Enviro Law: Waste Management in Nigeria – Policies and Regulations (II)

Ebere Akwuebu

How Waste Impact Climate Change

Waste in itself does not cause climate change because most of the wastes generated daily contain biodegradable organic and inorganic matter. While organic waste material are termed domestic waste and usually come from the average domestic human activities and accounts for between 50 to 65% of the waste generated in any given society and Nigeria is not an exception. Inorganic wastes are chemical substances of mineral origin; whereas organic wastes are chemical substances usually of animal or plant origin. However, when the waste is disposed, the process of or method of waste disposal and treatment of waste that produces certain gases such as carbon dioxide and methane also know as green house gases (GHGs), which contribute to global climate change. Notably, the emission of these gases comes from waste disposal systems such as landfills and dumpsites. More so, inorganic waste does not contribute to climate change, unless it is incinerated. Although, it accounts for the GHGs that are emitted during the manufacturing process and the breakdown of the raw materials.

Climate change is a serious international environmental concern and the subject of much research. Moreover, in international scientific circles, a consensus is growing that the build up of C02 and other Green House Gases(GHGs) in the atmosphere will lead to major environmental changes such as (1) rising sea levels that may flood coastal and river delta communities; (2) shrinking mountain glaciers and reduced snow cover that may diminish fresh water resources; (3) the spread of infectious diseases and increased heat-related mortality;(4) possible loss in biological diversity and other impacts on ecosystems; and (5) agricultural shifts such as impacts on crop yields and productivity (McCarthy, 2001). So it is vital to understand what the potential climate change impacts may be on waste management in order to begin the process of identifying what changes may be needed in waste management operations, regulations, strategy, planning and policy.

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Policies And Regulations for Waste Management In Nigeria

In Nigeria, the primary, legal framework for the management of waste in Nigeria is based on the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. Section 20 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides for the protection improvement of the environment, safeguarding the water, air, land, forest and wildlife in Nigeria. In addition, the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution, Section 1, paragraph (h) states the “provision and maintenance of public conveniences, sewage and refuse disposal” as one of the functions of a local government council. Following the dumping of toxic waste in Koko a town near Warri in Delta State, Nigeria in 1987, the federal government created the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) under Decree No. 58. The creation of FEPA provided an institutional framework, both legal and administrative for the enforcement and execution of environmental policies and legislations. This was subsequently followed by the creation of the Federal Ministry of Environment in 1999 which hitherto subsumed the functions and responsibilities of FEPA. By way of progress several other instruments have been established in form of guidelines and standards for the management of waste in Nigeria for example,   in 1989, the National Policy on the Environment was launched for the purpose of achieving the goal of Sustainable Development. Nonetheless, these instruments have not been effect in the management of waste.

Other waste management regulations have been established particularly under the auspices of the National Environmental Standards Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA). NESREA has introduced a number of additional regulations and what may be termed guiding principles into the list of Nigerian environmental legislation, including the life-cycle approach to waste management, producer responsibility, and the polluter pays principle.

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Invariably,the Nigerian legislative system  is not completely bereft of laws for the management of waste. The  deficiency in the laws primarily stems from the  fact that there are too many laws regulating different types of waste which lack an effective implementation and lax enforcement mechanisms particularly with the advent of new challenges such as climate change and related impacts. At the moment, the country does not have a general National Policy on Waste Management nor a legislative framework for climate change mitigation. At best most of the recommendations arising from communique at different forums on climate change and waste management have been mere white papers abandoned at the national assembly.

Measures for mitigating the impacts of climate change may include a shift towards the adoption of an integrated waste management system. This method encompasses the 4R strategies for waste management, emphasizing on reduce, reuse, recycle and recovery. Reduction on the long term is premised more on waste prevention.

Without the threat of climate change, waste management in Nigeria is a pressing issue. Most parts of the country do not have enough land for landfills. And the added threat of climate change has increased the need for not only new approaches to waste management, but also new regulations and policy framework that are in line with international best practice.

Part(I) Here

Ebere Akwuebu (abyakwuebu@elri-ng.org) is the Programme Manager, Environmental Law Research Institute (ELRI)

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