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Toxic waste: HOMEF tasks Niger Delta communities on environmental monitoring, reporting

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Toxic waste: HOMEF tasks Niger Delta communities on environmental monitoring, reporting

Following the rising impact of toxic waste in the Niger Delta communities in Nigeria, an Ecological Think Tank, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, has urged oil-producing communities in the region to monitor their environment and report incidents of pollution or other environmental hazards in real time to appropriate authorities.

The Project Manager, Communities and Culture, HOMEF, Cadmus Atake, advised during a Community Environmental Monitoring Training for the people of Nembe, Town-Brass in Bayelsa and Eastern Obolo, Akwa Ibom States, respectively, which was held in Eket local government of Akwa Ibom State.

Atake said that though oil companies’ extractive activities have negatively impacted communities, people still have a role to play in protecting the environment by not throwing plastics in the water bodies or engaging in activities that are inimical to the environment.

He said, “The purpose is to train the people on how they can monitor their environment that has been impacted by extractive activities, for them to observe the changes that occur in their environment and things they see when they go out to fish.”

Atake also harped on the need for documentation and reporting of the identified environmental challenges or pollution, saying that monitoring without reporting would be futile, even as he tasked them with ensuring the accuracy, authenticity, and originality of the data without any mutilation.

He, therefore, encouraged people to use mobile phones to take real-time photos and videos without editing the images in the case of pollution or oil spills.

In his words, “Reporting is an essential aspect of any monitoring activity. It affords opportunities to track the activity and its impacts. It makes an activity visible and draws attention to it. Also, it helps to identify associated risks and to know the required controls and learning outcomes needed to prevent the re-occurrence of an activity’s failures. No monitoring exercise is complete without a report of observations and a point of action.

“You must identify what caused the pollution, state the name of the community and landmark and if possible, use GPS, time and date the pollution was observed.”

One of the participants, Omusuo Dieworio from Bayelsa state, noted that apart from the activities of the multinationals, the people have contributed to the disappearance of fish in the rivers by dumping refuse and plastic wastes inside the river which posed a significant threat to fish even as he urged community leaders to promulgate laws prohibiting that and the youth leaders to ensure the enforcement.

“Our people should be sensitized on the hazards of toxic waste. We should put laws that are binding on us. Our fishermen should discipline themselves enough by drinking sachet water and eating should not drop the waterproof inside the water. They should also be discouraged from using dynamite and other chemicals for fishing as all these are harmful to both the aquatic animals and human beings that will consume it.” He said.

Speaking on the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, Umo Isua—Ikoh of Peace Pact Development Foundation said the provision in the PIA that the community should forfeit its 3% development fund in Case of pipeline vandalism criminalizes the community and should be expunged, noting that no community will agree to vandalize a pipeline but an individual or a criminal.

He said they should go after anyone who vandalizes the pipeline and not let the entire community bear the brunt of one person.

On his part, Stephen Oduware, the Project Manager of Fossil Politics, called on the communities to network with CSOs, CBOs, doctors, lawyers, media, especially those from their communities, and other community members who have the community at heart to advocate at all fronts.

“The community people should partner with CSOs, CBOs so that they will be able to advocate from all fronts from the health implication of this pollution from the legal and human right violations as a result of this pollution, land grabbing and then they will be able to get well researched works from the academics, we believe that with this network they will be able to push for the justice they needed.” He said.

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