Pollution: Soot Still Casts Toxic Shadows Over Rivers State

Residents of Port Harcourt in Rivers State, specially to those living area Oyigbo, Obio Akpor, Ahoada, Degema, Bonny, Okrika and Eleme LGAs had suffered so much toxic pollution (soot) This usually atmosphere normal comes out early in the morning, since the last quarter of 2016, The soot comes in form of black dust-like particles, noticeable on ground surfaces, cars, houses, and any other items that are exposed. The substance also gets trapped in nostrils, causing breathing problems to humans, with residents having complained that they cough out dark phlegm. The soot also covers rooftops, to the extent that rain water turns black, with experts declaring it acidic. Several measures, such as shutting down doors and windows, regular bathing and washing of hands and faces, as well as wearing masks, have been adopted to guard against the hazardous soot. The Rivers State government has expressed worry, and some concerned organizations and institutions have offered diverse opinions and interpretations. World Health Organisation (WHO), in its 2012 report, described black soot as a good indicator of combustion-related air pollution. The report recognized it as a short-lived climate force, which contributes to warming the atmosphere. According to the report, toxicological studies suggest that black carbon may operate as a universal carrier of a wide range of variety of chemicals of varying toxicity to the human body. The report further indicated that black carbon is the material emitted from gas and diesel engines, cool-fixed power plants and other sources that burn fossil fuel. Residents, and even non-governmental organizations have on several occasions taken to the streets of Port Harcourt to demand an immediate remedy to what they described as life-threatening emissions. The protesters also called on companies operating in the state to adopt safety measures, while others blamed the activities of illegal oil refiners, as well as companies that own asphalt distilling plants. Rivers State government in 2017 set up a task force to tackle the soot polluting Port Harcourt and its environs, with the State Commissioner for Environment, Prof. Roseline Konya and her Information and Special Duty counterparts, as members. Shortly after its inauguration, the task force swung into action as it shut down three companies in Port Harcourt, suspected to be emitting soot. But residents of Port Harcourt and its environs are still exposed to danger. Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, blamed the life-threatening menace on the activities of security agencies, who he accused of setting ablaze illegal refineries and stolen crude oil without precautionary measures. He said that he has formally approached the Federal Government to help resolve the challenge, but without any assistance so far. Wike also announced that the State Attorney General had been directed to sue the Federal Government and International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the state over the soot. He stated this when he addressed a delegation of the United Nations (UN), at the Government House, Port Harcourt, during a high-profile meeting to tackle the soot. Jibril disclosed that he had a joint meeting on the soot with stakeholders in Rivers, organized by the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) in Port Harcourt. He assured that the ministry would work with relevant stakeholders, both in the state and federal levels, to eradicate soot from Rivers and its environs.

Medical experts also are of the opinion that inhalation of black carbon is associated with health problems. The problems according to them, include respiratory and cardiovascular disease, cancer and birth defects. Speaking under anonymity, they said there is high rate of respiratory diseases in the state, caused by polluted environment.

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