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

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs