Soot: CEHRD urge govt to punish polluters of N/Delta environment

A group photograph of participants at a stakeholders meeting to unveil a concluded investigative report titled “Monitoring Particulate matter levels in Port Harcourt metropolis: Towards developing a baseline framework”, by CEHRD with support from Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN).

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

The Centre for Environment and Human Rights Development, CEHRD, has urged the State and federal government to punish all polluters of the Niger Delta environment, especially individuals and corporate organizations who emit particulate matter (Soot) in the air endangering the lives of the people.

The call was made in Port Harcourt, at a stakeholders meeting to unveil a concluded investigative report titled “Monitoring Particulate matter levels in Port Harcourt metropolis: Towards developing a baseline framework”, by CEHRD with support from Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN).

The report noted that recently Port Harcourt has become a focal point for discussions of air pollution in Nigeria, with the level of particulate matter (soot) pollution over the last three years at peak catastrophic levels.

The group revealed that the lockdown occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic provided an opportunity for them to assess background air quality to ascertain near pristine levels for carbon dioxide, temperature, humidity, PM2.5 andPM10 in Port Harcourt, the urban hub of conventional and artisanal oil and gas production in the Niger Delta.

According to the group, within the 30 days research, it was indicated that CO2 and humidity were at healthy levels for public health across sampled locations in most of the days monitored.

The report recorded that the air quality levels which were measured during the dry season were extraordinary as they were captured during lockdown and reduced movement rules that brought vehicle use and local industrial commercial activity in the city to a minimum.

Explaining more on the report, Dr Sam Kabari, Head Environment and Conservation of CEHRD, noted that data was collected during Covid-19 period, to assess and monitor the level of particulate matter (soot) in Port Harcourt.

He disclosed “What we did was to use very low cost air visual monitors to monitor a level of soot in specific areas in Port Harcourt. We selected five locations: Choba (University of Port Harcourt area), Nkpolu (Rivers State University area) Borokiri, Trans Amadi and D/Line.

“The reason we chose those areas were because they represented industrial and residential areas, so we were trying to see within the lockdown period when people were in their houses, companies were not supposed to be working, what does air in Port Harcourt look like?

“The data showed that there areas, despite the lockdown air quality was still deteriorating. Example; in Borokiri, we had the highest level of particulate matter 2.5 which is very dangerous and has very significant health implications. Despite the lockdown, we had high level of soot in the air in that area, followed by Nkpolu area which is close to waterfront”.

Dr Kabari however, stressed that “We are trying to use the baseline data to tell government to punish either individuals or corporate organisations that fragrantly release particulate matter into the atmosphere because they have serious health implications; like chardiac arrest, stroke and also hypertension.

“We need to take action to ensure that government develop very strigent regulations to ensure that individuals and corporate organisations maintain a particular amgent air quality”.

On his part, Mr Eugne Abels, an activist and lead Convener of Stop the Soot Campaign, stressed that government are set up for the purposes of enhancing, protecting and making the lives of the people better, but regretted that the Nigerian government is more focus on procurement than dealing with other issues.

He said “After 60 years, one of our clear demands is that there is a need for environmental audit for oil producing and oil bearing communities and now it is worsened by the activities of non state actors like those involved in illegal artisenery refining, the state had failed in its responsibility of providing product”.

He noted the need for civil organizations to begin to check the level of pollution which SDN AND CEHRD has brought to their view again, whereby monitoring unit should have been set all over the place to check the level of soot in the area.

He added “Governance must begin to shift to invest in environment, invest in things that the likes of SDN are doing to change the lives of the people and make our lives better”.

Mr Zaga Phimia, Clark, Rivers State House of Assembly Committee on Environment, who stressed the need for air monitoring station in Port Harcourt, to radiate (data) on the weather, mentioned that there is existing Rivers State Environmental Protection and Management Law No7, 2019.

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