Environment

WIRED! Special | The Port Harcourt Soot : A Garden City Covered In Ashes

black-soot-in-port-harcourt

The city of Port Harcourt, Rivers state’s capital, nicknamed the ‘Garden City of Nigeria’ for its beauty and greenery, seems to have its beauty eroded as its environment is threatened by the presence of a mysterious soot that has polluted its atmosphere.

Residents in River state are at risk of having health issues that may arise from the recently noticed soot deposits on cars and rooftops. The black soot is a byproduct of incomplete combustion of carbon in the air.

The soot has been associated with asthma, bronchitis, coronary heart disease and some other respiratory illnesses. The toxicity of the soot sometimes causes cancer which may lead to premature death. Those who live in and around Port Harcourt get covered in this black soot as they go about their daily activities. Having to stay out all day is not the only way residents get covered in soot; their homes are no longer safe because the soot filters in through unlocked doors and opened surfaces.

The city is hunted by a dark evil in the form of some black substances littered all over its atmosphere.

“The “‘Black Soot’ is virtually everywhere in the city.” a helpless resident narrated.

The sky can be seen at during the day to be covered with dark clouds since the deposition of the black soot started.

Suspected Causes

illegal refinery and soot

Illegal Oil refining site in Port Harcourt

The illegal oil activities by bunkers and vandals are being said to be responsible for this according to the general manager of Port Harcourt refinery company. The government has sprung into action on this note as it has acknowledged the problem even though they are somewhat at sea with the issue. As a precautionary move, the public has been advised not to panic as environmentalists have been sent out to track the source of the black soot in order for the management to act. One year after, no action seems to be coming from either the state or Federal government. The city of Port Harcourt and its  3.5 million now face a danger may lead to an epidemic in the near future.

 

Ignored Protests

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Residents protesting against the presence of soot in the atmosphere in Port Harcourt

 

There have been series of protest both online and physically by residents who managed to organize themselves and speak up against the presence of the soot. A social media campaign tagged #StopTheSoot trended for days on Twitter. A small group also went on a match on the streets of Port Harcourt to speak up against the hazards. None got any meaningful response from the government.

The Government Dances While The City Dies

The state government has taken the step to release a press release in order to calm the resident down as it envisaged that people would start to panic; but sadly, that is all they have done. There are no physical actions taken to curb the effect of the soot nor to stop the causes.

The state government has embarked on beautification projects and series of carnival events for the Christmass season without any move aimed at checkmating the hazards presented by the presence of the soot in the city’s airspace.

” Governor Wike (Rivers state governor) is more interested in organizing parties and buying cars for rich politicians instead of caring for the health of Rivers people.” , narrated Emeka Chinda, a resident of Ogbunabali community in Port Harcourt.

The people wallow in face of a silent killer while their government feels less concerned.

The Federal government is totally silent about the issue of the soot. No press release nor comment has been made from the Federal Ministry of the environment. Like the issue of oil pollution in the Niger Delta, that of soot in the city of Port Harcourt is of less importance to the Nigerian government.

Efforts to ascertain the government’s efforts at finding solutions to the pollution were fruitless as officials of relevant agencies like the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Nigerian National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Directorate of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Federal and State Ministries of Environment declined comments.

With neither the state nor federal government concerned about the dangers posed by the soot in Port Harcourt, residents are left to face the dangers on their own.

 

Ways to Live Healthy with the Soot Pollution in Port Harcourt

  1. General Cleaning and Personal Hygiene

    soot man

    Resident shows off soot stains on his hands. Image credit: Getty Images

Surfaces should be cleaned daily with detergents in order to avoid the accumulation of soot. Doing this regularly would reduce the amount of black soot gathered around the house and offices

2. Shut windows and Doors

Windows and doors should be shut as often as possible in order to prevent the soot from filtering in. Also, minimize the contact you have with open spaces in order not to let your hands touch the soot.

3. Use of nose mask
soot protest

One of the protests was led by a popular Nollywood actress

Wearing a nose mask in this period will prevent you from inhaling the contaminated air; soot will be prevented from getting into the nasal cavity when a mask is being worn.

4. Wash your hands daily

While this sounds like a primitive idea, those who are health conscious know the implication of not washing their hands after being out all day. Your hands may have gathered germs and might have touched the open surfaces filled with the soot. It is advisable for residents to take shower three times daily.

5. Keep your skin covered

Protective clothing will help many residents during this period when the city and its environs are covered with soot. The air vents should be dusted from time to time. Eating foods that are exposed is not healthy as they could have been contaminated,

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Miebaka is a seasoned journalist with years of experience. His vast work in Africa keeps him as one of the front line journalists in the region.

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