June 8 every year is globally observed as World Environment Day. Belatedly though, NIYI OLASINDE brings out issues concerning our habitat, its numerous values and prospects, alongside the threats it suffers, especially from the actions and inactions of man, its most prided inhabitant and change-agent.
THERE is no gainsaying the fact that the past decade in the State of Osun has been devoted fully to the care, protection conservation, preservation, regeneration and sustainability of the environment. More than ever before, the state has witnessed massive infrastructural development and development in urban renewal and other facets of development in the physical and social environment. It is also an undeniable fact, with copious infallible proofs that residents have been inculcated with safety and environment-friendly practices; and in effect, internalized consciousness to and reawakening towards the care and protection of the environment.
The immediate past administration of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, in particular, accorded it more than mere recognition; it took active, proactive, concrete and decisive steps throughout its eight-year tenure to ensure and assure that the environment, man’s habitat and home, was jealously protected. With his declaration of emergency in the area of environmental sanitation at the wake of his administration; coupled with his flood control and rivers/streams channelization and proper waste disposal measures; Aregbesola, throughout the lifetime of his two-tenure administration set the ball rolling in the right course toward making the environment more friendly, amenable and habitable for man.
As part of that administration’s tireless effort in the area of environment, continuous tree-planting programmes made the day for his administration. With his launch of Igi Iye, i.e. Tree of Life during the first term of his administration, another epoch was set in salvaging our landscape from the vestiges of degradation, pollution and colossal losses attendant to flooding and erosion. So the laurel-winning thrusts made in the area of environment rejuvenation initiative worked like magic throughout the entire administration.
During the years preceding the Aregbesola’s reign in office, rot, neglect and abandonment dominated the scene as virtually every element that comprise the environment was in complete state of disrepair. The past years of holocaust and fiery siege, when it appeared that the entire state was about to be submerged by perennial flood and erosion are better forgotten than recapped. Apart from this, the ugly scenes of those years were dominated by grossly degraded environment which was characterized by pollution, indiscriminate waste disposal, open defecation and blockage and pollution of rivers, streams and springs. This situation subsists till date in many other parts of the country.
Today, the Aregbesola years have heightened the bars of governance such that his administration has built a platitude and template for the incumbent administration to start with, endeavour to match and determine to outstrip.
As far as Osun is concerned, the people have internalized safe health and hygiene practices as well as safe waste disposal practices. At the beginning, it appeared an uphill task; and compliance was doubtful. But with the introduction and adoption of the Omoluabi concept, people were made to be willing; not only to give compliance to; but also to take active participation in the execution of safety rules and regulations in health, hygiene and sanitation. These safe health and hygiene practices are the saving grace that served the state and its people a better stead during this ongoing ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
With the inception of empowerment programmes like the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme (OYES) and health and sanitation initiatives like O’ CLEAN, the stage was well set to put the state on good standing. Other initiatives like river course dredging and channelization which the current Governor Adegboyega Oyetola administration is continuing did well for the state in this regard.
Matters bordering on Environmental Sanitation, Environmental Protection, Degradation and Disaster Control and Prevention and the likes take the front-burner in securing lives and property in recent times. As a matter of fact, any government worth its salt will not only invest remarkably in it, but also build in its citizens attitudes that upscale its advancement. Like all their counterparts in all other sectors; all the items that constitute the sub-sector are equally vital as the use of the environment has telling effect on man, his activities, wellbeing, prosperity and entire cope of life. As man’s activities and exertions either make or mar his environment; likewise, the environment exerts its influence to make or mar man. The first 90-day of emergency in the Environment and Sanitation Sub-Sector of the State of Osun having been completed, the sanitation efforts were not given up; neither were they relaxed. All that needs be said in passing here concerning the OYES programme is that the first major area of its impact; apart from youth empowerment and employment generation has been the area of Environmental Sanitation, beautification, crowd and traffic control, ambulance and rescue operations as well as paramedics. Thus the OYES programme of the Aregbesola administration impacted well on the health and sanitation needs of residents of the State of Osun; so much that the OYES and the O’CLEAN intervention efforts became the envy of other states in the federation, as well as the Federal Government and other interest groups like the international communities such as the United Nations and the World Bank.
Environmental preservation and disaster control and other allied safe practices have impacted so positively that asserting that the people have internalized the virtue of cleanliness is stating the obvious. The Government Unusual, in its days, did things that were unusual in the usual way! Vehicles, equipment and waste disposal vans were procured to facilitate the work, while townspeople across the state were made to embrace the practice of dropping their refuse at accredited points and centres in order to make their lifting much easier. Also, central dumping sites were so located at town and city outskirts that they could not constitute any threat of pollution to residents.
Let us dedicate this segment to the time-tested and concerted efforts of that administration in the State of Osun in tackling the multiple challenges in the environment sub-sector head-on. We however, need to sound the warning on a repetitive note, so as to prevent a re-occurrence of these predisposing factors; so as to maintain a safe, enduring social and physical habitat for ourselves and our children after us; even after we may have been long-gone.
