The River state branch of the National Association of Seadogs (NAS), also known as Pyrates Confraternity, says they are deeply concerned by the growing challenges with sanitation, mainly in the Port Harcourt metropolis, which comprises Port Harcourt and Obio Akpor Local Government Areas.
According to a statement by the NAS Branch Public Relations Officer King Wenenda Onukwuru, they noticed with alarm the total breakdown of the refuse collection and disposal system in the state which has led to the emergence of massive heaps of refuse in most parts of the state, taking over walkways, road centres and streets. This occurrence which has plagued the state for several days, has resulted in the pollution of the city with foul smell oozing from the garbage.
“Our conversations with health and sanitation experts indicate that the current refuse situation if not immediately addressed is capable of causing air contamination through the release of hazardous gases, causing water contamination through leeching into the ground water, causing illnesses such as skin irritations, blood infections, respiratory problems, etc., incubating disease carrying pests like mosquitoes, rats, flies, etc.
“Our interviews with residents of the Port Harcourt metropolis shows that there has been tremendous increase in rat infestation and disease causing mosquitoes. They also report a new wave of malaria infection especially among children.
“We are deeply concerned that this may be the first stages of a much bigger epidemic if the government does not act quickly to address the situation.
“It is also important to note that the state’s system for refuse disposal in the last decade at least has been faulty and unsustainable. We argue that a system of refuse disposal which allows resident heap their waste in the centre of the road before it is collected, is not only unsustainable and uncivilized, but also lacks innovation. An arrangement where every evening the road centres, bus stops and street corners are adorned with heaps of refuse, is simply poor.
“It is equally important to note that the discontinuation of the monthly environmental sanitation exercise in the state has contributed to engendering an unhealthy environment. Those monthly exercises provided opportunities for collective cleaning of drains and disposal of garbage. The sad reality is that currently, the drains are hardly cleaned, leading not only to an unhealthy environment, but also the increasing problem of flooding in the state.
“For a modern and cosmopolitan city like Port Harcourt, it is important that the government introduces a world class refuse management system which does not only rely on collecting and dumping garbage, but also integrates elements of recycling and utilization of refuse for other purposes.
“The refuse collection system can be recalibrated in such a manner that it is used as biomass to generate much needed electricity. The recycling sector of the state can be grown into a multi-million-naira enterprise that will not only generate revenue, but also contribute to addressing the unemployment problem in the state.
“NAS is aware that the state government mandated the local government councils to take over the refusal disposal roles in the interim.
“However, this has clearly failed. We use this opportunity to call on the state government and its sanitation authority to prioritize the refuse situation in the state, and immediately swing into action to address this disturbing trend. Failure to act now may result in unfavorable consequences including mass health challenges,” the Pirates Confraternity further stated.