From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt
A coalition of civil society groups in Rivers State are set to empower women and youths for improving environmental conditions through some waste management based enterprising.
The groups arrived at this decision following a recent major environmental risk-to-health assessment by World Health Organization (WHO), estimating 37 million premature deaths (under age 60) and attributable to environmental pollution.
Nancy Iheduru of Center for Creative Development Strategies (CCDS), told The AUTHORITY that “many citizens are not aware of proper solid waste management strategies as regards separation, management, recycling, and wealth creation opportunities,” adding that most people are not sure of what the “government waste management policies are”.
Addressed participants of a stakeholder sensitization workshop in Port Harcourt, Nancy Iheduru stated that members of the citizens groups are working on a project, titled: “Improving Environmental Conditions in Rivers State Through Waste Management Enterprise Development for Women and Youths,” to turn the eyesore environmental liter conditions in urban and semi-urban areas of Rivers State into a source for women and youth economic empowerment through wealth generation.
The workshop drew youths, women and critical stakeholder groups to the Obio/Akpor Local Government Council Hall for beefing mass support to her groups pilot scheme, being funded by the Embassy of France in Abuja, Nigeria.
Encapsulating her project dream and mission under the maxim: “cash your trash,” Ms Iheduru regretted that: “there is little knowledge on the huge economic opportunities that exist on the solid waste value chain.”
She told the participants representing various parts of the Obio/Akpor council area that a “large percentage of solid waste comes from households where women could positively influence if they are adequately informed”.
The project, which covers three council areas of the state, Port Harcourt, Obio/Akpor, and Oyigbo, will sustain effort for improving environmental conditions in the state through, increasing the awareness level of residents on waste separation and waste management.
The project will also advocate and lobby for implementation and enforcement of waste management policies to increase citizens’ commitment towards a clean and healthy environment through the launch of an Eco-Friendly Network, while building the capacity of women, youths and urban waste scavengers on wealth creation through waste management and recycling enhanced practices.
In a lead presentation during the Obio/Akpor stakeholder sensitization workshop, titled: “Facts on Solid Waste Management in Rivers State (History, Present and Future),” Mr. Henry Amadi, an advocate for safe environment, pointed out that domestic, urban and general waste generation patterns have placed enormous duty on citizens to innovate creative ways of dealing with the burden of waste management through proper handling to heighten environment friendly benefits to the general society.
Amadi called for a thoroughly sensitized citizenry that will exhibit the passion for proper waste management according to state law and its legal/social prime purposes.
Amadi observed that improper disposal tendencies persist to highly shocking level, despite the establishment of the Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) some years back; that is, with the agency created to serve the need for enhancement of environment sanitation practices, and improvement of living conditions by reducing diseases and health problems.
He therefore, recommended for improved law enforcement effort to enhance public spirited waste management practices in the state.
Barr Debora Effiong, Executive Director of Arise for Gender and Livelihoods Initiative, one of the participating civil society groups, hinted that the project empowerment scheme will train women and youths on waste-to-wealth conversion skills for beneficiaries’ welfare improvement, while contributing to enhancement of environmental conditions in Rivers State.