Only few issues of public interest have surpassed discourses on the ravaging soot in Port Harcourt and its environs.
Even the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has, for the umpteenth time, alerted on the dangerous dimension the menacing soot has reached.
In fact, for about two years now, residents of Rivers State have had to cope with the health hazards of a black substance called soot, a problem which many observers refer to as environmental terrorism.
It is common knowledge that since November 2016, there has been a concentration of soot particles in the air which leaves residue on surfaces in and out of people’s homes.
Although the Federal Ministry of Environment has blamed the rampaging soot problem on the incomplete combustion of hydro-carbons, ashphalt processing and illegal artisanal refinery operations, reports have shown that the menace is not unconnected with the activities of some multinational companies with specific reference to the indiscriminate disposal of waste by oil and gas firms in the state as well.
Added to this is the burning of tyres for scrap copper which is said to be a very brisk and lucrative business.
While environmental pollution is prevalent in all parts of the state, The Tide notes that it is more concentrated in Okrika and Port Harcourt.
More worrisome is the deleterious impact of the soot which experts warn could lead to death from such ailments as coronary disease, asthma, bronchitis, cancer and many other respiratory afflictions. In fact, research has shown that many premature deaths in the state are directly related to soot in the environment.
Worse still, experts alert that compounds from soot – sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, combine with moisture to form acid rain which worsens water quality, damages soil and crops, and changes nutrient balances in various ecosystems.
In response to this health hazard, the Rivers State Government, sometime ago, shut down an ashphalt processing plant in Port Harcourt and sealed off a Chinese company for what it called “aggravated air pollution and breach of environmental laws”.
In spite of this effort, the prevalence of soot appears to be more visible with little or no solution in sight. This, to us, is unacceptable.
The Tide believes that there is high level of complicity by some government agencies which do not mean well for residents of the state.
It is for this reason that we urge stakeholders to depoliticize the issue while we also demand the immediate suspension of the indiscriminate destruction of illegal refineries by the Joint Task Forces and other security agencies in the state.
Meanwhile, we call on the federal government to work in harmony with the state government to identify the direct sources of this dangerous agent of death without further delay and also ensure that whoever is responsible for this pollution is brought to justice to serve as a deterrent to others.
It is common knowledge that Rivers State, by virtue of its status as an oil producing state, has been experiencing environmental degradation due to massive oil exploration activities which have polluted farmlands and fishing channels.
It is sad, therefore, that the problem has now been complicated with the soot menace which now threatens the lives of over six million people of the state.
Much as The Tide appreciates the efforts so far made to end the phenomenon, a lot more need to be urgently done by government and other parties involved.
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