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The Environment is at risk due to indiscriminate disposal of solid wastes (usually papers, used recharge cards, plastic containers, cigarette butts, polythene bags, cans etc) on the streets.
Littering is a huge challenge to tackle in Nigeria and the current situation implies that we are heading towards a serious environmental pollution because of the accompanying problems associated with littering.
Litter is detrimental to the environment in a number of ways. Items littered serve as breeding grounds for disease-causing agents. It damages the appearance of scenic environments. Plastics and polythenes thrown into drainage systems promote the trapping of silts in drainages thereby causing blocking of drainages and subsequent flooding of adjoining areas. The time taken by plastics and polythene to decompose (between 0.5 and 1 million years) enables them to stay for longer periods of time in the drainage systems, they also pose risk to animals when swallowed or entangled around their necks or limbs. Cigarette butts known to contain thousands of toxic chemicals are a health threat to animals and marine life when ingested. Litter thrown from vehicles especially banana peels could cause accidents on highways. Litter decreases property values, degrades natural areas, land and water, and increases costs of public services to provide road side community clean-ups. Surroundings heavily littered attract pedestrians to urinate around such places resulting to pungent urine odours to emanate and also serve as signal to criminals that the residents do not care what happens in their neighborhood.
Albeit much effort has been put in by Government Authorities from Local to National level, yet various factors have prevented the efforts from transforming into results. Government Authorities have chosen the use of ‘treat the symptoms’ approach instead of ‘prevent the cause’ method. There is a major gap in the cohesion and linkage between Government MDAs working at all levels with respect to littering. There is no functional mechanism put in place for prevention of littering, suggesting that it is yet to be a recognized environmental priority in the country. Litter bins are rarely seen on streets and hotspots where littering is at maximum, even in areas where they are available, there are no plan for their evacuation. Personnel in environmental departments especially at lower levels of Government lack the technical ability to develop/implement strategies to combat littering.
Combating littering requires a holistic and integrated approach. Government and individuals each have to take up their roles and responsibilities at every interface of this campaign. Litter bins should be provided at strategic locations and at distances convenient for usage and adequate logistics must be committed at timely evacuation and disposal of the wastes at Government designated dump sites.
Environmental education/awareness is the major essential component of any litter prevention process. Education is needed to motivate the participants in this process which include those in the judicial system, law enforcement, private industry and the general public.
Commercial vehicles should be mandated to provide waste baskets for waste disposal by passengers instead of throwing them on the roads and then emptying the wastes into nearby bins at their destination. Private vehicle owners should equally be encouraged to dispose wastes at the closest bins available.
Workers working in the field of environment need to be trained at intervals in order to be equipped to face challenges in the area of littering and other environmental challenges.
The litter pledge developed by NESREA should be taken beyond the shores of the Agency’s buildings and walls; it should be adopted and memorized in schools and given as much priority as the National pledge. The pledge and other litter-free campaign messages should be spread using Newspapers, Television, Radio, Internet (using major sites like yahoo, facebook, twitter, myspace etc.), Billboards, Travel and Tourism, Utility bills, Pay slips and Road walk campaigns.
NESREA is already at the forefront in coordinating the campaign from National to Grassroot level. State Governments, Local Governments, NGOs, Corporate bodies and individuals must all heed to this clarion call.
With adequate level of awareness raised among the general populace, there wouldn’t be the need to have law enforcement Agencies to enforce compliance with the litter prevention initiative as individuals will rebuke perpetrators.
The environment is everyone’s business which implies that everyone in the society is a key stakeholder in ensuring that Nigeria becomes a litter-free zone. Money spent by the Government in removing litter from the streets can be channeled towards other community development projects.
Always care about your environment. It is where you live. Once you start littering, others will do the same and it continues to get worse. Never think that just one piece of litter does not matter, because you are just one out of many in your environment. If you see someone littering tell the person to stop. What goes around comes around; the same environment we pollute might become uninhabitable to us tomorrow. Let’s all make Nigeria Litter-free.

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