By Ebere Agozie
Environmental and health experts have urged stakeholders to promote low-carbon growth initiatives to solve environmental problems, decrease climate change risks and impacts on ecosystems as well as human health.
They made the call in separate interviews with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Thursday.
The experts agreed on the need to create a national policy to address climate change issues and move the country toward a low-carbon development trajectory.
Prof. Nasiru Idris, the Dean of Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Nassarawa State University, Keffi, underscored the need for collaboration among stakeholders to develop a national strategy to phase out the use of non-biodegradable items like plastics.
He said that pragmatic efforts should be made to “develop a national plastic waste recycling programme, involving the establishment of plastics recycling plants across the country.
“It is my view that for controlling the proliferation of plastic sachets, for instance, we must go back to the major producers of fast foods and goods to put in place recycling programmes.
“The recycling schemes should effectively ensure that while we seek environmentally-friendly options for product packaging, we keep the environment free of plastics as much as possible,’’ he said.
He said that the government’s environmental policy should aim at finding practical solutions to the menace of plastic pollution which was created by the growing production and use of plastic materials such plastic bags, bottles and containers, among others.
Besides, Idris decried the degradation of the environment in the Niger Delta region, calling on oil companies operating in the area to protect the environment against crude oil pollution and gas flaring.
He particularly advised the oil companies to be mindful of the consequences of their activities, while exhibiting greater responsibility towards protecting the health of the people and the environment.
He called on all the relevant parties to come up with concrete plans of action on how to remediate the pollution of affected sites and intensify efforts to stop gas flaring in the Niger Delta.
However, Mr Peter Idabor, the Director-General of National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), said that the Federal Government was committed to the environmental clean-up of the Ogoni neighbourhood in the Niger Delta area.
He said that the Federal Government had initiated a National Oil Spill Contingency Plan (NOSCP) for the clean-up and remediation of oil spill sites in the country.
NAN reports that the contingency plan which aims at checking oil spills, in collaboration with the Nigeria Agip Oil Company (NOAC), is to ensure timely, effective and appropriate response to oil spills in communities.
“Some activities that are being checked now are illegal refinery activities which are causing gas emissions and also abattoirs that use rubber tyres to roast animals, forcing people to inhale harmful gas on a daily basis.
“Another source of the soot is the heating of asphalt used for road construction and the burning of stolen petroleum products by security agencies,’’ he said.
NAN also recalls that the Ogoni Trust Fund Escrow Agreement was signed by representatives of the Ogoni area, Federal the Ministry of Environment and international oil companies.
The UN had recommended one billion dollars for the remediation of the impacted areas in Ogoniland, with a spending plan of 200 million dollars per year for the next four years.
Also speaking, Mr Haruna Manga, Coordinator, Primary Healthcare, Karu Local Government Area, Nasarawa State, urged residents to desist from indiscriminate dumping of refuse in order to prevent the outbreak of diseases such as gastroenteritis.
He said that gastroenteritis, even though a common disease among young children, could also affect adults.
“It is a health condition that causes diarrhoea and vomiting; the causative agent is a bacterial or viral tummy bug.
“Bacterial gastroenteritis can result from poor hygiene, it can also occur after consuming food that is contaminated by bacteria carried by flies in filthy environments.
“Nobody has immunity to combat the negative impact of environmental pollution and that is why we should all strive to promote a safe environment,’’ he said.
Mr Atayi Babs, the National Coordinator, Climate Sustainable Development Network (CSDevNet), a non-governmental organisation, said that the citizens should exhibit a positive attitude towards the environment so as to prevent the occurrence of climate-induced disasters in the future.
“Some changes in climate cannot be avoided due to past, present and future global emissions but the detrimental effects can be avoided if we can reduce the emission of greenhouse gases to acceptable levels.
“Therefore, we must move towards taking climate actions that will alleviate the effects of climate change and a warmer world.’’
Babs said that CSDevNet was concerned that the implementation of Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) remained largely unknown, with inadequate participation of non-state actors.
He advised Nigerians and Africans, in general, to speak with one voice at international climate negotiations during the 2018 Talanoa Dialogue.
He stressed that the outcome of the talks must include informed policy formulation and the monitoring of policy implementation at all levels.
Babs said: “Now is the time to lay strong foundations for the future and ensure that Nigerian perspectives are strongly reflected through the engagement of non-state actors in the implementation of Nigeria’s NDCs, the SDGs and the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (EGRP).
“Such engagements must be based on genuine global sustainability and low-carbon development pathway and they must reflect the integrated links on socio-economic, cultural and environmental dimensions of development.
“Any implementation plan that fails to integrate these dimensions in a balanced way is not feasible in efforts to address present and future development challenges in Nigeria,’’ he added.
He warned against the non-implementation of policies, adding that the policies must have concrete plans to implement new climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies within the sector.
Babs underscored the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build resilience climate change consequences.
“In the light of the increasing rate of gas flaring, upsurge in soot generation and importation of generators across the country, we should be more ambitious in implementing Nigeria’s NDCs with regard to greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets from now until 2020 and post-2020,’’ he said.