· NAGREEN to address Nigeria’s environmental problems
· Senate to increase tax on plastic bags, bottles
· NPA sensitizes public on plastic pollution danger to maritime operation
By Kenneth Jukpor & Sunny Edemenang
As the world celebrated the annual World Maritime Day on June 5th, maritime experts have urged the Federal Government to protect the shoreline when dredging ports in the country.
Speaking to MMS Plus newspaper during an exclusive chat last week, the Chairman of Nigeria’s Ports Consultative Council (PCC) Otunba Kunle Folarin urged the government to take cognizance of the environmental effects of dredging which had led to the end of several shoreline businesses and communities across the nation.
While Otunba Folarin commended the global initiative to celebrate World Environmental Day with the theme of this year’s celebration ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’, he urged Nigeria to take a critical look at the consequence of several environmental issues ranging from ballast water control in the marine environment, to gas emission, field emission and other toxic wastes.
“The Nigerian government should understand that issues like dredging costs the nation in terms of the environment. What is the shoreline protection policy of the government to protect the livelihood and existence of people in such areas? Most of the villages around the locations that have been dredged seize to exist. Where are the environmental policies? There should be a scorecard on marine environment”, Otunba said.
Speaking on the marine environment, he said, “what is Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) doing about ballast water and the toxic waste? There is a department to cater for the marine environment at NIMASA, but what have they been able to do about these problems?”
The PCC Chairman expressed confidence that the upcoming National Green (NAGREEN) Awards and Lecture, to be organized by Kings Communication Limited, publishers of MMS Plus newspaper, provided the ideal platform to discuss the environmental challenges in the country and the possible headway.
“NAGREEN is timely and significant because it would identify the problems in environment especially in the marine environment. The programme would afford stakeholders an opportunity to compare what happens in other climes and assess the environment concerns in the nation”, Otunba said.
Meanwhile, he lamented that Africa had become the subject of 2nd century industrialization, noting that most of the problematic industrial procedures the developed world abandoned have been brought to Africa.
“The way Nigeria produces or deals with furnace iron is the way the developed world operated more than five decades ago. Take a tour of the Ikeja industrial area and you would be sorry to see what the industries are doing to the environment.
“When you look at the maritime sector, you find that environmental concern lead to issues like Ballast Control. Ballast water discharges by ships can have a negative impact on the marine environment; it pollutes the marine environment and kills the aquatic life. In some Nigerian communities, this polluted water is used for drinking, cooking, and washing, among others. So, you find that the upstream has been polluted and the downstream is also polluted. We don’t have to go through all these environmental challenges the Western world suffered because of industrialization. They got the benefit of industrialization but Nigeria hasn’t got the benefits of industrialization, yet we are faced with the perils” he lamented.
He acknowledged the fact that there was need to a have a World Environmental Day celebration because it puts into perspective the fact that environment is now an issue globally, however, he admonished Nigeria to look at the environmental issues that have been raised across the globe to see how it affects the country.
“Issues like emission control raised by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), climate change which is a global problem, the ozone layer depletion which is creating a new hemisphere in the world, as well as the other issues that we have always contended with, such as pollution in streams and rivers, pollution in the air where industries are located between residencies as well as the pollution in the Niger-Delta area where suits have taken over the environment. Nigeria should seize the opportunity of World Environmental Day to focus on these concerns to see if certain policies can be directed to resolve them. In my view, Nigeria can celebrate the World Environmental Day but it’s not yet uhuru”, he added.
In a related development, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) joined the rest of the world to mark the 2018 World Environment Day, with a clarion call for the protection of the ecosystem upon which life and maritime operations depend.
NPA made this call at the one-day sensitization workshop in Port Harcourt, organized to create awareness among the workforce on the hazards of plastic products pollution.
The General Manager, Health, Safety and Environment, Dr. Goodluck Opera called for concerted efforts from the government, industries, communities and individuals to fashion out ways to urgently reduce the production and excessive dependence on single-use plastics because of the serious pollution challenge it poses to our oceans, damage to the marine life and threat to human health.
The General Manager used the forum to highlight the commitment of the Authority to consistently formulate policies to control pollution and ensuring a sustainable environment in line with global best practice.
In her keynote address to mark the occasion, the Assistant General Manager ( AGM) Environment, Mrs. Khadijat Sheidu Shabi, reiterated the potential threat of plastic pollution to the maritime sector and our environment.
She called for urgent remedy to the non- biodegradability of plastic products which she said could last for over 500 years, pointing out that bio- accumulation of plastic waste in the fatty tissues of fish and other aquatic animals consumed by man, can lead to major health effect which can hamper maritime operations.
Meanwhile, in his lecture titled; “Effect of Marine Litter On The Environment, and Illegal Bunkering Activities On Maritime Environment”, the professor emeritus of the university of Port Harcourt, Prof. Winston Bell GAM, explained that plastic products which from its inception was for industrial and domestic use,has unfortunately turned into a menace not only to maritime operations but to the aquatic life, posing great health danger to maritime personnel. It blocks water channels and hamper navigation.
To combat the detrimental effect of plastic population, Prof Bell Gam, advocated for proper management of the sources and resources of plastic products as well as encourage best practices in plastic use. He called for proactive stance that will engender clean environment and maritime heath all year round.
Other remedies, he explained, lie on proper disposal of plastic waste through land fill, incineration and recycling of plastic waste as fuel to harness heat and electricity.
As contributed by participants during the interactive session, strong laws and compliance to legislation on plastic production, use and waste control, should be put in place to check the menace.
In a chat with newsmen shortly after the sensitization workshop, the head of department of Environment, Rivers Port, Mr. Norudeen, enjoined all in the port industry to join the fight against piloting our environment and the water channels with plastic waste.
The impact of this years’ theme: Beat Plastic Pollution, inspires global partnership in caring for our environment and improving on the quality of life without compromising the future.
In another development, the Nigerian Senate has called for an increase in tax payable on plastic bags and bottles to discourage their use and also called for the introduction of eco-friendly reusable bags.
The call came after the lawmakers deliberated a motion on the 2018 World Environmental Day sponsored by Rose Oko (PDP, Cross River North) as nine other senators agreed on the need to cut down on the use of plastic bags and bottles and combat the problems caused by plastic pollution.
However, Otunba Folarin urged the government to focus on public enlightenment on the dangers of such items to the environment and to systematically introduce people to the alternatives, rather than resort to laws or impose fines.
“In dealing with issues relative with environment, you don’t start with laws to control human behaviour; you start with a sensitization campaign for education. Most countries that have placed a restriction on the use of certain items for environmental reasons, started out with enlightenment campaigns which lasted for decades.”
“In Nigeria there isn’t sufficient awareness about the challenges with the use of these items. So, we have to carry out an effective sensitization campaign and introduce substitutes. Distribution of goods and services in Third World countries are very pedestrian and the cheapest form of carriage remains plastic bags and containers. However, now that we have discovered the dangers, we must seek alternatives on how we can deal with these issues” he said.
Meanwhile, the NAGREEN Awards and Lecture is billed to take place on Thursday July 12th, 2018 at the Golden Gate Restaurant, Ikoyi, Lagos. While the Minister of State for Environment, Alhaji Ibrahim Jibrin, is to deliver the Keynote address, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside as the Guest Speaker will speak on the theme: “The Blue Economy: Issues, Opportunities and Renewal Resources” National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency(NESREA) and NPA are expected to deliver goodwill messages at the event.