10 April 2009

Nigeria: Haphazard Sewage Disposal - How Kano Communities Pay Dearly

Estimated five million litres of poisonous waste generated by manufacturing companies in Kano is released daily into River Challawa and much of it finds its way into the Tamburawa Water Treatment plant, Wudil Water Works, Yobe-Kamadugu River and Chad Basin, with all the health hazards to Kano residents and those living along the polluted rivers.

Communities living along Kano River that stretches to Wudil River, Yobe-Kamadugu River and on up to the Chad Basin may have been exposed to dangers of industrial wastes released for years without knowing it.

Daily Trust investigations revealed that over the years the refusal of industries to adhere to sewage and wastes disposal procedures that led to millions of litres daily being released into sources of water has led to land degradation, erosion, loss of animals, and tremen-dous human health hazards that might have caused rise in many illnesses and preventable deaths.

Malam Sani Sabuwar Gandu is a father of four. Most in the family have developed serious illnesses that have seen them hospitalized severally in the last few years.

Ibrahim Sani, the eldest son, had at 19 years been diagno-sed with kidney infection at the Abubakar Imam Urology centre, and like many others living along Sabuwar Gandu, Gadan Tamburawa, Sharada and several other industrial estates, hundreds or even thousands are suffering from dangerous diseases as a result of the indiscriminate release of industrial wastes by companies along the area.

Ibrahim Sani is not the only victim of the wanton and indiscriminate release of indus-trial wastes due to poor sewage disposal provision by indus-tries in Kano .

Farmers along the Sabuwar Gandu, Challawa, Tamburawa, Kura , Bagauda and several other communities interviewed disclosed observation of fall in cultivation of produce over the years.

Malam Shehu Tamburawa told our reporter that even before their displacement as a result of the construction of the Tamburawa Water Works by the Kano State Government, communities along that area, especially those engaged in irrigation, have been experi-encing fall in cultivation.

"We thought it was as a result of inadequate fertilizer, but even if we have adequate amount of the commodity, the produce still recedes unlike before," he said

The problem did not stop with fall in cultivation alone, animals were daily being lost after drinking from the open sewage that carries industrial wastes from Sharada and Challawa into the Kano River.

Alhaji Kawu Garba informed our reporter that in the last five years more than fifty animals had died after drinking from the industrial sewages.

The development has raised concern among resi-dents living along the Kano River and beyond.

A recent survey in Kano State shows increase in cases of infections largely caused by suspected consumption of food with high concentration of chemical components mostly with high acidity elements and metallic compositions.

An investigation at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Kano and the Urology Centre shows increase in patients being diagnosed with infec-tious diseases, the number, according to the investi-gations, increases by over 50% within the last few years.

Not only are the actions of the companies causing tremen-dous damage and threat to health of the residents, even farms are not spared from the devastating effects resulting from the release of these poisonous chemicals into the public water system by the industries.

Investigations at irrigation facilities in Kura, Bagauda and some other communities using the Kano River as their source of water indicate dwindling fortunes in produce as a result of dying proteins of the soils which were affected by the chemicals from the industries.

Dr Mustapha Karkarna is an environmentalist and currently at the Civil Defence and Immigration Board in Abuja . He told our reporter that the damaging effects of industrial releases can be short, medium and long term.

He said the chemicals being released especially by tanne-ries possesses some high level of chemical components that have heavy metallic accumu-lation and other dangerous chemical components that could immediately cause havoc to humans and land.

"Because of these metallic and high accumulation of acidic components, any human consumption could cause cancer and other fatal diseases, while the land that these chemicals are being released on can be affected with loss of value and with time they will dry and fail to produce even if farming is tried on them," he said

Dr Karkarna added that most tanneries use these chemicals that are supposed to be downgraded, recycled and tr into the Kano rivereated after use and not to be released into the community.

He disclosed that the resultant effect is not only restricted to humans and land, but even sources of water could be affected as wells could dry up due to the impact of these chemicals.

The environmentalist disclosed further that the indiscriminate release of these sewages has already affected the quality of over 90% of water sources in Kano .

"If you go to the city and anywhere near these indus-tries, you will see that taste of water drawn from wells have changed with high level of acids and mostly cannot even be drunk," he said

Dr Karkarana further explained that the enormous human health hazards being caused over the years by these indiscriminate actions cannot be easily quantified because in the last few years only a full investigation could say how many people have died and how many farm lands have been degraded by these contaminations

Another dangerous trend Daily Trust investigations revealed is the sale of industrial wastes to farmers as fertilizer by many factories.

Many farmers resorted to the use of industrial wastes in place of organic fertilizer or even local manure because of the high cost of the commodity and the availability of the local manure, thereby preferring to use the cheap industrial wastes sold at give away prices by the industries to farmers.

But revelations are that the use of these industrial wastes as fertilizer has devastating effect on the farms and the subsequent produce.

According to Dr Mustapha Karkarna, over 40% of lands in Kano have their productivity value reduced due to use of these 'fertilizers'

This is because due to their chemical composition these industrial 'fertilizers' kill the land, infect the produce, affect the consumer and generate dangerous health hazards over years of use.

"It is imperative for governments at all levels to mobilize and educate farmers on the dangers of using this type of industrial 'fertilizers' being sold by factories to farmers and industries must be forced to engage in proper disposal of their sewages and wastes to protect the people and their land," Dr Karkarna added.

Disturbed by reports of scheming of procedures and refusal to take adequate safety measures in sewage releases and wastes disposal, the National Environment Stan-dards and Regulations Enfor-cement Agency (NESREA) visited Kano to inspect compliance with the rules on sewage releases and wastes disposal.

Many of the industries visited lack the facilities while the few with them have circumvented the process, thereby indiscriminately releasing sewages into public water sources.

After a tour of the indus-tries, the Director of Inspection and Enforcement of the agency, Mrs Ronke Soyombo said any industry that refuses to adhere to the rules and procedures by 6th of May would be sanctioned.

She told Daily Trust that the agency decided to inspect tanneries in the state after a report carried out in 2008 indicated that most industries pollute their environment through careless release of toxic wastes.

"A year ago we realized that industries, mostly tanneries, pollute the environment mostly because they refuse to utilise their water treatment plants as stipulated by the law," she added.

Soyombo who described the trend as unfortunate and responsible for fatal health hazards said the agency decided to give all industries in the country up to May 6th to provide waste treatment plants or face sanctions.

"Very soon we will conduct pre-assessment visit to see how they are complying and any defaulter will be sanctioned according to the level of his offence," she added

The director revealed that a meeting of all stakeholders comprising relevant indus-trialists would be held to discuss ways of preserving the environment and preventing the release of poisonous chemical wastes into the society.

"You find that some of these wastes contains corrosive materials, some with chromium that are very toxic and some of the wastes are used as fertilizers and end up in our farms with devastating conse-quences," she said

Chairman of the Tanner's Council of Nigeria, Alhaji Lawal Sule Garo said the council is concerned about the develop-ment and added that already they are working in conjunc-tion with the tanners to comply with the regulations on waste management in the interest of the people.

He said it is disturbing that actions of the tanneries had been causing serious health hazards and environmental pollution to the community, adding that they will do all it takes to ensure industries comply to the regulations of the wastes disposal and sewage construction procedures.

In one of the companies, Unique Tannery, where poiso-nous releases reach a daily 300.000 liters, the team expre-sses happiness of the com-pany's readiness to complete its treatment plant soon.

Conducting round the team the Chief Engineer, Mr Niaz Ali said very soon the company will commission its waste treatment plant, believed to be the biggest in Africa .

He said adequate measures are being taken to ensure compliance with the regula-tions and safety of the environment.

"Right now our treatment plant is the biggest in Africa and when completed there will be none like it in the entire African Region," he said.

Further investigations revealed that after realizing the monumental effect of the industrial wastages to the people as a result of failure of industries in Kano state to adhere to the sewage regula-tions the federal government in conjunction with the state and the United Nations Industrial Fund (UNIDO) met and agreed to set up a secondary treatment plant to enable industries recycle their wastages and protect the communities from consuming these poisonous releases.

But since 2006 when the idea was conceived during the reign of Mrs Grace Ogbuce as the Minster for Special Duties in the Presidency, the idea has since died with the change of government in 2007.

But chairman of the Kano State Technical Committee on the establishment of that secondary treatment plant and Deputy Director, Pollution Directorate at the state Ministry for Environment, Engineer Mustapha Muha-mmed told Daily Trust that findings had shown that most industries do not have the treatment plant.

He said even those that have it were byepassing it to release wastes directly into the public sewage.

He said it was for the dire need to ensure compliance and protection of the people that a draft bill for the establishment of a secondary treatment plant with collaboration of the federal and state governments and UNIDO is underway.

Engineer Mustapha dis-closed that it is because of the realization of increase in the pollution level and the fact that waste water from these industries are going up stream as well as the down stream source like Tamburawa, that necessary action to protect the people became imminent.

He also disclosed that one of the problems facing the establishment of the secon-dary treatment plant was the decision of the federal govern-ment to direct the ecological fund through the Hadejia Jama'are River Basin Develop-ment Authority, an action making coordination difficult.

"But we are determined to see that all industries opera-ting in the state act within the laws, and as seen in some of the industries, the intent to comply with the regulation is really a welcomed develop-ment," he said

But the question many people are asking is this: Why has it taken both the Kano State and Federal Government this long to realize the effect of the actions of these industries to the health of the people, land and animals, knowing fully well that hundreds, if not thousand deaths, could have been as a result of the haphazard sewage disposal method of these industries?

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