News / Africa

Environmentalists: Drinking Water Bags Harming Nigeria

A girl sells drinking water packed in small plastic bags on a street in the northern city of Maiduguri, Nigeria, August 2009.A girl sells drinking water packed in small plastic bags on a street in the northern city of Maiduguri, Nigeria, August 2009.
x
A girl sells drinking water packed in small plastic bags on a street in the northern city of Maiduguri, Nigeria, August 2009.
A girl sells drinking water packed in small plastic bags on a street in the northern city of Maiduguri, Nigeria, August 2009.
Heather Murdock
Most Nigerian homes do not have running water, or at least not water that is clean enough to drink. As a result, people drink water from small plastic bags sold on the streets. Environmental specialists say the bags are now clogging drainpipes, degrading sanitation and causing diseases.

Since the 1990s a familiar scene has regularly played out in Nigerian markets and busy intersections. The boy looks about six years old. Balanced on his head is a bucket of clear plastic bags, each containing about a half liter of water. The product is known as “pure water.”
 
For a little more than 10 cents, customers rip off a corner of the bag with their teeth and suck the water in. It is a cheap way to stay hydrated and a much needed business opportunity for children and teens struggling to stay alive in a country where most people live in abject poverty.

Growing issue

But environmental experts say it is becoming a big problem. Cletus Bebefagha, director of operations for the Delta State Waste Management Board in the southern Niger Delta region, said most people discard the bags on the streets when they are finished, causing a host of environmental problems.
 
“It’s a problem. Honestly, it’s a problem because they don’t decompose and by the time they get into any drain, that drain is plugged and it causes flooding,” he said.

The only alternative clean water sources for most people, he said, is bottled water, which from a long-term perspective is no better then bags. But because they are re-usable, he said, they tend to be less damaging in the short run.
 
“But you see economically not everybody can afford bottled water. If it’s bottled water we can manage. It’s easier to manage the bottles than the sachets,” said Bebefagha.

Finding solutions

The obvious solution would be for the government to provide drinking water, but many people say they need more immediate answers.  
 
Ben Anthony, an environmental activist, said the main problem is that drain blockages create breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which spread malaria, one of Nigeria’s biggest killers.
 
“If the federal government will provide water, the rate of sachet water consumption would drop and this problem would drop. If the federal government cannot provide water let people set up recycle bins. They can recycle this waste,” said Anthony.

Locals complain that blocked drains also make the roads smaller as the sewers fill with mud. Between too many vehicles stuck in traffic and toxins emitted from burning garbage that includes masses of small plastic bags, pharmacist Williams Onojega said he often feels sick from breathing bad air.
 
“If I were have the mindset to set up a business here - I’m seeing something like this and I’m just coming for the first time I’ll be like, ‘Man, this place is really dirty.’ It’s destroying business,” he said.

Bebefagha, from the waste management board, said his agency is trying to convince people to throw the bags in trash cans and is providing trash cans to do so. Beyond that, they are trying to work with the pure water producers to find a way to recycle the bags.
 
But for large-scale waste management, Bebefagha said, they lack basic resources like equipment and treatment plants. The best they can do right now, he said, is pick the bags they can out of the drainpipes, and carry them to dump sites.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid