BY JOSEPH MUTHAMA
The global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) also known as Agenda 2030 which came into effect on January 1, 2016, addresses three critical issues, those are, eradication of poverty; reducing inequalities within and among states, and ensuring sustainability of the earth and its life support systems. Specifically, the UN SDG eleven aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. However, it is unfortunate that in many developing countries, protection of the environment like proper waste management is not a primary concern and mostly it is handled in haphazard way. More often than not, garbage disposal, sewerage water and human waste sometimes mix with clean piped water hence spread of diseases like cholera and diarrhoea. Even worse, burning garbage in an open-air tends to release toxic gases in the air thus exacerbating air pollution.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report shows that over 6.5 million people die every year from air pollution; 1.8 billion people drink contaminated water while 600,000 children develop intellectual disabilities as a result of exposure to lead. Sadly, air pollution has the capacity to aggravate the spread of diseases like asthma due to its pungent odor. Human activities that damage the environment have played a negative role in increasing greenhouse emissions hence environmental pollution. Pollution caused by hazardous industrial waste is not uncommon in many African cities.
Air and Water Pollution
According to the National Environment and Management Authority (NEMA) Principle Compliance and Enforcement Officer, John Mumbo, “The air quality is good out of the urban areas. In the cities, the quality is average, but slowly deteriorating due to increased vehicular and industrial emissions. The level of pollution is bigger at dumpsites, specific industries that emit and on roads with high traffic congestion.” The effects of climate change, water pollution and exponential population growth in the major cities have negatively contributed to the current global water shortage. According to the World Water Development Report, an estimated 64-71 per cent of natural wetland has been lost due to human activity since 1900. The report further says that 4600 km3 is the number of water humans is estimated to use every year. Out of this, 70 per cent goes to agriculture, 20 per cent to industry, and 10 percent to households. Worse still, 4.8 billion to 5.7 billion people are projected to live in the water-scarce areas by 2050. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 40 per cent of the global population does not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies. With this kind of statistics, there is cause for alarm.
Data from the WHO indicate that air pollution killed around seven million people worldwide in 2012 alone. The majority of victims who succumbed to death came from the African and western pacific. Hazardous chemicals like pharmaceutical wastes among other pollutants like plastic pose a grave danger to the environment. Ocean acidification and industrial pollutants in the lake, rivers, and seas, for example, endanger marine animals and plants. Unfortunately, statistics from the WHO shows that between 2030 and 2050,climate changes is expected to cause an estimated 250,000 additional deaths per year from cases emanating from heat stress, malnutrition, malaria, and diarrhoea.
Solid Waste Management
Lack of sustainable solid waste management and reckless disposal of chemical waste products is the bane of African capital cities and other major urban centers. This ultimately tends to be injurious to the environment, plants, and human beings. Notably, poor solid waste management policies, among other short-term environmental palliatives are not panaceas for environmental degradation. Solid waste management measures in urban areas as well as reduction of greenhouse gas emissions have remained a big challenge to many governments in Africa. Toxic industrial waste and raw sewerage has been attributed to the death of fish like in River Mara while its water has become unfit for human consumption. Statistics from World Atlas indicate that nearly 513 million tonnes of plastic discarded end up in the oceans every year posing danger to the globe.
Needless to mention, the lack of environmentally friendly practices has caused immeasurable devastating socio-economic effects. It is unfortunate that many industrialists have become part of pollution rather than part of the solution. Carlos Lopes, the former Executive Secretary for UNECA in his book Africa Transformation writes, “Africa’s renewed development ambitions are occurring in a brave new world, where emergent dangers such as climate change and environmental destruction loom large.” Despite legislation to protect the environment, environmental degradation is the norm in many African countries.
Solid Waste Management Strategies
Admittedly, poor disposal of waste materials cause environmental hazard like widespread air pollution and water pollution. Manufacturing industries that pollute the air and water continue to refute the report of toxic pollutants. More importantly, the unprecedented increase of motor vehicles in many towns, for instance, in Africa has negatively contributed to air pollution. Put it differently, technologies like invention of vehicles, air conditioning and other modern gadgets and machines have exacerbated air pollution menace. Apparently, for donkey years, ecological degradation, all over the world, has remained an elephant in the room. As industrialization continues to contribute Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse emissions into the air, global warming and its far-reaching ramifications continue to wreak havoc. “The climate is changing. The earth is warming up, and there is now overwhelming scientific consensus that it is happening, and human-induced.
Responsible disposal of industrial wastes to reduce air and water pollution must be given precedence. A global sustainable Blue Economy can only become a reality through responsible waste management. Drastic changes are needed if environmental catastrophe is to be avoided. Otherwise, haphazard waste management methods which are prevalent in urban centers will continue to be a proverbial millstone around many governments’ necks for a long time to come. Africa should reduce environmental footprint by recycling waste materials and reuse environmentally-friendly products to protect public and the environment.
Joseph G. Muthama is a Full Member of KIM, lecture, management consultant and is the author of ‘Leadership Defined’, ‘Excellence in Leadership’ ‘Mentoring for Change’ books. Email:josephmuthama05gmail.com