all citizens were becoming aware of the impact of climate change. We aggressively pursued our policy of motor vehicles road-worthiness; we prohibited noise pollution, particularly those emanating from the religious homes and garages; effluent discharge from industries was manned effectively. Discharge into the waters was forbidden and criminalized. Also cardinal are the development of sewer for the efficient and effective discharge of sewage; improvement of traffic management to reduce emissions; institutionalisation of intermodal system of transportation, cycling, water transit, bus rapid transit, car pool, railway, etc.
We must pursue the aggressive policy of retrofitting, particularly by encouraging the use of energy-saving bulbs at no duty on importation. We need to outrightly ban the importation and use of two-stroke engines in the country. I will advocate the setting of parameters for the determination of decibels for each area and appropriate zoning. This must be complimented with appropriate enforcement. I am not oblivious of Section 22 of the NESREA Act that charges the agency with the responsibility of regulating noise pollution. However, since the legal position is that environmental matters are concurrent, I would advise states to embark on the same regulation in their areas. As at date, I am not aware of any legal instrument setting those parameters. All the enforcements taking place currently and in recent past are arbitrary and subjective. These are efforts we need to put in place towards curtailing environmental pollution in the country. Why these efforts are essential is that prevention, they say, is better than cure. Equally, studies, over time, have revealed that the more we are committed to environmental protection, the less we spend on clinical health, and the higher the productivity, prosperity and life span of the citizens.
Let me conclude by the general saying in the environment family world that, God forgives all the time, human beings forgive occasionally but Nature never forgives. The more we disrespect our environment, the more it disrespects us. A word, they say, is enough for the wise! Mo wi temi o! The time is, therefore, ripe for all of us to wake up to those realities and start protecting the environment in our collective interest.