By: Rotimi M. A
An invited paper presented at the 39th National Conference/Scientific Workshop of the Environmental Health Officer Assoociation of Nigeria [EHOAN], October, 2003
The principal aim of all sound development is the promotion of human welfare and happiness. It is extremely difficult to set down objective welfare or human happiness, especially the latter. Happiness is essentially a state of mind, but it is generally associated with a feeling of contentment and the knowledge that one’s aspirations are either being fulfilled or stand a reasonable chance of being fulfilled.
No programme of development can be regarded as complete unless it includes at least certain basic human needs whose satisfaction can be regarded as an essential condition for human existence. The achievement of these needs/objectives demands the application of human effort and intelligence. Just as man is the ultimate beneficiary of all development efforts, so also is he the originator of all development programme and goals. Thus, unless man is healthy in mind and body, the development process cannot even begin. Nor can the fruits of development be fully utilized and enjoyed unless those whom they are intended to benefit are in a fit state of health to make use of the resulting benefits and assist in extending them to the rest of the society.
Health and development thus have mutual beneficial effects on each other; but quite plainly health comes first in order of priority. Good health implies not just the absence of illness, but a positive state of well-being in which body and mind are fit and all the faculties are working harmoniously at their maximum level of efficiency. A healthy person needs to be assured of all basic physical requirements of life – good job and safe work place, good food in adequate quantities, reasonable standards of shelter and clothing, adequate and safe water supply, facilities for wastes management and means of social existence. To a large extent the provision of these basic needs turns on the availability of adequate financial intellectual and technological skills for directing these resources along productive and useful channels.
In Nigerian Society of today which is astronomically industrializing and diversifying its economy profound changes are taking place in the environment as is now evident. Some of these changes have beneficial effect on health, safety and socio-economic well-being of our people, whilst some other aspects have demonstrable adverse effects on health.
ENVIRONMENT, HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENT
It has now become clear beyond any doubt that the task of bringing about a new socio-economic order at the national level is very daunting. And added to this is the Herculean task of achieving, in collaboration with the rest of the international community, and particularly the other Third World regions, fundamental structural changes in national economic relations.
Economic development implies growth and change in a sustained manner. It is closely bound to environmental concerns. Man cannot hope to improve his world without economic growth. But quality of life cannot advance unless the working and living environment is nurtured and valuable resources are protected.
Man uses the natural resources which abound in his environment in a variety of ways to meet his needs. This often results in environmental deterioration; a problem aggravated by rapid population growth and urbanization – resulting in uncontrolled urban growth and expansion of environmentally marginal settlements; and industrialization, with attendant environmental pollution; and deterioration o the rural resource base through deforestation, soil erosion and degradation.
The question that arises is how to establish a harmonious and realistic relationship between man and nature which is a long-standing and largely unresolved one. Following years of mindless onslaught on and depletion, degradation and in some cases complete destruction of environmental resources, leading to real fears as to how long man can hope to survive on this planet without health and safety being endangered, efforts are being made to discover the right approach to man-nature interaction.
In order to ensure that possible negative impacts of development projects are predicted and addressed prior to project take-off and are environmentally sound and sustainable, an Environmental Impact Assessment programme was adopted in December, 1992.
The goals of the EIA include:
- Responsible use and exploitation of natural resources
- Sustainable productivity of ecosystems
- Maintenance of the carrying capacity and the absorptive capacity of air, land and water
- Prevention of the degradation of environmental quality
- Use of appropriate technology
Like most other developing countries, Nigeria had for a long time embraced the concept of rapid industrial growth as the vehicle for overall economic development. Since the 1960s, the various National Development plans have consistently emphasized industrialization as the means of achieving rapid increase in the nation’s productive capacity as well as improving the standards of living of the citizenry. As a result of this pursuit, and with the advent of the oil industry in particular, environmental degradation has been on the increase.
Rapid population growth at a rate of 3.4% per annum is straining the urban environment. The United Nations Development Programme in its 1986 Annual Report has it that one quarter of the world’s people call misery home;
- That nearly 100 millions are actually without shelter, eating and sleeping along public streets in all major metropolitan centres.
- That squatter settlements abound lacking water, sewage facilities, removal of solid waste etc.
These problems are taking a toll on the Nation’s Economy!
Industrialization is an important life-wire in the economic development of any nation and an important barometer for measuring the nation’s stature in the international community. It provides ready employment opportunities for a good percentage of the population. It facilitates the upliftment of standards of living and social well-being.
Industrialization therefore begets development which is a very desirable end.
There are over three thousand industries in Nigeria today. The operation of these industries varies according to their technological process, size, nature and products, characteristics of the waste produced and the receiving environment of discharged waste. Presently, these industries have been classified into the following ten sectoral groups by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), via:
a. Food, Beverages and Tobacco
b. Chemical and Pharmaceuticals
c. Domestic and Industrial Plastic and Rubber
d. Basic Metal, Iron and Steel, and Fabricated Metal Products
e. Pulp, Paper and paper Products, Printing and Publishing
f. Electrical and Electronics
g. Textile, Wearing Apparel and Leather
h. Wood and Wood Products including furniture
i. Non-Metallic Mineral Products
j. Motor Vehicle and Miscellaneous Assembly
Every industrial activity involves the input of raw materials through some mechanical process and the usual result is the finished desired economic good and some unwanted by products or wastes. The wastes come in various forms of solid, liquid or gas.
Inevitable as industrialization is, the siting of industries and the process technology employed in them are sometimes determined by various criteria, some o which are environmentally inappropriate. For example, industrial estates are sometimes established alongside residential areas and large urban centres.
Again, the process technology of some industries often result in unacceptable levels of toxic and dangerous industrial wastes, effluents and emissions.
The most common problems associated with industrial facilities are: air and water pollution, the creation of solid wastes, noise and modification of traditional land use.
Assessment of industrial projects should therefore consider:
- Identifying potentially harmful effects of a particular project on the environment, health and society
- Ensuring that appropriate mitigating measures are incorporated into the project, and
- Preventing unnecessary depletion of domestic natural resources.
Lagos State is Nigeria’s most industrialized state. Reportedly, it accounts for over 60% of the federation’s total industrial investment. According to the Nigerian Industrial Directory, 1994 edition, published by the manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria and the report prepared for and submitted to the Lagos State Ministry of Environment and physical planning by the World Environment System (an Industrial Data Base, 1997) over 2000 industries have been identified in Lagos State.
Two things would immediately strike one concerning the large quantities of industries in Lagos State. The first is that economic activities, employment opportunities etc is high. The second is that pollution from industrial discharge/waste is high as well.
Indeed, pollution has bothered conservationists for decades. It is now of sufficient intensity to concern the public. Economists have turned their attention to the causes, cost, and possible cures for pollution. On the other hand, however, economists are also concerned about economic growth and environmentalists often assert that economic growth is accompanied by pollution of the air, contamination of water supplies, and destruction of wildlife habitats.
To complicate the issue, energy, which is essential to life and to the preservation of the standard of living we most desire, has become increasingly expensive. Unfortunately, to increase the energy supplies we must often aggravate the pollution problem. And when industrial wastes are ill-managed, ther are potential dangers viz:
i. Water Pollution:-
Industrial waste from such industries as breweries, textiles, bottling, pulp and paper, pharmaceutics, meat-packing, dairies, paint, metal finishing, and so on, contain carbonaceous and nitrogenous substances, organic/inorganic matter, toxic chemicals, heavy metals. If such harmful or potentially harmful industrial wastes are dumped in surface dumpsites, or in gulleys, valleys or drainage basins, leachates from them (i.e. liquids from dissolved solid wastes) percolate freely and are swept by rain flood into surface water (such as streams lakes, rivers) and into burst water pipes and nearby underground water system. The result is extensive chemical pollution of water. An example is River Kaduna which plays a very important role as the major sources of water supply and common sink of all water-borne wastes produced by the industries.
This is also true of the stream serving as waste sink to NICHEMTEX in Ikorodu in Lagos Sate. Most other industries along Aromire area (Ikeja), Ijora, Apapa, discharge their effluents and untreated directly into open public drains.
ii. Air Pollution:-
The quality of air is affected by smoke, dust, automobile exhausts and gaseous waste from factories. The important gaseous emulsions from Nigerian Industries are sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen particulate matter, heavy metal dust etc. These gaseous irritate the lungs and pose a serious threat to the health, particularly of older people and children.
Quantitative data are not readily available on air pollution because it is rarely monitored by Government agencies and the industries do not want to monitor it. The two biggest sources of air pollution are vehicular emissions and industrial plants. The population of vehicles in Lagos State is about 500,000 while industries number over 2000.
Air pollution is also a phenomenon of ill-managed waste. Technically, air is said to be polluted when its natural capacity to dilute various atmospheric pollutants is over-burdened. The air gets easily polluted when chemically – laden industrial effort and toxic gaseous emission or dissolving industrial waste solids are released into it.
iii. Land Pollution:-
Land includes all the natural resources used in the production of the things we want i.e. the minerals in the ground, forests, waterfalls, fertile soil etc. Disposal of solid and hazardous waste on land is dangerous when not dealt with in an environmentally sound way. The danger is that these wastes may pollute ground water used or drinking and soils used for grazing and farming. Cost of land is made higher. Unwanted health and environmental impacts such as contamination of soil and possibly of food products grown thereon are potential consequences of improper disposal of hazardous wastes.
Other includes:- Land degradation which sets in motion a chain of events that lead to declining food production and increase children’s malnutrition.
- Creation of an aesthetic blight that harms the natural beauty, historical sites and tourism.
All the above environmental hazards-to human health, animal life, plant life, and the economy show that proper waste management and control is intimately connected with the on-going global concern for sustainable development.
Nigeria’s Population is estimated at 126 million persons by World Health Organization (WHO) and has been increasing annually at 3.4 percent. At this rate the population is set to reach 281 million persons in 2015 and 338 million by the year 2025. As is typical in countries where fertility has been high for a long period of time, (between 4 and 7 children per woman). Nigeria has a very young population. Population projections indicate that in 1985 over 47 percent of the population is under the age of 15. Consequently, Nigeria has a high child dependency ratio which is the proportion of children under 15 to adults in the economically productive ages, is to 64.
Nigeria is experiencing rapid urban growth. In 1960, only two urban centre- Lagos and Ibadan-had more than 500,000 residents; by 1980, 9 cities had more than 1/2million persons. Between 1960 and 1970, the urban population grew by 4.7 percent per year, and between 197o and 1982, the population of the cities grew by 4.9 percent per year. 1980, about 20 percent of the population of Nigeria lived in the urban centres. Rapid urbanization has contributed to poor housing conditions, inadequate water supply, and waste disposal, congestion, high rates of unemployment and underdevelopment, crime and other social problems.
Every family and individual has a basic right to a decent home and a suitable =living environment. However, large segments of the population in urban and rural areas do not enjoy one or both of these fundamental needs. The realization of a decent home in a suitable living environment requires clean air, pure (good) water and food, adequate shelter and unpolluted land. Also required are freedom from excessive noise and odours, adequate recreation facilities, and convenient services in an environment that provides safety, comfort, and privacy.
Housing is expensive and difficult to find in many urban areas of Nigeria, particularly the capital. Construction has not kept pace with the rapidly expanding population, leading to severe overcrowing. In Lagos, the master plan assumes the following projections of an average of 6.3 persons per household! And with high fertility rate, about 1.6 million new housing units would have been required between 1985 and 2000 simply to accommodate the growth of the population. Another 1.9 million units would be needed between 2000 and 2015 for a total of 3.5 million new units over the 1985-2015 period.
Practically, all urban and rural areas contain substandard, slum and blighted areas. With the movement of large numbers of people to cities, urban areas became congested, desirable housing became unobtainable. Inadequate facilities for transporting people rapidly and cheaply to and from work made it necessary for many people to accept less desirable housing in the cities, close to their work. The inability of the ordinary wage earner to economically afford satisfactory housing left him with choice but to accept what housing was available. Some landlords took advantage of the situation by breaking up large apartments into smaller dwelling units and by constructing cheap housing-of course with the attendant problem of none provision of sanitary offices and wastes management facilities.
In recent years, about 25 percent of households requiring new housing in Lagos have been able to obtain housing through private markets, while the other 75 percent are low income households unable to obtain adequate housing with their own resources.
Slums therefore abound! This may start with the expansion or spill-over of business into the contiguous residential areas, thereby making the housing less desirable. Poor people next door or in the same building, desiring quit and privacy, move. Owners are hesitant to continue maintenance work, causing buildings to deteriorate. The landlord is even ready to convert the building or a segment of it to commercial use. There is therefore a progressive degradation from blight to slum. And as blight spreads so does crime, delinquency, fires and housing decay.
There are also the areas that are slums from the start. The absence or failure to enforce building, sanitary and health regulations leads to the development of “shanty towns” or poor housing areas. Added to this, are cheap, new and converted dwellings and tenements that are poorly located, designed and constructed-just to provide shelter.
In recent years the population growth has been taking place outside the major cities, but the rate of housing construction and rehabilitation has not kept pace with the needs of population growth. The loss of housing due to decay, and demolition further compound the problem.
A notorious feature of our major cities and towns over the years has been haphazard development. Many of the popular towns and districts were unplanned. The direct results of the unplanned developments is that there are no infrastructural services in most of them, and such as exist are grossly inadequate.
In Lagos State, in the past decade, the Government has created a number of Agencies to tackle, among other things, the problems of unplanned development. The New Towns Development Authority has, as part of its functions, control and monitoring of unauthorized developments within Government Estates.
The task force on Environmental Sanitation and special offences assists in removing illegal structures and building without approved plans. The Committee on illegal conversions of residential buildings to other uses is a new creation in the State. It was established in 1994. And in 1996 came the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) both having relevance to the problem of unplanned developments.
HOUSING, HEALTH AND SAFETY
Substandard housing trends contribute to the aggravation of health and safety problems; viz:
a. Over crowing and congestion of living yards
b. Inadequate water supply
c. Inadequate or absence of sewage disposal facilities
d. Inadequate waste disposal facilities
e. Poor drainage facilities resulting in pollution of domestic water sources, flooding and dampness of living quarters ‘
f. Poor ventilation and lighting
g. Clustering of living quarters with junk, tins and cans
h. Atmospheric pollution
i. Lack of privacy and recreational facilities
j. Lack of access-ways into the settlement
k. Excessive noise from a variety of sources
l. Transmission of diseases and frequency of physical injuries
m. Unhygienic food handling and storage
n. Harbourage of vectors and hosts of disease
o. Conversion of the home as a workplace with increased health risks from chemicals or accidents
p. Higher morbidity and morbidity rates and the lower life expectancy.
The realization that millions of people lived a life consistent with human dignity, that many people were deprived of basic human requirements such as shelter, water supply, sanitation, employment, health services, education and recreation and the rates of urbanization are increasing while conditions in human settlements are deteriorating a an alarming rate must lead to the decision that national/state/local governments and private organizations must be act to improve the living conditions of the people.
In this connection, the following steps are pertinent:
a. A though study of the housing development situation in the major urban and rural settlements of this country, aimed at an understanding of the nature and magnitude of the housing and settlement problems encountered by the people
b. Enactment/Enforcement of appropriate legislation that will lead to the progressive and incremental realization of the housing rights of the citizens
c. Formulating and adopting a national housing policy that will lead to provision of housing for all with facilities for waste management
d. Provision of such facilities to protect preserve, promote that physical and mental health and social well-being of the people; to prevent and control the incidence of communicable diseases; to reduce environmental hazards to health and to maintain adequate sanitation and public health, to protect the safety of the people and to promote the general welfare.
e. Without tearing down existing buildings, gradual improvements be made, involving as much as possible the participation of the residents in slum areas.
