World Environment Day: Dirtiest Cities in Nigeria

World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment. Over the years it has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in over 100 countries. It also serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something positive for the environment, galvanizing individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet.
In 1973, the United Nations General Assembly and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) set aside June 5 every year as World Environment Day (WED) to address environmental issues like global warming, deforestation and food shortages among many others.
Considered as one of the greatest annual events, the day aims at raising awareness about the leading issue of environmental sustainability.
Despite efforts by both the federal government and state ministries of environment, some states in Nigeria have been rated among the dirtiest and most polluted by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
According to WHO, “More than 80% of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) limits. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted.
“According to the latest urban air quality database, 98% of cities in low- and middle income countries with more than 100 000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines. However, in high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 56%.
“In the past two years, the database now covering 3000 cities in 103 countries has nearly doubled, with more cities measuring air pollution levels and recognizing the associated health impacts.”
Four of the 20 cities with the worst air quality recorded in the world are in Nigeria – Onitsha, Kaduna, Aba, and Umuahia.
Onitsha, an Anambra State city with over 350,000 inhabitants, was ranked as the world’s worst city in terms of air quality. The WHO measured air quality by examining the annual mean concentration of particulate matter (PM10) in nearly 3000 cities across the world with populations of at least 100,000. Onitsha’s average annual PM10 was recorded to be 594, which is nearly 30 times greater than the WHO-recommended annual PM10 level of 20.
The cities of Kaduna, Aba, and Umuahia are also among the top 20 worst cities measured by PM10, ranking 8th, 9th, and 19th, respectively.
Poor air quality poses serious risks to public health, and according to WHO,“As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them.”
Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant-Director General of Family, Women and Children’s Health, says that air pollution is a major cause of disease and death.
According to her, “When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populationsthe youngest, oldest and poorestare the most impacted.”
WHO said over 3 million people die prematurely every year due to high levels of air pollution and despite improvements in air quality in some cities, global air pollution levels have increased by 8 percent since 2013.
“Urban air pollution continues to rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health,” says Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director of the Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.
The report notes that reducing the level of air pollution requires action by urban and national governments. The WHO calls on policymakers to reduce industrial smokestack emissions, promote the use of renewable power sources, and prioritize rapid transit, walking, and cycling networks in cities most affected by air pollution.
“It is crucial for city and national governments to make urban air quality a health and development priority,” says Dr. Carlos Dora, “When air quality improves, health costs from air pollution-related diseases shrink, worker productivity expands and life expectancy grows. Reducing air pollution also brings an added climate bonus, which can become a part of countries’ commitments to the climate treaty.”

Post Author: Paul Mbagwu