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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify Power Base

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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 Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs