Plastic wastes are polluting the ocean at an alarming rate. This form of pollution is said to be causing severe ecological problems with potential risks to human health, reports TAJUDEEN ADEBANJO.
With 97 per cent of the world’s water held by the ocean, it is believed that the ocean is Earth’s life support. Human beings depend on it to normalise the climate, absorb CO2.
It is said to be the major source for protein for billions of people.
There are concerns worldwide over the rate at which people are polluting the ocean.
The world is currently faced with the challenge of huge plastic waste which is projected to reach 12 billion tonnes in a few years.
With around 12.7 million tonnes of plastic in the ocean yearly, it is causing great destruction to marine life and the ecosystem is becoming irreparable.
It is said that humans’ actions over the 10 years will determine the state of the ocean for the next 10,000 years to come.
In Nigeria, the increasing use of plastics and indiscriminate dumping of such in the ocean has become worrisome.
Little wonder the Federal Government early this year launched an action plan to tackle the challenge of marine litter and plastics, to ensure cleaner seas and ocean for healthy living and protection of the maritime ecosystem.
The National Assembly and the Federal Ministry of Environment were also working on a bill to prohibit the production of plastics, which pollutes the environment.
The coastal plastics pollution was the topic of discourse on Friday when the Mental and Environmental Development Initiative for Children (MEDIC), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) gathered eggheads to ruminate over the way out.
The event was held at the Lagos Yacht Club, Onikan.
The event, in conjunction with Oniru of Iruland, Oba Omogbolahan Lawal through his HRM Abisogun III Foundation for Peace and Development, (HAIIF), marked the beginning of a 7-Day Clean-Up exercise of the ocean in Eti-Osa.
It was unanimously agreed by the participants that the world required quick action to nip the challenges of coastal pollution in the bud.
Among those who spoke at the event, is the Secretary to the Lagos State Government, Mrs Sherifat Jaji, who thanked the monarch for lending a helping hand to preserving the environment and ecosystem from the menace of non-biodegradable materials clogging the waterways, thus harming aquatic life.
The SSG regretted that in recent years, there has been an upsurge in the blockade of the drainages and waterways with plastic bottles and water sachets.
According to her, plastics can endure for over 450 years with their damaging effects on the ecosystem.
“It constitutes a threat to human and wildlife as many seabirds and animals are killed yearly by plastics. Researchers have also confirmed that the number of plastics in the sea outnumbers the marine animals by six to one,” she said.
Mrs Jaji said the administration of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is conscious of the need to address this challenge to protect the environment and the ecosystem. Towards this end, the state government, she said, has tasked agencies in the environment sub-sector to take steps to address the challenge as encapsulated under the T.H.E.M.E.S development agenda.
She said: “The government through Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) last year introduced Blue Box Programme to promote the extraction of plastics and other recyclable waste in order to conserve natural environment through sorting of waste before collection. About 200 recyclers are now registered to turn the plastic wastes into wealth and they have been making beautiful and durable items from plastics, just as people in each community are rewarded for picking up plastics.
“Incidentally, the Blue Box incentives model is being piloted in LSDPC Housing Estate, Victoria Island. Also, the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) often collaborates with a private organisation to clear the seaside to prevent pollution while the Lagos State Waterways Authority clears water hyacinth regularly to prevent water transportation accidents.”
She hailed the intervention Doyinsola Ogunye and Lekan Bakare (conveners of the event) and everyone involved in the initiative, saying “you all are great partners of the state government in ensuring a better environment,” adding “As we have always been saying that government alone cannot do everything without the support of members of the public; I, therefore, call on other environmentalists to emulate this laudable initiative to Clean Up lru Waterways of non-biodegradable materials. This will no doubt improve the health of the community, free the waterways of impediments and save the lives of marine animals.”
Oba Lawal said his domain was largely affected by the coastal plastics wastes because it is surrounded by water.
According to him, the unrestrained throwing of plastics into the ocean was unacceptable.
He said the resources channel to clear the wastes were huge, which could be used for other meaningful projects.
“The quality of fishes and other aquatic animals are diminishing. Plastics pollution is also destroying the aesthetics of our waterways and boats. We must stop the indiscriminate dumping of plastics into our water. That is why the palace is leading the campaign to ensure a sustainable and eco-friendly environment,” Oba Lawal said.
A lawmaker, Babajide Obanikoro, also hailed the initiative.
Obanikoro, a member of the House of Representatives said the plastic waste was a growing environmental disaster not only in Nigeria but all over the world.
Quoting 2016 report by the McArthur Foundation in partnership with the World Economic Forum, he said by 2050, plastic in the oceans will outweigh the fish.
Obanikoro said: “Plastic waste is fast becoming a widely recognised problem in the world. While it is an important material for a growing economy such as ours, providing multiple benefits to modern-day living, plastic can take thousands of years to biodegrade.
“As the years go by, plastic waste has taken valuable space in our landfill sites and is polluting the natural environment, having a significant impact on our oceans which is very visible here in Eti-Osa. Plastic is everywhere. It is strong, lightweight, cheap and very versatile. The majority of our plastic waste does not get reused or recycled and experts believe that 50 per cent of plastic is single-use, meaning it is used once before being discarded. Single-use plastic includes plastic water bottles, plastic packaging, plastic grocery bags and our very common water satchels. A study has shown that most types of plastic are in fact recyclable, but most governments do not have the infrastructure in place to carry out this energy-intensive process.”
Tackling plastic pollution has become an integral part of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Implementing SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production patterns is especially important in curbing plastic waste generation.
The local and international community has seen the need to come together and agree on an ambitious framework to resolve the crisis.
The lawmaker reiterated the urgent need for the world leaders to make a legally-binding international agreement to tackle plastic pollution with a full life-cycle approach and promote the prevention of plastic waste.
“Hence this plastic coastal search initiative by your royal highness, Mental and Environmental Development Initiative for Children and PAC Foundation is great ideas that will jumpstart the end of this menace to our society. I am committed to this cause and will give needed support at all times,” he promised.
Chairman Advisory Board, Pan African Capital Foundation, Osayaba Giwa Osagie said he was delighted to be a part of this maiden edition, of the Lagos State Coastal Plastic Search.
Osagie said: “You will agree with me that more than ever before there is an urgent need to clear up our coastal areas. The benefits an enormous and includes preservation of the natural environment, removal of toxic materials from the waterways, proper waste disposal, cleaner oxygen and prevention of floods.
“For us at Pan African Capital Foundation, environment forms one of our major pillars and therefore, it was easy for us to identify with this initiative. Very few people understand the importance of such a programme, and therefore I congratulate you for leading the charge in Lago State. We are committed to working with you in a much bigger capacity as we both fold our sleeves to combat environmental degradation.”
He advocated an enlightenment programme besides the clean-up exercise.
This, he said, should form the next phase to sustain the clean-up that will be recorded over the next seven days.
Commodore of Yacht Club, Mr Julian Hardy advocated payment for those collecting the plastics.
Government, he said, needs to buy the plastics from the people to encourage them like it is done in advance countries.
He said everybody is endangered because the fish gotten from the ocean ingested the plastics.
Founder of Well-being Foundation Mrs Toyin Saraki, said the plastic wastes constitute to humans’ ill-health and diseases.
She pledged her organisation’s supports for the initiative, saying the future is saved by the action taking today.
Head of Mexican Consul, Lagos, Dr Tokunbo Onasanya, said he was glad Nigeria is keying into the Vision 2030.
“Let’s rally round the organisers to save our environment,” he said.
Erelu of Lagos Abiola Dosunmu also backed the monetary reward for people that collect the plastic wastes.