Tackling Waste, Mercury Pollution In Nigeria

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A waste dump

Nigeria, the giant of Africa, is currently battling a myriad of challenges in the area of environmental pollution. Some of the key challenges include solid and plastic waste management due to indiscriminate disposal of waste, inefficient collection method and insufficient coverage of the municipals.

Similarly, artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) which contributes immensely to mercury emission/release into the environment is another major challenge which adds significantly to the nation’s environmental pollution challenge.

To tackle these menaces, the Federal Government in collaboration with the strategic stakeholders developed some key action plans and launched policies to aid combating the challenges.

At the official presentation of Nigeria’s national action plan (NAP) for the reduction and eventual elimination of mercury use in artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) in Nigeria and unveiling of national policy on solid waste management and national policy on plastic waste management in Abuja, the Minister of State of Environment, Chief Sharon Ikeazor, said the NAP was part of government’s commitment to ensuring the protection of human lives and the environment.

She said the document developed by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in collaboration with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and inter-ministerial support with the ministries of environment; mines and steel development: health supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) was to reposition the environment and mining sectors for sustainable development.

The minister listed several challenges preventing the effective growth of the mining sector to include poor funding and inability to attract new investments, security situation around mining sites, the preponderance of artisanal and illegal mining operations, attendant environmental pollution and insufficient modern mining infrastructure.

Ikeazor who was represented by the ministry’s director of pollution control and environmental health, Charles Ikeah, said the document aimed to address the identified challenges, pointing out that government was making concerted efforts to remove the barriers to the effective growth of the sector, adding the document would assist in the facilitation of the diversification efforts of government and repositioning of the economy as they would be mainstreamed into the national development process.

On the solid and plastic waste management policies, she said the policies were intended to promote the principles of circular economy by tackling the challenges of inadequate and incoherent policies which affect development and practices in the sector.

“Currently, solid waste management is one of the most pressing environmental challenges faced by urban and rural areas in Nigeria. Waste collection in Nigeria is characterised by inefficient collection methods, insufficient coverage of municipalities, inadequate recycling and indiscriminate disposal, as well as inadequate and incoherent policy, legal and regulatory framework. These practices have led to adverse health and environmental consequences.

“It is therefore imperative to develop these policies to promote the principles of circular economy which is a sustainable practice that aims at zero waste reduction as well as efficient use and reuse of resources to ensure sustainable use of plastic throughout its life cycle and the management of solid waste effectively. These policies in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will encourage a greater commitment from all stakeholders, provide clear guidance, job creation/poverty alleviation, waste to wealth programs, conservation of natural resources, attraction of foreign direct investment and a clean and healthier environment,” she said.

In his remarks, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development (MMSD), Arc. Olamilekan Adegbite, said the NAP document had become a valuable instrument in the effort of government to formalize artisanal and small scale mining especially the ASGM subsector as well as a demonstration of the country’s fulfillment of an important aspect of the Minamata Convention on Mercury signed in October 2013.

It would be recalled that an initial assessment of the Minamata Convention  which Nigeria as a country conducted showed ASGM as one of the sectors that contributes immensely to mercury emission/releases into the environment.

Adegbite who was represented by his director on special duties, Mr Yisao Adegboje, said the NAP on mercury in the ASGM sector was developed to provide relevant information on the plans of government to facilitate the improvement of the formalization and regulation of ASGM sector; promote reduction of emissions releases, and risks of exposure to mercury; and manage trade and prevent diversion of mercury and mercury compounds.

Others are to involve stakeholders in the implementation and continuing development of the plan; develop public health strategy on the exposure of artisanal and small-scale gold miners and their communities to mercury; prevent the exposure of vulnerable populations, particularly children and women of child-bearing age to mercury used in ASGM and provide information to artisanal and small-scale miners and affected communities.

In his remarks, the regional director and UNIDO representative to ECOWAS Union Regional Hub Nigeria, Mr Jean Bakole, described the roadmap as a product of an effective partnership between UNIDO and the Federal Government, saying  the organization was counting on the excellent cooperation with federal and state governments and other key development partners to support the implementation of this plan for the reduction and eventual elimination of mercury use in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector in Nigeria.

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