The General Manager of Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency, LASEPA, Dr. Dolapo Fasawe has said that the State Government, under the leadership of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has put machinery in motion to accelerate policies and plans aimed at improving air quality in the State.
Speaking during a webinar session, themed “Clean Air for A Healthy and Sustainable Environment in Lagos (Fantasy or Reality)”, in commemoration of the First International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies on Monday, Dr. Fasawe highlighted the emergence of air pollution as the number one public health risk associated with millions of deaths worldwide.
She said, “We should be worried about air pollution as the World Health Organisation (WHO) attributes over four million deaths to air pollution globally, with the majority being respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Some studies have associated areas with poor air quality as having a higher risk of COVID-19 hospital admission and mortality. Although these studies are not conclusive, they give an indication of the danger posed by poor air quality and the need to address them urgently”.
The General Manager said that the rapid urbanisation and industrialisation of Lagos has contributed to the exposure of people to ecological problems and changing climate conditions with its attendant negative effect on human health, stressing that the development is a wake-up call to accelerate interventions and policies aimed at improving air quality to increase the chances of preventing a high mortality rate associated with air pollution.
She listed vehicular and industrial emissions as major sources of air pollution in Lagos, noting that the metropolis observed and enjoyed very good Air Quality Index (AQI) during the period of the nationwide lockdown as a result of the restrictions placed on both human and industrial activities.
Fasawe said that the State Government is committed to the deployment of Air Quality Monitoring Stations at strategic locations to enable the government measure criteria for air pollutants on a 24-hour, real-time basis, to serve as a foundation for developing informed policies and actions towards the improvement of air quality.
“To mitigate the health risk associated with air pollution, the Agency will also be carrying out a public air quality awareness campaign, particularly in exposed communities with high vehicular movement and industrial activities. This campaign will target high-risk communities with a high prevalence of avoidable high-risk behaviours”, the General Manager added.
In his presentation, Prof. Gregory E. Erhabor, Consultant Pulmonologist & Professor of Medicine, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, analysed the risk of air pollution on respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, saying that the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported in 2016 that 91% of the world populations were living in places where the air quality guidelines levels were not met.
Professor Erhabor revealed that Particulate Matter (PM), Ozone (03), Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) are major pollutants with an adverse effect on human health, listing the effects of exposure to humans as respiratory, cardiovascular, dermal and neurological diseases, especially in countries with high industrialisation and lax air quality legislation.
He, therefore, called for strict legislation to protect the lives of people in polluted industrial areas.
The Special Assistant to the President on SDGs, Ms. Rose Keffas pointed out that the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2.3, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 respectively address the threat of air pollution to human development with a strong focus on poverty reduction and promotion of healthy living.
Noting that it is disheartening to lose four million people annually to traditional pollutants, especially due to poverty-related factors, Keffas said that achieving Sustainable Global Development requires strong action, such as reduction of people’s exposure to traditional environmental pollutions linked to poverty, household air pollution and unsafe water sources among others.