The urgency of coming to grips with the successes and failures in residential development project as it affects health and safety has been heightened by the severe economic and financial strains now affecting many countries. Resources available for development have become scarce. Yet investing to make residential developments more sanitarily efficient and healthy places is a key factor not only in the fate of the urban poor, but in national economic recovery and growth.
The need at this juncture to evaluate the experience of the past decade and identify ways of improving the effectiveness of future residential developments, with particular attention to waste management.
HEALTH AND SAFETY IMPLICATIONS OF DEVELOPMENT
The common threat running through this paper is that Nigeria can afford sustained industrial and residential development to the extent that it manages wastes in productive and domestic activities. Waste management can reduce physical constraints which hamper economic expansion-in the human environment as well as in the supply of energy, and other critical or scarce resources.
The quality of life depends on human security, safety, comfort and other factors relating to health, pleasure and happiness.
The implications of waste on health and safety include
Waste Creates/increases costs
- Organizing and operating costs
(time, supplies, equipments, power, capital costs)
- Costs borne by the people
Waste Cause Changes
- In physical, social or emotional functioning
- In resource use (inequities in allocation of resources)
- In the quality of life of people e.g. deafness, impairment of hearing
Waste Cause serious public health problems
- Supports the growth of large population of flies (which can transmit typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery etc)
- Encourages the proliferation of rats
- Promotes the prolific breeding of roaches and mosquitoes
- Gives rise to noxious and offensive oddurs
- Gives rise to smog and air pollution
- Causes flooding when dumped on water ways
- Obstructs free flow of traffic when dumped on motorways.
Waste Cause health impairment/death
- Through land degradation which sets in motion a chain of events that lead to declining food production and increase children’s malnutrition. In some parts of the country, some 20%-40% of children under age five are reported to be below 75% of the standard weight for their age
- Through pollution of water bodies from discharge of domestic sewage and industrial waste
- Through air pollution linked with incidence or respiratory and pulmonary diseases
- Destruction of wildlife.
Waste Assaults the senses/diminishes value
- Creation of an aesthetic blight
- Strong objectionable odour
- From slum/blighted housing.
Waste Tends to increase
- Risk of road accidents
- Risk of community health from certain industrial processes e.g. fire explosion, poisoning etc
- Impact on existing health and safety services
- Environmental hazards and deterioration of natural resources
- Exposure to local diseases e.g. malaria.
Protect the resource base, through:
- Land use planning
- Preventing the discharge of pollutants and sustain development through environmental impact assessment
- Establishment of environmental education that enculturizes hygiene practices
- Beautification of the environmental through tree planning and protection of the greenbelt areas of the country.
Control aggravation of existing hazards by:
- Introducing polluter-pay-principle i.e. an economic disincentive package for environmental restoration on pollution abatement
- Enforcement of environmental legislation programmes which defines the responsibilities of the users of the environment
- Establishment and strengthening of an Environmental Services Department at the Local Government level
- Establishment of institutional framework for environmental lay reporting and data collection, analysis and utilization
- Gradual improvement to slum/blighted areas.
For effective management of the environment, contamination of the air, water and land resources must be kept low enough to avoid deleterious effects on human health and welfare.
Future generations will inherit this country after us and will pay for our mistakes and carelessness. We should therefore not fold our aims as if nothing is happening. Every effort must be made to made to counter the deterioration in the quality of life that will occur if the environmental resource base continues to be debased.
Thank you and God bless.
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2. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development 1985. The environment/Public Health and Human Ecology
3. United Nations Development Programme (U.N.D.P) 1986. A better Environment for Developing Annual Report.
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13. Shelter Rights Initiative – Practical issue in Human Settlements and Health 1997
14. Shelter Rights Initiative – Improving the Living Environment in Slum Settlements 1999