WASTE MANAGEMENT CONCERNS IN PORT HARCOURT AND ITS ENVIRONS
AUTHOR: GILLIAN D. WARIPANYE, MBA, MCIPS, B.SC.
This is not a scholarly write-up. The story line is focused on the waste management practice peculiar to the capital city of Rivers State-Port Harcourt the current residential locality of the author. The essay is styled in such a way that the silent real live situations glaring at us daily given our environment and waste management attitude are made salient in case by case scenarios. However based on the bibliography available for this, a scholarly article may be developed to reinforce and validate the assertions made and the positions taken.
Every human activity ends up in waste. Every business produces one category of waste or the other. Big firms small ones, generates tons and tons of waste per day. Pedestrians, household breeds waste even per sec. What then is waste? Waste means extravagant or careless use of something to quickly exhaust its value. Waste also means the useless part or the remains of something of value. In this write up waste will be considered in the context of the latter definition.
Waste therefore is the residue of anything of value. Most times this residue is re-used if properly managed. If a good waste management system is instituted, it is interesting to note that every waste material can be re-used or recycled. This culminates to the fact that an effective waste management system gives rise to a zero waste position. A very striking point here is that our immediate surroundings, streets, environment are always littered with all manner of waste items. If a zero waste level is attainable given all category of waste- which may be household, pedesterian and industrial, how then do we find heaps and piles of waste materials flanked about the road sides? Thereby stealing away the natural beauty and sights off our environment. The remotest reason for this could be linked to the fact that whereas Industrial Waste is given a big attention to by private sector investors because it promises big financial returns at its face value, Household wastes do not spring forth an immediate financial reward at a glance, coupled with the heavy risk involved in handling it.
Background of the Problem
It is indeed not a farce that zero-waste level is achievable if our waste management lifestyle and attitude (refuse, reduce, re-use and recycle) are inviolably sustained. What then is the problem? Industrial waste carries with it high commercial value whilst household waste portends social value. People believe and go for what promises future returns on investment. The natural attitude of people generally is that, it is solely the responsibility of government to attend to the social needs confronting the society and there from create social values. Further examination has shown that human actions towards the environment constitute a huge and immense environmental injustice. Households are not ready to spend money to properly dispose of their rubbish thus depriving household waste of the mien of having attractive financial value in comparison to the associated risk of handling it. This situation further expands the explanation why private sector investors are uninterested in developing the household waste industry. The reckless abandonment of the sector strictly to the government probably explains why bits and pieces of household waste items are littered all over the place. In the locality where majority of the residents are struggling with poverty, scrambling, and hustling for just a meal per day may not have monies set aside for proper waste disposal. The general appalling attitude is the indiscriminate dumping of refuse, because it is adjudged that it is the responsibility of the government.
The government on its part has not relented in its efforts nor folded its arms with respect to maintaining and sustaining a clean environment. The obvious and bitter truth is that the government cannot control the attitude and habits of individuals when it comes to household waste management. Despite the fact the government has put in place working structure to enhance effective household waste handling, we still have experiences like having household waste items negotiating for right of way with motorists on our streets, with the trash appearing in the morning, having been dumped in the middle of the night by faceless human beings. These eventually end up as rubbish heap piles up outside the city’s walls, domineeringly tending to adorn the city on every side, like a chain of mountains. The task nonetheless, maybe colossal for the government, but with a commensurate maximum cooperation from the general public good results are feasible.
Attitude of the general public
Our individual and household waste management attitudes have string effect on our lives and economy, and yet we seem to be doing nothing to reverse or revise on the status quo. The following highlights the challenges we are daily faced with, as individuals and as communities owing to our ‘‘do-nothing’’ approach towards household and pedestrian waste management attitudes:
- Increased poverty (connects to eroding value of the purchasing power).
- Increased breeding of Mosquitoes (links to high rate of Malaria attack evident in our society)
- High growth rate of microbes ( explains the vulnerability of the populace to diverse kinds of diseases and infections- thus high morbidity and mortality rate)
- Congestion of our limited Healthcare facilities (overwork of the health care attendants which results in poor quality service delivery, this can also be remotely connected to high mortality rate).
- Man-made Flood (the behemoth of all the challenges occasioned by our carefree waste disposal attitude).
The Government Efforts.
In Rivers State, the government through the Ministry of Environment and Rivers State Waste Management Agency has a mechanism in place aimed to take care of waste items that are generated by household and pedestrians. To this end waste trucks are seen moving around to lift waste from sites where it is accumulated to designated landfill approved by the government for eventual proper disposal. Road sweepers are also engaged by the government with a view to keeping our surroundings clean, yet the predominant sights includes awful waste materials forming layers and layers on our roads as coal tars. Rivers State Waste management Agency also set aside the last Saturday of every month for households to step out to clean up their surroundings. These amongst others are the measures put in place to address the horrid waste concerns in our environment. We can see that the government is truly working to provide the requisite social value in view of waste management, but the government cannot effectively carry out this task without the meaningful support and involvement from the private sector vis a` vis the general public. Like the Health care and Educational sectors, the government need the support of the private investors for effective waste management service delivery.
Analysis of the Problem
Examining a hypothetical scenario of the author’s present location- Port Harcourt city in Rivers State of Nigeria, 2016 report of National Population Commission (NPC) shows that the statistical record of the population resident in Port Harcourt is 1.8m, and the preponderance residents can be classified into three areas namely: High Density Area; Medium Density Area and Low Density Area. Assuming the entire residents generates 10tons of household waste daily, in 30 days 300tons would have been generated. The mechanism instituted by government based on the infrastructure on ground is only able to cart away those seen at the designated dump sites, probably about 40% of the total waste generated in a month. The next sixty percent is left for nature to clear, and wind naturally blows and carries the unattended-to waste items into our drainages and waterways. What does this result to? Man made Flood -when water cannot find its course, because the natural passage way of it, is obstructed by waste materials that are swept into the gutters. The water course try to return to its source, however from its source what you see is a high current of flow, it begins to grow until it eventually pumps above the drainage level, then flood results and this situation can be very devastating.
The aforementioned horrifying situation impact on residents of high, medium and low densities areas alike. A typical roadside orange seller produces waste from orange peels and other related waste items carelessly leaves them by the roadside, sometime even carefully dumps them in the gutters. The widespread attitude exhibited here is, it is not my business, I have no role to play to ensure a proper disposal of the waste I have generated, after all the gutters are there to dump rubbish in, the road sides are there to litter them with. Unknown to the faceless perpetrators of these acts, the Bacteria infections they suffer from, the high breeding rate of mosquitoes which end up in bloating malaria attacks are all traceable to that singular action of theirs. Elaborating a bit more on the chain effect of our ‘‘I- don’t-care ’’ attitudes towards managing our wastes. In view of our orange seller, maybe the small scale business has a capital base of N20,000 (Twenty Thousand Naira) out of which N8,000- N12,000 may be expended in treating infections and other sorts of diseases which could be preventable. This further extends to reducing the working capital, and in effect reducing the purchasing power of the little income generated. It is no wonder chronic poverty is endemic in our society. We are therefore, advocating for a change of our waste management attitudes.
Examining the other side of the coin, again and still in the area of purchasing power, where there is a positive attitude toward waste management, monies saved from Medical bills can be re-invested in the business as retained earnings. What this does, is to grow the business. When a business is grown using retained earnings it reduces the need to borrow money from the bank or other possible sources of financing. This singular act further spirals down to reduce the bank interest rate, in effect making money available at cheaper rates for others to borrow and finance the production of goods and services. Businesses funded with low interest rates on loan reduces the cost in the production value chain, thus leaving goods and services at lower prices for consumers and in most cases high profit margin for business owners. The above scenario collects into a macro benefit of improved standard of living for the majority of the populace. It is interesting to see how a change in our waste management attitudes can improve the value of our Naira and any other known currency within the global economy.
Evidently, if we properly trash our rubbish, it automatically promotes individual health condition and culminates into a sound Public Health position. Like the saying goes ‘‘Health is Wealth’’ can be validated and reinforced following a good attitude towards refuse disposal. The income proceeds from SMEs which constitutes a good percentage of the National Income is mostly channelled into health care. Probably this explains why we find cases of poor Bank loan repayments and in extreme cases non-repayments. Income in a closed economy income flows in a circular form. Cases are abound where some SMEs borrow money from the Banks and are unable to repay promptly, this results in draining the financial system of the desired liquidity to keep it running and afloat at any given point in time. A short fall in money supply peaks the bank interest rates, businesses and new start ups borrows at a high rate, cost of production sky rockets and what have we got ? High prices of goods and services which is technically inflation is a more direct and precise answer. However the rhetoric remains do we continue to do–nothing towards our poor waste management attitudes and then keep blaming the government for all ills in the society?
It can be amazing to see how contemporary businesses structure their Green attitudes (practices that clamour for protection of the environment) and ensure maximum implementation and compliance. The truth is that putting a central printer in place to check and cut down on what is being printed only addresses an insignificant proportion of the colossus challenges emanating from our poor waste management attitudes. The external business environment which is a nexus of the Political, Economical, Social, Technological, Legal Ecological (PESTLE) forces, constitutes the interplay of the major factors operational in the macro business environment. The paradox here is that, Business Analysts while carrying out assessments of the external business environment plays down and takes for granted the ecological aspect of the PESTLE analysis. One may wonder what is so unique about ecology and business. It analyses and projects the problems likely to offshoot from the ecosystem which may adversely impact on the business’ objectives in the short and long run. Businesses are only but micro components of the macro-economic system and therefore cannot survive independent of the PESTLE forces. One may ask how ecology affects the smooth operations of a business that has a good waste management system or practice in place? To give a succinct answer to the above question, the keyword in this whole prose is household waste and not industrial waste. It is important at this juncture to point out that, it is pedestrian or people from various households that makes up or form any organisation or business unit. These individuals who are the components of any given organisation can further be categorised into high, medium and low income earners. And yet another question confronting us here again is, what measure do businesses have in place to monitor the household and individual waste management attitude of its employees to ensure they are not contributing to the menacing effect of the general public waste management attitude?
