By MIKE ODEH JAMES
With the continuous threats posed by flooding, environmental pollution, indiscriminate refuse dumps and deforestation, a densely populated community in Kaduna State, North West Nigeria, is at risk of becoming an abandoned uninhabitable ghost town years from now.
Kakuri a cosmopolitan town is home to an estimated 200,000 people of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds. Most of the inhabitants are traders, farmers and government or industrial workers. Kakuri is also home to many industries in Kaduna and the whole of the north west.
Similarly, the soil is good for agricultural activities-tomatoes, vegetables, onions and maize are crops grown in Kakuri. Kakuri today is faced with about four men made ecological aim environmental disaster. Already most of the roads, streets and many buildings in Kakuri have been washed away by erosion, leaving only Air Force Road, Sokoto Road and Bible Society untouched.
Indeed, farm lands have been eroded or washed away by the devastating erosion. Another challenge that is facing Kakuri is the menace of flooding. Recently, no fewer than 500 residential buildings along 3rd Galadimawa Street, Kurmin Gwari and Makera were flooded.
It is an annual ritual for houses in Kakuri Community to be flooded but recently, the number of building that are flooded and collapsed has been on the increase due to the huge population, there is increasing pressure on its infrastructure, including refuse management.
Almost every street corner of Kakuri is riddled with huge refuse dumps. These dump sites are resulting to health challenges for the people around the areas. As an industrial hub, the industries in the area discharge obnoxious gases into the environment.
This also causes health challenges for the residents of the community. Similarly, the industries also discharged into drainages, water canals and into the soil. In the same vein, resident habitually discharge waste and sewages into the drainages thereby polluting the soil and water. Kakuri Community houses two major abattoirs commonly called slaughter houses where goats, sheep and cattle are slaughtered for sale on daily basis.
After these animals are slaughtered, their hides and skin, are openly roasted sending thick fumes into the atmosphere. There are many factors responsible for the problems that residents in the community are currently facing which include indiscriminate building of houses along water ways and drainages. Clearing of bushes and cutting down of tress to give room for construction purposes and blocking of water ways by residents who dump refuses and waste also greatly contribute to natural factors.
Similarly, the constant discharge of waste into the drainages, soil and water by industries and individuals help to weaken the soil, pollute the land and water. If not urgently addressed, many more houses will be flooded and several others would collapse.
Furthermore, residents risk losing their source of livelihood as a result of decreasing size of farmlands in the community. In fact, the Fadama has been reduced to roughly the size of a football pitch. There is the fear of epidemic as rats, rodents from refuse dumps invade houses of residents indiscriminately. As the result of pollution of the atmosphere by Industries and abattoirs, lung related diseases are on the rise. In attempts at solving the problems, the government and civil society organizations (CSO) should partner to construct good drainages for the community.
Also, the government should try and provide an incinerator for the abattoirs in Kakuri to reduce the rate at which dangerous fumes are emitted into the atmosphere due to the burning of skin. There should also be strict adherence to the environment laws by the people and the government should use agencies such as KASTELEA and KEPA to ensure strict compliance to these laws.
The government should also intervene to stop the final depletion of the last remaining Fadama in Kakuri Concerted efforts should be made towards the reclamation of the forest in Kakuri area by government by creating a huge forest belt/Zone where trees should be massively planted. Similarly, an aggressive enlightenment campaign by the government should be embarked upon, which should be supported by Journalists and CSOs.
It is believed that if these few suggestions are adopted, Kakuri would be on a path to overcoming its environmental challenges. But until then, residents remain in perpetual anxiety over what becomes of their homes and community as they struggle with human and natural factors threatening their survival.
Mike Odeh James is a Kaduna based climate journalist