Igwuruta community in Ikwerre local government area of Rivers State has become a fearful environment for residents who are now fleeing for safety as a dump site located in the area spines out deadly stench and smoke that has landed several residents in hospital. AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE (Abuja) and ANAYO ONUKWUGHA, (PORT HARCOURT) reports.
If you must stay in Igwuruta community in Ikwerre local government area of River State, your house must be fully air conditioned and runs through the day and night or risk respiratory diseases.
The huge dump site releasing toxic smoke into the community has become life threatening to the residents of the area as well as nearby Ruumuokwurushi, Elimgbu and Rumuduru, all in Obio/Akpor LGA of the state.
The nearly empty community have had to endure the poisonous emission of smoke that has continued to obstruct breathing for most residents for over three years forcing many to flee for safety.
The Igwuruta dump site is situated along the Igwuruta-Eneka Road, in Ikwerre area. Its neighbouring settlements include Igwuruta as well as Ruumuokwurushi, Elimgbu and Rumuduru, all in Obio/Akpor area.
The Igwurita dump site is currently used for the disposal of waste mainly kitchen waste from offices, operational and residential locations and wastes arising from estate management activities, including but not limited to garbage, garden waste, food, plastics, metals and trash.
But as more domestic wastes are generated in the greater Port Harcourt city, the pressure on the dump site continues to mount as more trucks are seen emptying waste to the site and fire ignited burning the waste.
The blaze last for days, leaving the whole area polluted to the level of poor visibility and breathing problem affecting children as well as the aged.
Madam Caroline Uche, a resident of Igwuruta lamented the situation saying that her little grandchild had to be taken from her because of a breathing problem the boy of 8 years suffered in her house.
“My grandchild has been having breathing problems for several months until his parents had no choice than to pick him up from me. The smoke is too much as many of my neighbours have relocated to other places leaving their house because of the frequent smoke from the burning waste,” Uche said.
Another resident Michael Amaga, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that he was in the area to check his property. “I saw the danger in living in this place over three years ago, the consequences are much and that was why I decided to move my family out of this place to avert disaster”.
Amaga further stated that residents of the area have been lamenting the state of the dump site and the continued smoke that is polluting the environment but got less attention from relevant authorities’ to finding a lasting solution.
“I decided to leave the area when I realised that a neighbour’s child had blood coming out of the anus and also experienced difficulties in breathing. The odour from the waste is too strong, we need government attention in relocating the dump site from here,” Amaga said.
In spite of the strong stench from the site, scavengers were seen having a filled day on the heaps of waste, unearthing to pick valuables. With air filtering masks, the scavengers appears to defy the foul smell to scavenge for recyclable items.
A resident who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend accused some of the scavengers of starting the fire with tyres to enable them access to valuables beneath the waste.
Silas Ike, a scavenger while speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend denied starting the fire. He claimed he only met the dump site in smoke and his is doing his legitimate business of sourcing from recyclable items for sale.
An environmental expert, Julius Adah told LEADERSHIP Weekend that heat beneath the waste is enough to ignite a fire. “Do you know that you can generate electricity from waste if properly managed? Is the government considering Waste Heap Power (WHP) a renewable energy that is helping many cities around the world?” he asked.
He lamented that Nigeria is being used as site for waste by developed countries who continued to export waste materials in second hand format. While urging the government to consider landfill technology to generate electricity from waste heat, he said as a matter of urgency recycling process must start to reduce the menace of pollution as a result of poor waste management.
Efforts to get the reaction of the management of the Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA), on the outcry by residents of Igwuruta and other neighbouring settlements on the health hazards associated with the continuous existence of the dump site in the area was not successful.
Telephone calls and text messages sent to the sole administrator of RIWAMA, Chief Felix Obuah, and his special adviser on media and publicity, Pastor Jerry Needam, were neither returned nor replied.
However, a senior staff of the agency, who pleaded for anonymity, told LEADERSHIP Weekend in Port Harcourt, said as at the time of sitting the dump site, the nearest building to the dump site had a distance of more than 500m, though initially the area was a thick bush and has been earmarked by the Rivers State government as an industrial area.
He said as a result of urbanization, more buildings were being erected close to the dump site, thereby exposing residents more to the offensive odour oozing out of the site, but assured that RIWAMA was willing to relocate some of the site to other areas.
The source said, “The government has increased the deodorising of the dump site to reduce the offensive odour. RIWAMA fumigates the place weekly to eradicate the presence of any form of dangerous reptiles. We are pleading for patience from the people.”
Residents of the affected area denied feeling the impact of the claimed measures by the state government to curtail the stench from the dump site. They wanted more action by the Rivers State government in tackling the problem.