Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Toward better waste management

June 1, 2005

The issue of waste has becomes one of the major national and
international problem in which the government, people and other
organizations has much concern [though not very serious in Nigeria]
due to the fact that improper waste disposal creates a serious damage
which tend to ruin the living and non living environment to lesser or
greater extent. As a result of over increasing waste generation from
our daily and industrial activities and lack of commitment from
people, organizations and government towards proper treatment and
disposal, it gives room for environmental degradation ranging from
land, water and air pollution, aesthetic nuisance and other associated
problems on the environment.

The management of waste has always been a problem in industrial,
commercial and general environment. Moreover, disposal of wastes has
been identified as being of utmost important; it is the first problem,
which must be discussed in any community, because the success of any
other health measures introduced will depend largely upon the
efficiency, which it is solved considering its effects [the waste] on
health and environment. In view of this, this paper looks at waste and
its relation or effect on health.

Waste in the language of World Health Organization expert committee on
solid waste management [1977] refers to "all the useless, unwanted or
discarded material resulting from normal community activities". It is
being seen also as any item or thing for which the immediate owner can
find no particular use and of which disposal is necessary. Though the
word is being used in different circumstances to mean different thing
like refuse, excreta, sewage and the like, it is not only limited to
these but also to other things which needs to be disposed.

Waste is generally categorized into three broad components: solid
[refuse], liquid sewage] and gaseous waste. Solid waste include
combustible and non-combustible refuse etc; liquid waste include like
industrial effluent, excretion, sullage, etc; and for gaseous we have
the like of dust, mist, fumes, methane, carbon monoxide etc. If we
look at all these, we can understand that wherever a person goes
around Nigeria it is common to come across such wastes. For instance,
you will come across heaps of refuse all over our streets, blocking
our water ways which render the liquid waste unable to move, thereby
inviting the likes of mosquito to come and breed there; air pollution
in the area that are densely populated with industries with no proper
control of emission, plus the dirty waste around many places that air
can blow them to fly in the atmosphere; and water pollution where
houses' sewage and or industrial waste that contain toxic things are
allowed to have access to water source without being treated.

The issue of waste is very serious problem if left unattended. Besides
health problems, economic, social and agricultural problem are also
experienced. Economically the country is losing in term of items that
are supposed to be recycled which can contribute significantly to our
economy if recycled and reutilized. Socially the environment we are
living will be unattractive and unpleasant for living due to offensive
odour that may arise, mosquito and flies infestation, occupying spaces
[by the waste] that can be used for other purposes; and agriculturally
it can render our land infertile and polluted due to toxic chemicals
and other agent in the waste.
The effect of waste on health are numerous, it encourage rodent
infestation. Moreover, the main source of this rodent is refuse and
rubbish dumps. The diseases associated with rodent that have harmful
effect on human health include Lassa fever, plague, murine typhus,
leptospirosis, rat bite fever, tularemia etc. It also cause odour
nuisance, which is a feature of faulty waste disposal method, fire
hazard and or disaster as some waste are flammable.
Another effect of waste on health is atmospheric and water pollution.
When a waste is burnt in an open space or a gaseous waste is released
to the atmosphere from the chimney of factories, a large amount of
smoke and dust pollute the air of the surrounding. Gases such as
sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, methane etc. are
generated and if left unchecked can cause atmospheric pollution and
aesthetic insult. The effect of atmospheric pollution include property
damages, damage to plants and animals, damage to human health and
genetic damage [as some pollutants are carcinogenic, mutagenic, and
teratogenic]. In case of water pollution, the heaps of refuse or waste
generated including the liquid one from industries, when storm water
ran through them and carry them to the source of water, the
possibility of being polluted is inevitable. The source of the water
can be contaminated thereby rendering the aquatic lives in danger and
to the human in case of using the water in domestic, agricultural, or
industrial use, and or eating the animals [like fish] living in the

The biggest effect of waste on health is causation of diseases. Even
though the existence of many diseases is favoured by either biological
vectors, physical and mechanical means, air borne solids, water
supply, food supply, direct contact, or other means related to the
socio economic status of a given population, nevertheless improper
waste disposal is playing a great role.

Diseases associated with waste include fly transmitted disease like
diarrhea, dysentery, onchocerciasis, cholera, etc; rodent transmitted
diseases like Lassa fever, plague rat bite dermatitis, histoplasmosis
etc; mosquito borne diseases like malaria, dengue fever, filariasis
etc; helminthes infection like anklystomiasis, enterobiasis,
ascariasis etc.

The last aspect in this write up about the dangers that waste poses on
human health is environmental degradation. This is through improper
dumping of the refuse in any place be it street, drainage, and open
space, in the market or any other place that is undeserved for waste
to be disposed there. Doing such constitutes a violation of public
health law and is an eyesore to the natural beauty of our environment.
It also makes our environment unattractive and unclean, and it can
even scare away tourist from Nigeria. Therefore, our environment will
be in constant threat of pollution and degradation in as much as we do
not give priority to its maintenance.

What I have been trying to point out is the effect of waste on health.
The case is for our authorities to see reason and gives more emphasis
on proper waste disposal so that our surrounding/environment will be
attractive, pleasant and safe, and our health to be safeguarded in
relation to waste. It also shows how improper or lack of disposal is
creating a situation that have a devastating effect on the human
health and society.
In view of this, Nigerian government at federal, state and local
should give waste disposal and environmental sanitation more attention
as it was before. This can only be achieved if the governments are
ever ready in tackling the situation by empowering the sanitary
inspectors [aka health officers] with the roles they are known with
since, with adequate fund and support. In addition, the government
must incorporate the public in proper waste management in their
locality by educating them on how not to mismanage their waste and
encourage them to keep their environment clean.
Lastly, the government through national assembly should revised the
Nigerian public health laws regarding cleanliness, hygiene and safety
of our environment, and stipulate a hard penalty for whoever violate
the laid down laws.