Furthermore, the network of roads to office complexes runs through and from the low, medium and high densities residential areas (which naturally connects slums and ghettoes). If there is socio-ecological challenge arising from the poor individual and household waste management attitudes super-imposed on the organisation, like flood affecting the prompt pick-up of a foreign business partner from the airport for an important Meeting. It is likely that the company will claim force majeure. In the real sense of it the immediate cause of the late pick-up is the flood, while the remote cause is attributable to poor household waste management attitude.
Solomon the richest man who ever lived asserted in Proverbs 2627b that ‘‘if you start a stone rolling, it will roll back on you’’. This passage of the Holy Bible is closely akin to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which simply states that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. To further buttress the above point in view of the subject matter. If we trash indiscriminately and indecently, it comes back and hunts us in several ways that we can hardly imagine will be possible. On the other hand, if we get a bit mindful of how we trash and imbibe a great culture of caring for our environment, we reap and get the benefits of our positive actions through the concerted efforts deployed.
Introducing a bit of our inorganic Chemistry, Le Chatelier’s Principle has it that ‘‘a state of equilibrium remains until there is a change in standard temperature and pressure’’. It is sad that a new and devastating condition of equilibrium is about to emerge following from our attitudes towards waste management.
Empirical evidence has it that 1.8kg of waste is generated daily per individual in Port Harcourt. Available statistical record shows that in Port Harcourt, the population has dramatically increased from about 200,000 plus in 1967(when Rivers State whose capital it is was birthed) to 1.8m plus in 2016 owing to heavy rural-urban migration. Computing the above figure presents that, about 3.24m kg of waste is generated by Port Harcourt residents per day. Let us assume that 20% of the bulk is carefully managed, that leaves us with a whopping 80% unattended to. So nature come sweeps and collects most into the gutters, while the other fraction is scattered everywhere about our streets. Overtime these become sediments, and the natural passage way of water become blocked, what do we see? Man made Flood is the answer. This further escalates into sleeplessness, fatigue, and low productivity, low profit margin, poor state of health, the list is in-exhaustive. The danger associated with this man-made Act of God like we will quickly conclude is better imagined than experienced. Just imagine a scenario where you return from work on a rainy day and what you are confronted with is a situation where you suddenly find yourself seriously engrossed in making frantic efforts to save your properties and documents from destruction- because of flood which is remotely traceable to our poor waste management attitudes. The chain effects as have been highlighted earlier cannot be overemphasised. The poor state of health, possibility of returning to the office the next with an unsettled mind, or no-show at all on grounds of the traumatic experience of the previous day will encapsulate to low productivity and eventually will hit the bottom line negatively. When bottom line is impacted in this direction it becomes another National concern-unemployment is imminent because firms will look in the angle of downsizing.
A similar scenario is where you went to bed to relax and rejuvenate, in order to return to work the next day refreshed. All you got encountered with as you woke up to empty your bowels and then return to your sweet sleep, is rather to find that your posh oriental setting living room is converted into an aquatic habitat just because rain was naturally falling. These scenarios and many more awful cases had been the experiences of some Port Harcourt residents and its environs. It is important to note that the above scenarios are gradually becoming the new state of equilibrium.
Thus far the essay has dwelt on one loop of the hydra-headed problem and in-exhaustively so. Briefly examining the other faces of the problem, everyone is crying soot-soot in Port Harcourt meanwhile this very situation is not entirely unconnected to our waste management practice. Some residents resort to burning of their waste items when it has become so overwhelming. This common practice no doubt contributes to the collection of carbon and carbon monoxide from other sources in the atmosphere. Yet a bit peep into the other loop of the hydra shows that mosquitoes are on rampage, this is because the gutters are housing stagnant water. Hence high rate of breeding of mosquitoes and also high rate of malaria attack, children and pregnant women are the most vulnerable. Our limited Health Care facilities are congested day in day out with preventable ailments. These snags are all the outcome of our waste management attitudes.
Conclusion / Recommendation: In reality Zero waste level may be utopian, but near-zero waste position (which translates to refusing, reducing, re-using and recycling of waste items) is achievable from the household and pedesterian fronts. At this point, the question again is, are we all going to continue to fold our arms and watch, then blame and criticize the government? No. The solution is simply the re-orientation of our mindsets, hence these recommendations:
- The onus lies on every individual to ensure proper waste handling techniques (the 4 Rs-Refuse, Reduce, Re-use and Recycle) are effortlessly practiced at all level.
- There is need for all and sundry to live daily with the consciousness that we can manage our wastes better without littering our streets with it.
- We should drop the idea and belief that waste management is solely the social responsibility of government.
- More private sector investors are encouraged to begin to look in the way of waste management.
- Companies should incorporate Public waste management in their CSR models.
- Government should institute collaborative efforts with the private sector and foreign investors to harness the energy outlook inherent in the waste industry.
- NGOs to drive the movement for stop littering ours streets campaign( bordering on change of attitude.)
Below pictorial of common sights
No. 5 Wobo Street, Pure Water Junction. Rumunduru, Port Harcourt.
Mon – Sat: 9:00 – 18:00