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

Ferguson Grand Jury Expected to Reconvene

It remains unclear when jurors will reach a decision on whether to indict white police officer in August shooting death of unarmed black teen More

Corruption Fighters Want More From World’s Strongest Nations

Anti-corruption activists say final communique fell short of expectations and failed to fully address systemic problems More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid