By Odogwu Emeka Odogwu
Until now, sights of refuse dumps in the major cities, markets, parks and the adjourning cities were an eyesore. Anywhere you turn to, there is a pyramid of putrid refuse dump calling for attention, yet there is a ministry and agencies responsible for taking away refuse in the state. What went wrong?
At some points in Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi dump sites have been as high as 10 storey building and have lasted for over 30 years without evacuation before former Governor Peter Obi did justice to all that. But, human beings are very difficult to handle when it comes to environmental cleanliness. It appears we have returned to the old order. Refuse disposal is still a headache to good governance in the state.
Most of the dump sites were located beside residential areas hence a threat to health of the residents’ sequel to environmental pollution. Wastes from homes and markets are dumped anyhow in open places for the ASWAMA to evacuate to open dump sites located mostly in erosion prone areas without treatment and recourse to the United Nations approved refuse dump site at Nise, Awka South council area. The wastes are not segregated and burning the wastes which adds to the putrid smells, contributes to air pollution.
The United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, coordinates the organization’s environmental activities and assists developing countries in implementing environmentally sound policies and practices. It was formed 5th June 1972 in Nairobi, Kenya. UNEP uses its expertise to strengthen environmental standards and practices while helping implement environmental obligations of countries, regions and global levels.
That is why the new Anambra state Commissioner for Environment, Obi Nwankwo has keyed into the UNEP six strategic areas to ensure a cleaner environment for the people of Anambra state. Nwankwo wants Anambra to rank as the cleanest state in South-East, if not Nigeria.
He is integrating climate change responses and raising public awareness having conducted environmental assessment of the state. The laws are already institutionalized to minimise the impact of harmful substances and hazardous waste on the environment and human beings and create more environmentally friendly state. But can he succeed?
Anambra state even before Governor Willie Obiano had procured modern solid waste handling and evacuation equipment including motorized bins, plastic receptacles, waste bags and other refuse evacuation materials to ensure proper disposal of refuse but it still beats one’s imagination why refuse dumps still litre everywhere in the cities.
There are more procurement since Obiano became Governor. There are street sweepers and gutter cleaners numbering over 150 employed in 2015 to help keep major roads, streets and gutters clean and healthy. There is as well regular clean up exercise at the end of every month. The question is why is waste management in the state remains a challenge?
Obiano has given a directive to Obi Nwankwo, the Environment Commissioner to keep Anambra safe, clean and healthy for the citizenry. Can the citizenry adopt more environmental-friendly disposition for their safety?
Ministry of Environment is mobilizing the State Waste Management Agency (ASWAMA) and all other line ministries in sensitizing the public via public enlightenment on the new cleanliness regime. There is now a dedicated commitment to ensure that the mountainous heaps of refuse in all nooks and crannies are taken care of. The campaign is dedicated for prompt and continuous collection of refuse from different areas in the State with proper disposal in designated areas.
Already, there is an ongoing desilting exercise in the state starting with the cities and will get to the grassroots for meaningful impact. The ministry said it was ready to partner with President Generals of town unions and Transition Committee Chairmen of Local Government Areas to ensure that the effectiveness of the exercise is felt.
Nwankwo’s campaign has gone round the state on enlightenment particularly in Onitsha that generates about three thousand tons of waste daily. Other cities visited by the Ministry of Environment joint team with message of “Dobe Anambra Ocha” to end all manner of abuse of the environment in some of the major markets and streets. They included Awka, Eke Awka, Enugu Ukwu, Abagana, Iyi-Enu-Ogidi axis, Nkpor roundabout, Odume Obosi, Awka Road, Egerton, Ajasa market, Main market, new market road, Oguta Road and Ochanja market among others.
Others included Agulu, Ekwulobia, Uga, Igbokwu, NNobi, Nnewi, Ihiala as well as Awkuzu and Otuocha to mention but a few with the environment officers demonstrating and educating the people on the best ways to dispose waste as well as clean their surroundings. The campaign is still ongoing.
The head of the Environmental Marshals of the Ministry of Environment, Mr Ogonna Ibe is advocating for environmental mobile courts, patrol vehicles and manpower to enforce compliance since the public has been sensitized on the need to bag their waste and drop in waste bins for onward evacuation.
The Managing Director of ASWAMA, Mr Amechi Akorah re-echoing Obi Nwankwo’s stand said that government would no longer tolerate the indiscriminate dumping of refuse on the roads.
He said: “We are creating awareness among our people that dumping of refuse on the roads will not be tolerated anymore. They should look around their vicinities and make use of waste bins in their locality’’.
Now that meetings have been held with market leaders, it is hoped that the ministry of Environment would work in synergy with representatives of the market associations and neighbourhood sanitation prefects to ensure that the desired goals will be attained.
It is instructive to note that the Commissioner for Environment, Mr Obi Nwankwo on July 12, flagged-off Environmental Action Campaigns tagged “Dobe Anambra Ocha’’ and afterwards the Ministry of Environment in conjunction with Anambra State Waste Management Authority (ASWAMA) and officials of OCHA Brigade took the campaigns round the state starting from Awka, as they distributed fliers and enlightenment materials to members of the public.
