The city of Port Harcourt is an oil rich metropolis located in Rivers state; one major state from which much of Nigeria’s crude revenue is generated.
Oil explorations have gone on for decades and there have been several issues with the exploration within Rivers state, and Port Harcourt has had its fair share of the troubles this state has seen with regards to crude explorations, most troubling being oil spillage in the riverine areas and air pollution in the cities.
Only recently recently, Port Harcourt started to witness what some have termed the falling of Mysterious soot.
Initially residents thought it was a one-off occurrence but the soot experienced continued, thus leaving many with a plethora of question all hinged around the health or residents and the safety of the people in general.
In trying to give an answer to the troubling occurrence, Mr Peter Idabor, Director General of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), told journalists in Port Harcourt that the soot is the result of abattoirs burning tyres, heating of asphalt and also the burning of stolen petroleum products by security agencies.
It however turned out that this claim was not founded and there was more to the situation than greets the eyes.
For many, a more plausible reason why the strange soot fall was being experienced would be as a result of climate change stirred by what seem like an eternity of crude oil exploration, which also involves the flaring of gas that still continues in different part of Rivers state.
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What the Government is doing
In reaction to the strange soot raining from the skies in Port Harcourt, the Federal Government has said measures are being taken to tackle the black soot emission.
The National Oil Spill Detection Response Agency, NOSDRA and the Federal Government Technical Committee on Black Sooth, according to the Secretary of the Technical Committee, Kenneth Aroh, said they would engage air quality experts and climatologists to ascertain the extent of soot in the atmosphere and also proffered solution to it.
The Committee made up of heads of security outfits, international oil companies IoCs, government agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), said that the committee explored short term, medium term and long-term actions in search of solution to the pollution.
Aroh explained that intensive enlightenment would also be carried out to educate the populace of the dangers of air pollution in the first phase.
He disclosed that, the experts have demarcated the state into 18 zones for easy assessment. He added that there is the availability of sampling equipment to cover the zones.
The technical committee secretary said: “Experts would be engaged to carry out 24 hours monitoring of soot, in strategic zones in Port Harcourt and environs to source of origin.”
Aroh stated that the short-term measure, which would last for six months and above, would commence immediately the first phase was concluded, adding that Air Quality Index (AQI) would be established in the state.
In a similar vein, the Rivers state Government has pledged its commitment to ensuring a safe environment for residents by tackling headlong the challenge of Black Soot in the state.
The Deputy Governor, Mrs Ipalibo Banigo, gave the assurance while addressing a group of protesters at the Government House, Port Harcourt.
Banigo admitted that environmental pollution was a collective problem that should not be politicised, promising that only the best of experts will be deployed to look into the troubling black soot issue.
Top 6 Things Port Harcourt Residents Must Do To Remain Safe and Healthy
Beyond protesting, there are several personal measures which residents of Port Harcourt and indeed everyone in Rivers state, need to take, before and even while the government intervention begins.
There certain persons for who the measures state below are more/highly recommended, due to the challenges they are already facing and this includes persons with: asthma, people aged 65 and over or under 18, persons with chronic bronchitis and emphysema, those with cardiovascular disease and persons who are currently battling with diabetes; these people need to take extra precautions.
Below is a list of 6 precautions residents of Rivers state need to take to survive the air pollution they face at the moment.
1. Where a smog mask
The most likely way by which the pollutants in the air can get into the human body and cause harm, will be to go in through the nostrils. That said, residents of Port Harcourt can keep their nose guarded by wearing masks while in the open air, or en-route to work and other places of business.
2. Create an irregular exercise schedule
Exercising is very beneficial to health,but in a state where air pollution threatens existence, one must be careful how he or she goes about exercise routines.
By routines, I am not taking about what exercises to take on but I am particular about when you go exercising. For those who go jugging, experts advice that the best time to set out in a city like Port Harcourt would be either very early at dawn, or late at night, this way one can avoid taking in so much polluted air.
Please for yet another safety concern, i you do not live in very secured areas, avoid going jugging within the stipulated times.
3. Get yourself and air purifier
Things like air-purifiers are becoming very fashionable, however beyond following trends there is now an urgent need for resident of Port Harcourt to have air purifiers in their houses.
Thanks to the numerous online stores and internet market places in Nigeria now, one can get these purifiers delivered to his or her door step. There are some which are relatively cheap and others which are pretty expensive, perhaps if one looks really well, you will find the perfect one to keep the air in your house purified.
4. Do little or no activity that constitutes indoor pollution
Whether it be cooking or burning of lamps and candles, we must be careful as not to pollute the house and our indoor spaces, lest that lives us no sanctuary of refuge from the pollution in the environment.
Try as much as possible to keep the dust away and wear a respirator when doing some dusting and other house chores that might trigger dust particles to fill the air.
5. Watch what you eat and change your eating habits
Monitoring what one eats is not just another cliche, especially not if one lives in a city like Port Harcourt where there is a battle to purify the air.
In watching on eats, one is likely to save him/herself and their family from pollution, and these practice includs but is not limited to eating foods that helps the lungs fight the effects of polluted air it takes in.
Food rich in vitamin A area highly recommended by health experts. One should also do well to consume foods with beat-carotene that aids in maintaining good balances within the nasal passages and the tracts of the intestine.
Butter, margarine, eggs, onions, garlic, whole grains, sweet potatoes, carrots, liver and fish will do you much good in this attempt to combat the effects of a polluted air with food.
6. Do less going out and more staying home
For many this is a bit of a punishment, especially in a fun-loving town like Port Harcourt or a state like Rivers state where ‘enjoying life’ everyday is more of slogan.
However, to enjoy life as the people of Port Harcourt will say, one needs to stay alive.
This 6th precaution does not in any way suggest that people must stay home at all times of the day and all through the week every month and all year round, that’s far from it.
It simply means that wherever one needs to be alone should be where they are headed and hanging out in the open for too long should be discouraged.
Not forgetting that with proper planning, one can also have an excellent time with family and friends.
Staying safe and healthy is the bane of this piece, and these precautionary measures are not cast in stone, however, these simple steps can help residents of Port Harcourt and Rivers state to remain fit even while they operate within a very in-conducive environment.
The mysterious soot falling in Port Harcourt is indeed a sign that the air in the city is polluted with carbons that can cause severe health damages for every one.
From respiratory tract infections to deformity in newborns an down to cancers and death, the situation in Rivers state is not one that should be taken for granted.
Its is estimated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) that about 600,000 people die in Africa every year as a result of air pollution. This scary statistic should give any one concern and should spore us all to take precautionary measures seriously.
While we wait for the government to swing fully into action, let us make conscious efforts to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the immediate world around us.