THE environmental challenges of the past years, previous to late 2010, were mostly caused by factors which constituted environmental degradation. Beyond natural predisposing factors, much havoc is wrought when man, through his various activities, actions (or inactions), efforts and exertions degrade his environment. To a large and reasonable extent, environment has far-reaching influence on the life of man, his growth, development and the cope he makes of life. On the other hand, through his various activities and exertions, man either makes or mars his environment.
An environment with aura of ambience and homeliness is what a responsible government and well-oriented citizenry are mandated to provide and ensure. Unfortunately, these culture and traditions, which once formed the integral part of our ethics have been violated, debased and eroded through carelessly eroded values. We owe it a duty to consider the earth and the entire environment, not strictly as our property but as heritage which we borrowed and should bequeath in good condition to the next generation. Anything short of this consciousness and mindset, the result was a society which is out of joint – a physical and social environment that is bastardized and corrupted by degradation and socio-political pandemonium.
Degradation, on the other hand, is defined as “extreme poverty’ ; while “to degrade” is defined as “to cause somebody or oneself to be less respected or have lower status, to cause something to become worse in quality”. In a sentence-use, example, the dictionary states that “pollution is degrading the environment”. Going by these illustrations, it becomes clear that features of denigration, abuse, violation and debasement area plague where the environment is unkempt. The ugly after-effects of this debasement are better imagined. Among the indices for identifying those bad trends of debasement are bad roads, tall heaps of garbage arising from indiscriminate disposal of refuse, poor environmental sanitation and hygiene measures, poor water conservation and provision, poor water drainage and channelization. On the side of government, diversion and frivolous squandering of public funds; especially those ranked under the categories of Ecological Funds rank high as albatross inflicting untold hardship on the people. Specific reasons which made the deplorable state of the environment inevitable in most places today are not far-fetched. They are here dissected so as to nip them in the bud.
The first in this regard is Absence of Proper Drainage and Water Channels. With increased development and expansion in urbanization efforts and activities; coupled with increased incidences of rainfall, water torrents and flow of erosion increase tremendously in our parts of the country. This is often made worse by lack of proper building regulations which dominates the scene in most parts. Granted that recent trend of water erosion in the far-North is on the upsurge; it is an act of sheer deliberate wickedness on the part of any administration in this Rain Forest Belt of Nigeria not to invest in water erosion and canal channelization.
As earlier pointed out in this edition; most of the time, man errs in these activities due to the various actions and inactions he carries out. However, more excruciating and painful are the inactions of an irresponsible government, failing in its regulatory duties, in matters concerning the environment.
Our next consideration switches to Heavy Downpour vis-à-vis Poor/Blocked Drainage. While it is not disputed that the rainfall experienced in this part of the country in recent years is heavy indeed; that fact is not reasonable enough to absolve any government from guilt of non-performance, especially in the area of life-threatening disasters like erosion and flood. Blockage of drains through indiscriminate dumping of refuse and siting structures on unapproved locations bring about disasters of immense and life-threatening proportions.
It is important to stress again that the ousted administration in the state could not have been credited to have one single channelization project executed during its stay in power. Instead of embarking on life-changing projects; great sums of money vouched annually for these live-saving sanitation and welfare projects have been diverted to lining the pockets of the captors of the people. As an aftermath, the people suffered, as many became victims of the unpleasant effects of incessant flooding. Many houses collapse, rendering a good percentage of victims homeless. Many lives were lost through the carelessness and irresponsibility of that administration.
Windstorm Disasters are on the increase virtually in most places today. If we embark on doing justice to High Incidence of Windstorm Disasters, by that time, we will be identifying the negative side-effects of deforestation on our environment; and this shall be fully realized and appreciated when we appreciate the import of any afforestation programme cum tree-planting initiative. Today, many houses become ravaged and devastated on account of absence of wind-breakers.
The time of greatest incidence is at the approach of rains in February / March every year. This translates to the fact that at that time, people become subjected to debilitating fears of double disasters – those of water flooding erosion and windstorms. The latter tragedy lasted till the end of rains in October/ December. If victims of these disasters over the years are cross-examined, many of them would doubtless have tales of woe to tell as to the lack of emergency relief from the governments at all levels; owing to poor social welfare system.
Next is Bad Road Network. In places where roads are in a derelict state, roads and streets are simply turned into pathways for water erosion, rendering them non-motorable, thereby. In this way, most roads are transformed into death traps. The roads became high contributors to deaths and disabilities, arising from roads and traffic mishaps. These entire dysfunctions boil down to pains, anguish and disasters for people who reside in the environments that are so bedeviled.
Regarding Indiscriminate Refuse Dumping; waste disposal is an aspect of life which constitutes plague and menace in most places. Waste disposal, apart from its effects on aesthetics of the environment, has telling effect on sanitation, welfare and hygiene of dwellers within any specific physical and social environment. In the absence of proper refuse disposal system, people resort to indiscriminate disposal of waste which results in pollution, ill-health, outbreak of diseases and eventual death. One more terrible effect is the blockage that refuse dropped indiscriminately causes on river courses, erosion paths, canals and drainages.