Port Harcourt Soot; Proffering The Most Soothing Solutions

I foresaw the present environmental challenges in Rivers State as far back as 2011. I lived in one of the oil rich communities of Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni L.G.A. in Rivers State which has her headquarters as Omoku. I worked for about 2 years in an Upgrade project as a welder for one of the International Oil Companies in the area.

Residents of the landlocked once peaceful kingdom are among the most hospitable people in the world (That was before the violence that started in late 2012).Also, since they trace their ancestry to the ancient Benin Kingdom and my language was similar to theirs, I was quickly adopted as a native, but that'll be a subject for another day.

At this point, I must commend the CSR Programmes of the I.O.C. in the Egi area as they contributed tremendously to community development projects and welfare of the people. They facilitated projects such as road constructions, portable water projects, free and fairly constant electricity supply, tertiary education scholarship programmes, skills acquisition and employment of both skilled and unskilled labour from the host communities, as well as payment of Egwu-Ogba bonus as benefits to the indigenous works during their traditional festival which holds around August each year.

However, the community paid dearly for all these benefits listed, as the community association leaders, oil and gas producing families and some prominent chiefs conniving with the companies deny the ordinary Egi people the benefits due to them.

The gas flaring in Obite, Obagi, Obiyebe, Oboburu, Okwuzi, Ebocha, Ogbogu and Egita etc. triggers a kind of climate change that makes it difficult to sleep without fan, or air conditioners installed. In addition, the rain water remains polluted with a blackish colouration. That was the situation over 7 years ago.

According to a report by Okhumode (2017), the WHO says air pollution constitute the largest of all the environmental risks: 3 million annual deaths are associated with outdoor air pollution exposure.
There are two critical factor that could have contributed to the environmental challengees.

Firstly, in 2016, the President Muhammadu Buhari led government launched the "Operation Crocodile Smile" that fully took effect in 2017, the Nigerian military forces began the destruction of the so called "illegal refineries". The mode of destruction was strictly by burning the site and products found in such areas. The skies of Port Harcourt reddened and temperatures rose to alarming levels but this didn't bother the government until the smog of soot began to fall.

Now, the carcinogenic effect of the black soot is feared more than the illegal refineries as it threatens human life in one of the most populated and economic viable cities of Nigeria.

Secondly, activities of Cattle dealers by way of continuous indiscriminate burning of metal-containing tires at the Woji Abattoirs called "Slaughter" may have accumulated in the skies and contributed to the menace. This process contributes high amounts of SO₂ into the atmosphere with the likelihood of causing "acid rain".

Ecological hazards take ages to remediate, so the Federal Government through the Ministry of Environment should partner with the Rivers State Government and the private sector to solve the problem holistically. There are many solutions that can be adopted, but the cheapest is to cut off the sources of the pollutants.

Firstly, illegal refineries and tanker trucks containing such products should not be destroyed by burning. Burning the over 60,000L of crude oil will increase the threat of environmental holocaust.

Secondly, the Woji Abattoir should improve their method of meat processing. In Lagos, the abattoirs have started using hot water to remove hairs from cow skin. It is healthier and eco-friendly as such it should be adopted.

Thirdly, gas flaring should be reduced. The gas emitted as flare can be channeled as energy to fuel an independent power plant to generate electricity.

Lastly, tree planting exercise should be encouraged. There are species of genetically modified plants that can be used for the phytoremediation of the already polluted water bodies.

The Chief Nyesom E. Wike government is doing a lot in terms of projects aimed at improving the aesthetic appeal of the State but more should be done to promote a greener atmosphere in the city of Port Harcourt and Rivers State in general.

By Onwordi Ngozi Fortune

No comments