The Irritating Reality Of Black Soot In Rivers

Rivers State is faced with challenges which threaten the collective existence of the people.  These surmountable challenges have been relegated to the background by past and present administrations so that they now appear to be insurmountable especially in the eyes of the masses.

Insecurity, pension and gratuity irregularities, disparity in roads construction and communal neglect, environmental degradation, infrastructural depreciation, deficiency and decay are among issues that need urgent attention.

During the dreaded, do-or-die 2019 governorship elections, the attention of the governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike seemed to be centred on events tied to the exercise while potential issues affecting the state were left in limbo.

Governor Nyesom Ezenwo Wike

The problem of soot stands to be a debilitating issue that has kept on skipping the attention of the government over a long period of time. Soot is a deep black powdery or flaky substance consisting largely of amorphous carbon, produced by the incomplete burning of organic matter.

Soot is a solar absorber, whereas carbon dioxide is primarily a heat absorber. Now, per unit mass, black carbon is about a million times more powerful in warming the air than carbon dioxide. But because soot – black carbon in soot, is powerful and warming, they are short-lived, that is actually important for control strategies for global warming.

Soot finds its way to unoccupied seats in both public and private arena including churches and mosques.  Rivers citizens breathe in the unhealthy substance on a daily basis, which settles in nostrils and goes into the internal parts of humans.

In an exclusive interview with the Ochimba, Eze Ezuru-ezu-mee 1 of Ikwerrengwo in Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State, Hon. Felix N. Onyeche, the substance inherent from gas flaring activities from oil producing multinational companies, has affected their zincs so much that the villagers can no longer drink rain water.

“Our vegetables, our cassava are not doing well; you cannot get rain water from your zinc because it is black”, Onyeche said.

Zeroing in on the causes of this enigmatic problem, the Commissioner of Environment, Prof. Roseline Kornya said, “the sources of soot are: refineries, fertilizer companies, illegal refineries, setting ablaze of illegally refined petroleum products by the military , tyre burning , gas flaring, meat roasting with used tyres, asphalt plants refuse burning among others”.

Rivers State Commissioner of Environment, Prof. Roseline Kornya

Soot is a subtle enemy that kills slowly.  People fear the HIV/AIDS pandemic more than soot.  In fact, age-long killer malaria parasite is often been taken serious in terms of medical attention than soot. 

Life expectancy is shortened, risk of cancer increases and health complications rise steadily.  These are some of the effects of soot on Rivers citizens.

The setting up of technical committee to implement the recommendations of the scientific committee established to investigate the prevalence of soot by the Rivers State Government is a welcome development that deserves a standing ovation.  But the accountant will say “that is just one leg of the account”.  The mathematician will say, “Keep this answer as you will need it to solve the final problem”.

The ready antidote that comes to mind is reducing carbon-rich soot emissions so as to slow climate change and protect human health.  Wood burning, cooking and heating devices – used especially in sub-urban Port Harcourt and the other twenty two Local Government Areas can be upgraded to burn more cleanly. Gas flaring activities in companies from the oil and gas sector should be checked. We can switch away from diesel fuels refined by illegal refineries.

Most importantly, some selected members of both the technical and scientific committees should be given the privilege to represent the state in the next Climate Change international meeting.  This sort of international exposure widens the horizon of knowledge and therefore should not be limited to governors and senior officers in the presidency alone as implementation requires a team work. 

We await results inherent from the technical committee charged to implement the recommendations of the scientific committee for the good of Rivers people.

Charles Asokun

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