EVALUATING THE PROBLEMS OF SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT IN NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Solid wastes comprise all the wastes arisingfrom human and animal activities that arenormally solid, discarded as useless or unwanted.Also included are by- products of process linesor materials that may be required by law to bedisposed of (Okecha 2000). Solid waste can beclassified in a number of ways, on the basis ofsources, environmental risks, utility and physicalproperty. On the basis of source, solid wastesare again classified as: Municipal Solid Wastes,Industrial Solid Wastes and Agricultural SolidWastes.Nigeria’s major urban centres are todayfighting to clear mounting heaps of solid wastefrom their environments. These strategic centresof beauty, peace and security are being overtakenby the messy nature of over flowing dumpsunattended heaps of solid wastes emanatingfrom household or domestic or kitchen sources,markets, shopping and business centres. Cityofficials appear unable to combat unlawful andhaphazard dumping of hazardous commercialand industrial wastes which are a clear violationof the clean Air and Health Edicts in our environmentalsanitation laws, rules and regulation.
Refuse generation and its likely effects on thehealth, quality of environment and the urbanlandscape have become burning national issuesin Nigeria today. All stakeholders concern withthe safety and the beautification of our environmenthave come to realize the negative consequencesof uncleared solid human wastes
found in residential neighborhoods, markets,schools, and central business districts in ourcities. These solid wastes have become recurringfeatures in our urban environment. It is nolonger in doubt that Nigerian cities are inundated withthe challenges of uncleared solid wastes. As aresult, urban residents are often confronted withthe hazardous impact to their collective healthand safety.
A United Nations Report (August 2004)noted with regret that while developing countriesare improving access to clean drinking waterthey are falling behind on sanitation goals.At one of its summit in 2000 (Uwaegbelun 2004)revealed that The World Health Organization-(WHO 2004) and United Nations InternationalChildren Education Fund- (UNICEF 2004) jointreport in August 2004 that: “about 2.4 billionpeople will likely face the risk of needlessdisease and death by the target of 2016 becauseof bad sanitation”. The report also noted thatbad sanitation – decaying or non-existentsewage system and toilets- fuels the spread ofdiseases like cholera and basic illness likediarrhea, which kills a child every 21 seconds.
The hardest hit by bad sanitation is rural poorand residents of slum areas in fast-growingcities, mostly in Africa and Asia.In 1992, the “Earth Summit” succeeded inalerting the conscienceof the world to the urgencyof achieving environmentally sustainabledevelopment. The Summit asserted that ifwe know enough to act today, then we must alsofind answers to many tough conceptual and technicalquestions that have remained unsolvedover time. It affirms that rapid urbanization indeveloping world if ignored can be a threat tohealth, the environment and urban productivity.
Cities are the engines of economic growth, butthe environmental implications of such growthneed to be assessed and managed better. Thecritical and most immediate problems facing developingcountries and their cities are the healthimpact of urban pollution that are derived frominadequate water services, poor urban and industrialwaste management, as well as air pollution,especially from particulates which constitutes part of solid waste.
Among the pressing environmental and publichealth issues in Nigeria today is the problemof solid waste generation and disposal. Theproblem of solid waste management is a historical onebecause man’s existence is inextricably linkedto the generation of waste. The problem is becomingintractable as many cities in developingcountries cannot keep pace with urbanization,pollution, and the increasingly concomitant generationof garbage due to changing life stylesand consumption patterns.
The mountainous heaps of solid wastes thatdeface Nigerian cities and the continuous dischargeof industrial contaminants into streamsand rivers without treatment motivated the federalgovernment of Nigeria to promulgate Decree58 for the establishment of Federal EnvironmentalProtection Agency (FEPA) on 30 December1988 (Federal Military Government 1988).
A national policy on the environment was formedand the goals of the policy include: to secure forall Nigerians a quality of environment adequatefor their health and well being; to raise publicawareness and promote understanding of the essentiallinkages between the environment anddevelopment; and to encourage individual andcommunity participation in environmental protectionand improvement efforts (FEPA 1989). Asregards the solid waste sector, the specific actionsdesired include collection and disposal ofsolid waste in an environmentally safe manner;setting up and enforcement of laws, regulations,and standards; encouragement of public participation;environment monitoring and impositionof penalties on defaulters to encourage compliance(FEPA 1989; FRN 1991).
In spite of the formulation of FEPA and anational environmental policy, the environmenthas not been adequately protected. Interest ismainly on aesthetics, which is rarely achieved(Agunwanba 1998). Wastes collection is irregularand restricted to the major cities. Improperlysited open dumps deface several cities,thereby endangering public health by encouragingthe spread of odors and diseases, uncontrolledrecycling of contaminated goods and pollutionof water sources (Adegoke 1989, Singh1998).
Sadly, there seems a resignation to the unremittingsolid wastes build up by the relevant authorities,where such bodies exist at all. However,in reactions to the inescapable environmentalimpact of delay in solid wastes removal,the federal government for example, introducedthe monthly environmental sanitation in the earlyseventies. There from the States and Local Governmentswere expected to take a cue and evolvetheir own solid wastes management (SWM) strategiesbased on the peculiarities of their environment.
Each state had in the process of mitigatingurban solid wastes, set up Wastes ManagementBoards (WMB) in attempts to tackle the occurrenceof wastes and their hazards to society asa whole. While the unhealthy aspects of abandonedsolid wastes can be contained, the moreavoidable features of blocked drains, traffic impedanceand floods have yet to be fully tackled.