Chris Steven, Abuja
Former Commissioner of Health in Rivers state, Dr. Sampson Parker has charged the Hydro Carbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP), the specialised agency mandated to carry out the Ogoni clean up exercise, to do a thorough job in the interest of the general well-being of Ogoni indigenes.
HYPREP was anchored on a 2012 report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) on the clean-up of Ogoni land, following decades of environmental degradation.
This report had recommended the establishment of an organisation or unit to oversee and facilitate the remediation process. HYPREP was set up under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
But Parker in lending his voice to the proposed clean-up exercise, expected to kick off June 2016,said stakeholders must see the clean-up as sacrosanct to the restoration of habitable environment for the people of the region.
Dr Parker who was instrumental to the containing of Ebola virus in Rivers state in 2014,noted that the clean -up exercise was important in many respects.
He said ” The Ogoni clean-up exercise is important in many respects. A healthy environment is one of the key requirements for the health of a people, because the level and distribution of health of a population is intrinsically linked to the environment on a continuous basis, in terms of the interactions with the biological and physical factors in the environment.
“For instance, air quality impacts on nutrition through possible contamination of water, food and other micronutrients, as well as possible direct impact on livelihood such as the economic activity of the population, namely fishing, agriculture and others.
“For the people of Rivers State, water and land are closely linked to their livelihood and because of this pollution in any form it constrains and impacts on our livelihood. Therefore, it impacts on our health and sustainable growth”
While this clean-up exercise is a vital requirement, we must be able to push the envelope from a reactive occasional intervention, as we are currently having.
He argued that the clean-up exercise must be made a proactive, continuous sustainable partnership between all stakeholders, both from the public, private and community leadership.
He also emphasized that the state and federal government must ensure that the clean-up exercise follow international conventions associated with such endeavour towards achieving success.
”Before we go to the need to establish a whole-of-society partnership, we must remember that as a country, apart from the need to protect every inch of our environment for the benefit of our people and future generations, we also have international obligations which compel us to act to see that efforts such as the Ogoni clean-up succeed.
These international efforts indicate that the Ogoni Clean-up is not only a local but actually a global issue which we must take very seriously to avoid or mitigate future disasters that can affect Ogoni and Rivers state and spread its impact to the entire world.” He said
He emphasized that apart from disaster risk that results in the vulnerability of the people to health hazards, there are also opportunities to be exploited in the clean-up exercise.
“Given that the natural resources in our environment must be exploited so that it can add value to the lives of the Ogonis, Rivers State and other parts of Nigeria, efforts must be made to step up health, safety and environmental activities, especially on the part of industries and agents of government whose task it is to ensure daily actions to prevent or mitigate a repeat of the kind of disaster that is being experienced in Ogoni land.
“In ensuring this daily prevention and mitigation efforts we can also create associated industries and sectoral efforts that create sustainable opportunities for our people, in conservation of the environment, and other productive activities within these areas, such as ecotourism, new avant-garde green industries in the maritime and associated sectors, as well as in industries that produce compounds and equipment that facilitate human activities in these sectors.
“If we are to take an inventory of the human activities needed to support the industrial sectors, maritime resources and marine transport industries in the prevention and mitigation efforts, we can see that we will not only help to create a healthy environment but we shall also help to promote sustainable economic activities for both the Ogoni and other people of Rivers state.” Dr. Parker explained