Nwankwo said: “We want everybody to key into this, because maintenance of clean environment is collective responsibility and we must always remember that cleanliness is necessary for healthy living.
The commissioner stressed the need to shun open defecation and dumping of refuse in drainage channels, noting that operators of petrol stations and supermarkets should provide public conveniences for customers.
He also said that government had established courts that would prosecute defaulters of sanitation laws and enjoined the Ndi Anambra to imbibe the virtues of proper waste disposal.
Operation Dobe Anambra Ocha receptacles, safety wears were distributed to traders in line with the campaign of “Operation Dobe Anambra Ocha” initiative of the state government.
Joining Nwankwo in his campaign is the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Environment, Miss Jessica Nweke who presented refuse disposal receptacles among others and sensitized the market on the proper ways of refuse disposal and their benefits.
The Special Assistant to the Governor on community liaison, Princess Biana Nwankwo and Mr Henry Agbalusi, regretted poor attitude of traders in waste disposal, noting that the availability of the waste bins and trash bags will encourage attitudinal change and advised them to maintain proper hygiene and clean environment.
Mr James Eze, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to Obiano stated in a statement in Awka that the Anambra State Government says it plans to partner with an Austrian firm to generate electricity through waste-to-energy technology.
Eze, who is part of a delegation on an official visit to Austria, said government was exploring best possible and cost effective ways of converting tonnes of waste in the state
“The state delegation has visited leading electric power and gas companies in Austria, we visited Energie Versorgung Margarethin GmbH, (EVM) Biomethan station in Vienna among others,’’ he said. When shall this waste conversion to electricity come to reality? The Chief Executive of EVM Mag Wermer Wenolf please when are we expecting this to come to reality?
But , sooner than anticipated, the enforcement of state sanitation laws shall happen and no one should cry foul with this massive campaign.
Nwankwo explained that the enforcement and prosecution of offenders will follow the sensitization campaign, as the campaign will be taken to homes, offices, schools and markets in Anambra, urging Ndi Anambra to cultivate the right attitude towards the environment.
He said that Anambra State Ministry of Environment can be contacted on 09012500200 and 07056922207, for further details and complaints.
Supporting also Nwankwo’s campaign, Senior Special Assistants to the Governor on Environment, Mr. Stanley Nkwoka and Mrs. Florence Oraedum of ASWAMA said that the Ministry will sustain the sensitization exercise and enforcement until the aim of making Anambra the cleanest State in the Country is achieved, and appreciated the Governor, the Commissioner and other stakeholders who initiated the project.
At Onitsha, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Environment, Chief Chido Obidiegwu said the existing condition evidently witnessed at Onitsha does not ally with the state government’s vision of a Smart City and admonished them to see their surroundings as their individual homes.
The Special Assistant to the Governor on Beautification of Environment, Mrs Chinwe Aniemena revealed that an instructive aspect of their objective is to inculcate in residents, a culture of proper waste disposal and charged the people to imbibe positive attitudinal change towards their environment.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Dr Emmanuel Okafor and the Director of Environmental Health and Pollution Control, Mrs. Edith Ike, emphasized that keeping the environment clean is a collaborative effort, between the government and it’s people, as according to them, government cannot do it alone without the people’s input, adding that Ndi Anambra will soon start seeing Environmental Officers on the streets of Anambra, who have been mandated to enforce the State Environmental Laws.
If the ministry is serious with this campaign and rid the markets of debris and ensure water channels are kept clean by maintaining proper disposal of waste , stop trading on waterways by traders, Anambra residents shall appreciate the importance of paying for utilities and social services like solid waste disposal.
Confirming this directive on clean and healthy Anambra, Governor Willie Obiano cautioned the state’s residents against indiscriminate dumping of wastes in water channels across the state.
Governor Obiano gave the warning when he inspected some drainages around Ogbaru Council Area where the state government is about to commence desilting and re-channelling work.
In the pipeline for further desilting were Idemmili River at Iyiowa Odekpe and Sakamoli drainage at Obodo-Ukwu road.
Obiano represented by his Deputy, Dr. Nkem Okeke attributed some of the flooding experienced by the state to unwholesome practice of some residents who turns drainages into waste bin. He advised them to desist from such practice as it is against the environmental laws, and as well leads to artificial flooding.
The state Commissioner for Works, Engineer Marcel Ifejiofor said that the first stage of the project will be confluence of the Sakamoli drainage and Idemmili River to the River Niger which is about four-point-five kilometers in length, ten meters in width, and five meters deep, expressed hope that at completion, there would be no more flooding in the area.
Now that massive and robust sensitization has gone round the state, defaulters of any kind will be apprehended and made to face the wrath of the law.
Indeed, this new song of Obiano that cleanliness is next to godliness as espoused by Obi Nwankwo should be supported to yield its targeted results for a cleaner, greener and healthier Anambra 2020.
Cornucopia is a weekly column of Odogwu Emeka Odogwu.
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