By Tosin Kolade, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
Environmental pollution is one of the challenges that arise from industrial development.
Toxic substances and emissions in form of smoke, dust, noise and waste water are released by industries during and after production thereby contaminating water bodies, soil and air.
Pollution has adverse effect on our health. It puts vital organs such as kidney, skin, eye in danger. It does not spare animals and trees.
Environmental scientists blame it for some of climate mate change challenges such as ozone layer depletion.
Environment activists, governments, civil society organisation and international bodies have made various efforts to pull resources towards environmental pollution.
To curb pollution, ministers of environment from all over the world at the 2017 UN Environment Assembly expressed their political commitment to working towards pollution-free environment, according to UN Environment Assembly.
“Governments also adopted Resolutions targeting specific aspects of pollution: air quality, water pollution, soil pollution, marine litter and micro-plastics, chemicals and wastes”, the Assembly said in a report.
In Nigeria the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) is responsible for enforcement of environmental laws.
Industries are required to operate in an environmentally-friendly manner by establishing environmental management systems and adopting best pollution abatement technologies.
Unfortunately, this was not the case for Pure Bio-Tech Company Limited, an ethanol manufacturing firm located on Gboko Road, Makurdi.
The residents of the area had complained that industrial waste from the company being discharged into the river thereby polluting it and endangering their lives and sources of livelihood.
According to Chief Terfa Gbam, a village head who spoke on behalf of Abua, Angbaaye and Akile communities the waste which is a blackened sludge, is discharged into River Benue.
He said the water, since the plant was established in 2020, has been polluted and not fit for even a bath.
“They discharge the waste into the river which contaminates it and makes it unfit for drinking and even bathing. It also kills the fish in the river,” the media quoted Gbam as saying.
A fisherman and resident of Angbaaye part of the town said the operations of the factory had negatively impacted on his occupation.
The media quoted the man identified as Dantanimu as saying that the waste prevents his net from catching fish because it got stuck in the sludge. Many fish have also died from the pollution.
However, the company through the Corporate Communications and Public Relations Manager, Mr Stephen Numbeve, tried to defend its action.
A media report quoted him as saying that “the waste is not hazardous and the odour is not harmful,
“It’s true that we have discharged waste in the water but what we have put in there is not hazardous. It is treated effluent
“Also, I can agree that the waste used to have offensive odour but that doesn’t happen again.
“The odour is not harmful and our consultants are working tirelessly to ensure that the offensive odour is not there”, he said in a media report.
However not impressed by the company’s action NESREA, in company of security agencies, on April 17 sealed up the firm.
Spokesperson of NESREA, Amaka Ejiofor in a statement said the company was sealed up for discharging untreated effluent into water bodies thereby endangering human lives and the environment.
Ejiofor said the production of ethanol using cassava was a wet process that required the installation of a functional Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP).
He said this would ensure that wastes from these processes were well treated before being discharged into the environment.
He said the company also flouted extant environmental laws and standards.
Following NESREA’s action, the management of the company went into action and installed a N7.5 billion Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP).
The installation of the facility ensures that all solid and liquid wastes are now converted into biogas, fertiliser, even the treated wastewater. Consequently NESREA unsealed the company.
The NESREA Benue State Coordinator, Mr Daniel Iormough said during the unsealing that the agency was poised to ensure that Nigerians enjoyed an environment safe from pollution.
Iormough said NESREA had to act because the company also violated the National Environmental (Sanitation and Waste Control) Regulations 2009 S.I No.28 and contravened EIA Act CAP. E12 of LFN, (2004).
Regulation S.I No.28 (2009) provides the legal framework for the adoption of sustainable and environment friendly practices in environmental sanitation and waste management to minimise pollution.
The Environmental Impact Assessment Act (Cap E12 LFN 2004) provides for the operation and maintenance of a public register which gives public access to information on potential hazards likely to impact negatively on environmental health and safety.
A cassava farmer, Mr Terngu Iornum, said though farmers were delighted to have the company in the area, it was important that necessary measures were taken to safeguard the area from pollution.
“We are happy over the presence of the company in the state, it has minimised losses that cassava farmers suffered in the past years, however, we also have to take care of the environment’’, the media quoted him as saying.
Mr Muhammad Abdulkadir, the company’s Human Resources Manager, said the company was ready to deepen its social responsibility in its area of operation.
He said that already it has acquired land to establish a modern school in the host community.
He said that “besides, 80 per cent of our nearly 200 workforce are Benue indigenes, including youths from the host community.
“While the company was sealed, it resulted in huge economic loss not only on the part of the company, but for local farmers who have found market value for their products through Pure Biotech Company”.
The action of Pure Bio-Tech Company Limited to accept responsibilities and upgrade its facility, and improve on its corporate social responsibility is commendable.
However, companies should not wait to be forced to make decisions that uplift the wellbeing of the society.
The NESREA office in Benue deserves commendation for ensuring strict enforcement of pollution regulations in the state. No effort should be spared to make the environment a safe place for all. (NANFeatures)
**If used please credit the writer and News Agency of Nigeria.