Epunchng - Most read newspaper in Nigeria Thursday, December 7, 2017 - Page 23

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7, 2017 viewpoint 23 Validating Nigeria’s policy on solid waste management Greg Odogwu g re g odog wu @y a h oo. com U NLIKE other sectors that are generally viewed as vital to our economic development, the environmental sector does not get enough attention from the government and people of Nigeria. Therefore, we still lag behind in upgrading important aspects of our ecological governance. The government would pump money into education, health, telecoms, agriculture, social development, name them but when it is about water sanitation and hygiene, we wait for foreign donors to initiate projects and fund them. This is not supposed to be so. We keep paying a high price for our ecological negligence. Truth be told, most of the health-related national emergencies we encounter annually are preventable through proper environmental health governance and robust regulation. If the sector is coherent and well-coordinated, the dividends would cascade down naturally into the different sectors, and absorbed by the impoverished grassroots population. Diseases like cholera, polio and malaria would be contained. Lives would be saved, and money would also be made. A particular area where we have not got it right over the years is in solid waste management. As our population is rapidly increasing, so is the waste from our communities piling up exponentially. It does not require a scientist to tell us that the way we handled waste 30 years ago is no more relevant today. There are no “backyards” or fallow wasteland to dump them anymore. And there are so much non-biodegradable (non-decaying) wastes that we cannot afford to leave them lying around our neighbourhoods. Ironically, this is the path we have chosen, as a government and as a people. While the world is fast moving beyond waste management towards zero waste status, we are still struggling with waste disposal. This means that while upwardly mobile countries are looking towards a future where wastes are not even produced at all – because they are already recycled and reused – we are still “throwing away” our rubbish. We do not 0 8 0 6 36 0 16 6 5 even manage the wastes; we just chuck them out into the streets right from the kitchens, the living rooms and the other rooms! On Thursday, November 30, in Abuja, stakeholders from across the nation gathered for a one-day National Stakeholders’ Workshop for the Review and Validation of Draft National Policy on Solid Waste Management in Nigeria. It was organised by the Federal Ministry of Environment in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation. This policy document is long-overdue, yet one is still grateful that it is finally about to see the light of day. This is the only way we can hope to catch up with other countries in waste management. According to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Shehu M. U. Ahmed, who declared the event open, the policy should be able to address the unwholesome practice of co-disposal of general and hazardous wastes on land, water bodies, roads and uncontrolled and open burning of wastes; as well as promote waste reduction at source, recycle and reuse, resource conservation and environmental protection. It will also set down clear framework for private sector participation and investment including Foreign Direct Investment in waste management, as well as cooperation and active participation of all including citizenry, corporate bodies, NGOs/CBOs, development partners, and private practitioners in the environmental sector. The average reader would ask, “Does it mean that Nigeria never had a policy guiding waste management up till now? What about the Environmental Laws and Regulations? What legal frameworks underpin the structure and practice of such agencies as NESREA, NOSDRA, DPR, etc