MOSES O. E. IWUALA
DEPARTMENT OF BIOTECHNOLOGY,
SCHOOL OF SCIENCE
FEDERAL UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY OWERRI,
IMO STATE, NIGERIA
Being an invited Paper presented on the occasion of the Celebration of 2012 World Environment Day organized by the Centre for Women, Genger and Development Studies, FUTO Tuesday 31st July 2012
I should start by commending the public-spirited efforts and initiatives of the Center for Women, Gender and Development Studies in Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO). Under the able leadership of Dr. (Mrs.) Ihuoma P. Asiabaka, the Center has done a lot in promoting the training, skill acquisition and socio-economic empowerment for the Women, our children and youths and the University Community generally. In addition the Centre has continued to create awareness on current and contemporary issues of practice interest. A case in point is the bold initiative of organizing the present Celebration of the 2012 World Environment Day in FUTO. In particular, I am grateful for the invitation to present a lead Paper as part of the activities marking this year’s Celebration. Since our ultimate focus globally is that of exploring ways and means of attaining a safe, sanitation and sustainable environment, I am minded to consider this against the background of the socio-economic development of our people. To this end I will be speaking on the “Strategy for a healthy and sustainable Environment for the Socio-economic development of Nigeria”.
NATURE AND CHARACTERISTICS OF OUR ENVIRONMENT
The Environment in which we live and thrive is made up of the Physical Components, the Plants and Animals around us, and the human population etc.
The Physical (or Abiotic) Environment comprises the land Area, the water bodies, and the aerial (or atmospheric) space around us. the characteristics of the Physical Environment may vary extensively (e.g. in terms of the soil and rock structure, with differential terrains and topography on land) and the differential physical features of natural water bodies (e.g. in terms of water volume, quality and depths/dimension etc.). The same is true of the atmospheric space around us and variations in the quality and wind movement etc.
The plants, Animals and Human populations in our environment, together with the micro-organisms that abound in the Soil, Water and Air around us constitute the biotic Environment. The Plants provide the vegetable cover in the environment and serve as primary sources of food supply to the animals and Man. Plants are therefore cultivated in Agriculture to promote supply of food items and raw materials for manufacturing industries (including food processing, canning, pharmaceutical and textile industries etc.). Other plant resources derive from Natural Forest and Forestry Plantation etc. The animal pollutions in our environment include domestic animals and farm animals (like livestock animals, poultry birds and fishery stocks etc.) as well as the various forms of Wildlife animals available in different environments. There are also the various forms of predators, pest and parasites that play various roles in the ecology of various habitats.
The human population depends on plant and animal populations and on other natural resources from the soil, water and the air for effective sustenance. Nevertheless, the population characteristics in different areas differ substantially (e.g. in terms of population density, demographic composition and socio-economic characteristics etc). Settlement patterns and living conditions of people also differ considerably in different locations, subject to a variety of factors.
The Environment in which we live is also subject to the influence of some natural phenomena like Sunshine, Heat and Temperature changes, Rainfall, Thunderstorms, Wind movements, and other such phenomena, many of which are becoming increasingly more evident in these days of global warming and climate change. In addition, the heavy load of micro-organisms (e.g. Bacteria, Fungi, Viruses etc) play important roles that impact significantly on the lives handy in the maintenance of the economy of nature e.g. through facilitating the decay and decomposition of dead plants and animals and the natural recycling of various forms of organic matter to restore basic elements to the environment.
As part of their day to day activities, and other natural functions, human, animals and plants generate various forms of waste (including excretory wastes and other forms of organic and inorganic products). These wastes invariably contaminate the natural environment and may pollute the soil, water sources and the atmosphere. Human and animal settlements, farm plantations and various other establishments may also be negatively affected by domestic and industrial wastes, toxic chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, irradiation materials and other forms of environmental pollutants and ecotoxicants.
ATTRIBUTES OF A HEALTHY AND SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT
A healthy and sustainable environment is one that is sanitary, safe and supportive of the growth and multiplication of human and animal populations and the luxuriant growth and spread of plants. As a rule, organisms in such an environment have access to good nutriment, healthcare and protection, and are basically exposed to minimal (or at least tolerable) levels of communicable and pathogenic infections. More specifically, the features of such environment include the following:
ü Regular observance of environmental sanitation and hygiene; with adequate provisions for refuse and sewage disposal and avoidance of indiscriminate dumping of wastes and industrial sludge.
ü Provision of adequate housing and shelter for the human population (with limited congestion, adequate ventilation and functional toilet facilities). In addition, suitable facilities are normally available for healthy Animal husbandry and related Agricultural Practices.
