Last week the federal government approved a solid waste management policy which will help tackle the issue of disposal and utilisation of the massive solid waste generated in the country in a comprehensive and integrated way.
The Minister of Environment, Mohammed Mahmud, disclosed this after the Federal Executive meeting where he stated that the policy will provide a framework for the integration of efforts by the federal, state and local governments, ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders in waste management.
He said the idea is to seek to reduce, recycle, recover, reuse and repair the quantum of solid waste in the country which will provide for a clean environment and create jobs in the process.
One of the main features of our landscape is the presence of solid waste dotting the environment.
This is not just unsightly; it constitutes a hazard to our environment and the attendant consequences on healthy living.
Without doubt, Nigeria has one of the poorest records in waste management.
It is a common feature in our rural and urban areas to see huge wastes generated by human activities left without disposal and treatment.
These wastes seep into the underground water table and contaminate the source of our water supplies.
This affects not just the public water supply but also the private water supply sources like boreholes etc.
In many instances too, it is often normal to see local food vendors and sellers of popular delicacies hawking or selling their wares in the vicinity of such waste dumps.
The waste dumps are also a veritable attraction to disease carrying insects, rodents and other agents of the transmission of epidemics.
Indeed, reports have linked the incidence of such diseases as cholera, typhoid, gastro-enteritis, salmonella etc. that periodically ravage our country from the prevalence of open waste sites and the failure to properly dispose them.
Our failure to properly manage the solid wastes generated in the country apart from blighting the beauty of our natural environment also denies us the opportunity and benefits that can be realised therein.
Statutorily, the main responsibility of managing environmental wastes rests on the local government tier and the municipal authorities of urban areas.
These are the authorities that have a direct bearing on the activities where the generation waste is most prevalent.
But because over the years, the scale of waste generated in the country has increased exponentially as a result of fast growing population and urbanisation, the local governments and municipalities have become overwhelmed.
It is therefore necessary and timely that the federal government has stepped into the matter as disclosed by the minister.
It is also commendable that the Ministry of Environment which is the focal point of this intervention is approaching the issue in a comprehensive way involving all the stakeholders in the environmental management value chain.
This synergy will help generate the necessary ideas and strategies for the implementation of the national environment policy and institute best practices in environmental management.
We should also learn from the examples of other countries around the world in handling our waste management challenges.
As the minister stated and as is well known, the huge waste we generate can be turned into a resource for many uses like energy generation, plastics, hybrid products, building and road construction materials as is the case in many countries.
In the process, jobs are created and skills in waste and environmental management are imparted to our teeming unemployed youths.
For the immense benefits it will bring to the various sectors of the country, the new national policy on solid waste management must not be allowed to go the way of other similar policies on national challenges.
Specifically, the policy should not suffer the bane of implementation that has been behind the failure of most of our national policies to make the desirable impact on our national development.