Posted by From MATTHIAS NWOGU, Umuahia on
Before now, what first meets the eye of any visitor to Aba , the commercial nerve centre of Abia State, were the mountains of refuse that lined up the major streets.
Rids the city of waste
Before now, what first meets the eye of any visitor to Aba , the commercial nerve centre of Abia State, were the mountains of refuse that lined up the major streets. At a point, it became an embarrassment to both the government and the people as anyone approaching Aba, especially from the Port Harcourt end had to hold his breath because of the stench from Osisioma dump up to one kilometer from the site.
The combined effort of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) that donated dozens of refuse receptacles and the Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA) could not arrest the situation. The immediate past administration imported refuse equipment and trucks to give the hydra-headed monster a tackle, but could not do much before it left.
A new dawn
All these are fast becoming history with the war Governor T.A. Orji declared on environment. Orji had initiated environmental friendly policies that first strengthened the state environmental agency, ASEPA.
To the ASEPA General Manager and Chief Executive, Dr. Cosmas Ndukwe, it was no more business as usual. He had mobilized his men to fight the filthy environment. Clearing of the refuse hills became a daily affair with the governor himself having frequent unscheduled visits to the dump sites. He soon gave order for the closure of the dump sites on the expressway, including the Ubakala dump site and declared a state of emergency on the vexing Osisioma Ngwa final dump site.
On September 1, 2007, the Osisioma dump site was handed over to Phoenix Environmental Services Nigeria Ltd to manage. Phoenix, in 2006, signed a tripartite agreement with the Federal and state government to manage refuse disposal and recycling in Aba. While the Federal Government was to play a monitoring role, the state had 20 per cent equity share while Phoenix had 80 per cent.
The management of the dump site was given to Phoenix to manage temporarily till when it completes its recycling plant sitting on a 100-hectare land at Akpa Mbator in ObiNgwa Local Government, which is to serve as the final dump site for all refuse generated from the commercial city.
According to Phoenix Managing Director, Mr. Norton E. Jessup, once it took over the site, it went into action, mobilized men and equipment, adding that they have succeeded in pushing back the refuse from the road out into the burrow pit, and created avenue for trucks carrying refuse to drive deep into the dump and offload their (goods) unlike before when they were compelled to dump them at the periphery, from where they spilled over to the road almost blocking it.
Governor Orji, who paid regular visits to the dump site because of his concern for a clean environment, ordered that it be fenced off and the outside sand-filled to the level of the road and later grassed. With that done, the war on the Osisioma dump site is 80 per cent won as the stench and nuisance from it have been dealt a heavy blow.
The Expressway median within Osisioma junction that suffered indiscriminate dumping of refuse has been eliminated by fencing it off with a metal barrier. Though some unscrupulous individuals have broken through some of them, the environment has improved considerably. Perhaps, the greatest magic that would surprise those who visited Aba before August, last year is the disappearance of the mountains of refuse rising by the sides of the refuse bins all the way from Ikot-Ikpene-Aba Road to Owerri-Aba Road and Port Harcourt Road and Asa Road. While the giant bins are still there, they are virtually empty and without refuse. Thanks to the regular evacuation, which a Phoenix staff called C and D, acronym for clearing and disposal.
Sustaining the new look
It is not enough to ask residents not to litter the streets; they have to be provided with receptacles to throw in their light waste. These, Phoenix and ASEPA have provided. For the first time in the history of the state, standing bins for light wastes have been put in place in the two cities of Aba and Umuahia, where people can throw in pure water cellophanes, banana peels and such other things instead of throwing them indiscriminately in the gutter. They are placed within reasonable intervals that nobody would be tempted to litter the streets and, beautifully too.
Street sweepers employed by the First Inland Bank Plc, ANSEPA, Phoenix, Aba South and North local government councils now sweep the streets on a daily basis. In addition, Phoenix and ASEPA have mounted vigorous campaigns in the audio media and television to enlighten the public on the appropriate ways of disposing of their refuse, using the receptacles and the bins.
We have held meetings with the market unions, and other stakeholders in the city and their response have been very encouraging. I commend Aba residents. They are learning fast because it is not easy to change the mentality of a people.
This is an industrial and commercial city that is always in a haste and inpatient to throw away their wastes in far distance.
Apart from the refuse, the numerous motor parks called (Pits) that blocked traffic from Industry Road through Asa Road have for the first time been sanitized.
The removal of scraps-vehicular and others from some parts of the city is most commendable even as Phoenix said they are using persuasive approach to urge owners of the heavy trucks and scraps along Port Harcourt Road to remove them.
When this is finally done as it would soon be, Aba would wear its original look as one of the few cities that have a master plan in the country.
For Governor Orji, the Aba environment is holistic and includes roads, drainages and aesthetics. After a road inspection of Aba , which has almost become a regular feature, he said that the drainage problem of Aba would be tackled once and for all, along with roads that would be rehabilitated. Some of the roads contracts have been awarded.
From filth to wealth
The massive attack on filth in Aba would apart from providing a healthy environment, provides jobs and foreign exchange.
According to the Phoenix chief executive, the recycling plant, when fully operational which may not be more than three months from now, the 750 metric tons of wastes generated daily would be recycled to produce between 1.4 million to 1.7 million metric tons of fertilizer.
It would also produce rubber crumbs, and methane gas as different particles from the dumps are separated.
The project, the first in sub-Saharan Africa which would be replicated in other states, is expected to cost $350 million during the 30 years Phoniex would manage it before handing it over, while at its present stage it has gulped over $5 million.
Yessup said that once the state government paid the compensation to the landowners and issued it with C of O, major shipment of the equipment it requires would come in.
He commended the governor for his unusual interest in the whole project of giving Aba a clean environment while also commending the host community of the plant for bearing with them as negotiations went on with the government.
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