World Environment Day: Chat with Temilade Salami, Founder, ECO Warriors, on Air Pollution in Nigeria
Who is Temilade Salami?
Temilade Salami is an Environmental Activist/Advocate, a seasoned poet and Green economy policy enthusiast who uses poetry as a tool for advocacy while leverage on her writing skills to create awareness on key local and global environmental issues.
She is a graduate of the University of Lagos with a Bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology. She is also the founder of EcoWarriors, a youth-led social enterprise and professional volunteer network that uses up-cycling and innovative youth volunteering to combat the menace of environmental pollution in Nigeria.
What do you think about the quality of air in Nigeria?
Well, it is terrible and really bad. And this is almost insignificant because the necessary authorities are not talking about it, people are not aware of it, the government is doing nothing about it.
In 2018, Nigeria was ranked the 4th deadliest country as regards to air pollution globally. These statistics are quite alarming and it is almost like nobody cares or paying any attention to it. Everyone feels like there are issues that are more important and require more attention rather than air pollution. And we all have forgotten that we can’t really thrive or do our daily activities when we are not physically healthy and also when we have health complications due to air pollution. Currently, Nigeria currently accounts for 4 of the most polluted cities in the world
Do you think governance in Nigeria affects the way our environment is taken care of?
Absolutely, if the necessary authorities are not doing the right thing. For real, every citizen has a role to play in the quest for clean air and clean environment. But let’s be very realistic with ourselves, most of the job is on the government, but they are not doing anything about it. Every day, the quality of our air depreciates and nobody is really bothered about it. Everyone is bothered about road, transport, but they all forget that it is only when you are alive that you can enjoy all these things.
I think governance in Nigeria affects the way our environment is taken care of. If there are laws enforced such as; people should not dump refuse in open places; car owners should service their cars regularly; no emission of Carbon monoxide; everyone will have clean air to breathe.
Planting trees is another important measure that should be taken by the government. I think the Lagos state government is trying with that. Lagos state government successfully planted over 10 million trees in the state. That being said, the bulk of the work when it comes to our environment falls on the government. They are to enforce laws and create policies that protect the environment.
What measures can be put in place to reduce air pollution in Nigeria?
There is so much we can do as individuals to reduce air pollution in Nigeria, likewise the government.
One of the issues we are currently facing with air pollution is from greenhouse gases, carbon monoxide and other gases. So, first of all, we need to minimize air pollution from cars, generators. In a typical house in Lagos where you have 10 tenants, 9 of them have generators due to the instability of power supply which the government is responsible for. Despite the inadequacy of the government in providing adequate power supply to its citizens, the citizens can also do their bit by regularly servicing their generators, hence reducing emissions from the generators which cause air pollution.
Another way to curb the emission of carbon is by reducing the number of cars on the road (especially where unnecessary). For example, a family of 5 is going to church; the firstborn decides to take his car, the second takes her car, the third takes his car, and then the parents take theirs, multiplying the emission of carbon monoxide. Instead of this, all 5 can use one car or even opt for public transport which is what many developed countries are using. How many people would you find owning cars in the US and other developed countries? Many of them enter trains and they are really comfortable. But because we do not have all these structures in place in Nigeria, it affects the lifestyle of people in the country.
Also, a few days back, we celebrated World Bicycle Day. In places like Vietnam, Germany, they have green transportation. You will find more people driving bicycles to their destinations. Here in Nigeria, even when we need to get to a store close to us, we still want to drive our cars, polluting the air. What we do not realize is that the people that are most affected by these actions are children who do not have access to proper health care, people in marginalized communities who cannot afford to take care of their health. These people end up dying prematurely. The statistics are not out there because nobody really cares in the end.
We can also reduce air pollution by consolidating trips. If you need to get something, you should get everything you need once and for all. Instead of taking your car, take public transport or take a walk if it is close (it’s also healthy). Keep air-purifying indoor plants in your homes (they are actually quite cheap). Use fans instead of air conditioners. Keep your environment clean. Plant trees. One mature tree can cater for the oxygen requirements of 4 people. We all know the air of freshness we feel when we get to an environment surrounded by trees.
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