ü Availability of clean and adequate Water Supply is also one of the essential attributes of a healthy and sustainable Environment; with proper checks being observed to guarantee the quality of water, consumed and used for other purposes.
ü Ample nutritional supply should also be available for human and animal populations. This underscores the essence of viable Agricultural productivity for enhanced sustenance of any community.
ü A healthy and sustainable Environment must have dependable provisions for effective Healthcare, Disease Control and Disease Prevention. This should applicable not only to the human population but also the animal population, to help minimize chances of zoonotic transmission of infections in the locality.
ü Clean air supply (Indoors and Outdoors) with less chances of atmospheric pollution e.g. from putrid wastes, gas emissions, bush burning, chimney wastes or fossil fuel sustainable environment.
ü Provision for positive nurturing, education and grooming of the human population should also be available, with opportunities for basic education, skill acquisition exposure, entrepreneurship training and other forms of positive development of the human populace.
ü A healthy and sustainable environment must be addition have facilities and potentials for fruitful exploitation of available natural resources, with the proceeds being ploughed back to service the socio-economic and welfare needs of the populace in keeping with the principles and practice of the concept of the green economy.
STRATEGY FOR ATTAINING A HEALTHY AND SUSTAINABLE ENVIRONMENT FOR NIGERIA,S SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
In The Quest for a Healthy and Sustainable Environment for Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Development Therefore a Strategic Plan of Action is Proposed, Based on the Following Measures:
1. Maintenance of Sanitation and Healthy surrounding in homes, residential settlements and in public establishments generally. Community hygiene, drainage and desilting of gutters, clearance and safe disposal of refuse, sewage and other forms of wastes must be regularly observed and backed by Sanitary Inspection with appropriate sanctions being enforced, for defaulters.
2. There should be proper mapping and planning of our Environment, starting from the rural communities to the towns and Urban Centres. As much as possible, functional lay-outs should be provided with clear guidelines in the housing settlements and other forms of private and public shelters.
3. Bold measure water which should be reticulated to service the needs of the populace potable water which should be reticulated to service the needs of the populace in all sectors (domestic, commercial, agricultural, industrial etc). Also natural water bodies like lakes and rivers must be protected from undue contamination; and where feasible, they should be positively exploited for productive purposes (e.g. in fish farming and irrigation activities, etc).
4. In the light of our rich natural endowments, steps should be taken to promote agrarian and sustainable Agriculture, taking account of the huge potentials offered by crop farming, cereals and citrus cultivation, livestock farming, poultry farming and fisheries development etc. Added to these should be some positive measures to provide industrial back-up in form of Agro-based industries focusing on food production, food processing and food preservation etc.
5. For effective and healthy sustenance of the populace, Healthcare Programmes need to strengthened at all levels, starting from the Community-based Primary Healthcare activities through the level of Secondary Healthcare (involving General hospitals and Clinics) to the Tertiary Healthcare level with properly equipped Teaching Hospitals and others such Specialized referral Centres. Also there should be active promotion of Disease Vector Control, Immunization Programmes and other positive Disease Prevention measures.
6. The maintenance of a Clean and Healthy Atmosphere should also be pursued vigorously with emphasis on the need for clean fuels and vehicles, and the minimization of gas flaring, bush burning, indiscriminate refuse dumping etc. In addition, public enlightment campaigns should be mounted to promote clean indoor Air through minimizing exposure of women and children to domestic air pollution resulting from household energy use [involving use of kerosene stoves, firewood and coal etc].
7. For meaningful Socio-economic empowerment of the populace, the curricula for Schools and Colleges will need to be positively reviewed to strengthen elements of Health Science and Hygiene, skill acquisition, entrepreneurial training and the essential tenets of Environmental Protection and Conservation, Bio-diversity and Bio-safety etc. Furthermore target-oriented Manpower development efforts emphasizing on Environment Awareness, Ecology and Resource exploitation need to be stressed for the guidance of the various tiers of Government in the country.
8. For sake of rapid Socio-economic Development at local, State and National levels, diversified Commercial and Industrial Establishments need to be provided to exploit the country’s vast natural resources, including mineral ores and our plant and animal resources for sake of providing job opportunities and trade options needed for the social and economic emancipation of our people.
Altogether it is evident that Nigeria is a country richly endowed in Human, Plant and Animal Resources, plus vast land area and substantial mineral and other resources (including Oil and Gas). These and other assets (actual and potential) can be gainfully explored and exploited to ensure sustainability of this country as a viable nation with assurances of food security, socio-economic, self-reliance and a safe and sanitary environment; provided we strive in the right direction to take necessary steps to minimize environmental contamination and pollution, while promoting a healthy and sustainable environment for our children and for generations yet unborn.