Child defecating in a canal in the slum of Gege in the city of Ibadan, Nigeria (Photo: Adebayo Alao, Sept. 2007)
It has taken some 30-50 years for the environmental abuse in the Niger Delta to creep into the consciousness of the nation and the international community. As sad as this may be, it’s even sadder that payback for this long wait is now being paid at huge costs to all.
Now, I’m wont to ponder if Nigeria is not already at the brink of another environmental disaster, which, this time, will extend well beyond the boundaries of the delta creeks. Nigerians have been getting high on waste, all sorts of waste and pollution — domestic and industrial in origin. From the innocuously discarded, non-biodegradable ‘pure water’ plastics — the ubiquitous, quarter-liter, mass produced, plastic water-in-sachet available everywhere in Nigeria, to the less visible lethal industrial waste waters, the obvious signs of failed — or nonexistent — waste management/environmental protection policy is clear for all to see.
Sadly, as the waste heaps is building up around the cities, the countdown to disaster is running down as well, surreptitiously bringing us closer to an explosive threshold. The truth is we are closer to the tipping point than ever.
Perhaps, this scenario isn’t all too obvious to many in the home country, who because of other ‘competing interests’ have become blunted to the sight of mounting roadside filth, the plastic bag-clogged gutters, or oblivious to what’s being flushed down the gutters and streams by the industries across the street.
I’m convinced this is the time for environmental angels — social entrepreneurs or better still ecopreneurs — to emerge and start the work of cleaning and saving our environment and societies.
The key words must be innovation, advocacy, and government backing. Their tactics must be bold, complementary and sustainable. These — plus government backing in policies formulating regulation enforcement — can guarantee tangible rewards.
As our colleagues in other worlds are exploring concepts that mitigate environmental distress, so must we pay attention, and be ready to tap into pockets of resources to create tangible value-adding ventures that halt the environmental decay and push back the blind sprint toward doomsday. Nigeria can’t afford another ‘Niger Delta-like’ mishap.
Some worthy areas to explore:
- Turning biodegradable municipal and industrial waste to organic fertilizer
- Use of renewable resources (solar, biofuel),and wastes to generate power, this is ideal for small scale off-grid power projects
- Production of biodegradable plastics; a promising though nascent technology that packs huge rewards.
And there several more can-work business/policy/public health ideas in the areas of municipal water supply, eco-friendly urban renewal projects, livestock/abattoir management, biodiesel production using industrial waste, etc.
Any ecopreneurs in the house? By the way, I know only of one