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Steps to save Kano from industrial wastes

The state of the environment in Kano, the Kano State capital, has led to  drastic steps to save it, writes CHINAKA OKORO
As an ancient and traditional capital of Northern Nigeria, Kano City is phenomenal in trade and commerce. It is also a blend of old and new. However, it is blighted by the seeming loss of many opportunities.
The sprawling city, which is home to large migrants from within and outside Nigeria, has suffered from avoidable environmental degradation, especially from uncontrolled discharge of effluents from tanneries.
For many years, thick, coloured and stinking water is continuously channeled into open drains, which in turn seep into bodies of water and contaminate underground water and air. These have become sources of concern for the health of citizens and the environment.
Kano has the highest number of tanneries and considerable number of textile industries in the country and these are the major polluters of the environment. The effluents discharged from these industries do not meet the standard set by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, (FEPA).

Residents of the city have been suffering from the effects of increased pollution from industrial activities, which discharge into the Challawa River from Challawa Industrial Area; the Salanta River from Sharada Industrial Area as well as Jakara Dam from Bompai Industrial Area. But the problem has its roots in inadequate planning dating back to four decades.

Tanneries and textile industries in most Nigerian cities do not have the capacity and technology to manage their wastes in an environmentally responsible manner. The indiscriminate discharge of untreated industrial wastes into rivers have caused great damage to river beds, adjoining farm lands and contamination of underground water and reservoirs.  The continuous discharge of effluents does not only affect the quality of water, but also affect air and soil; hence the major environmental and ecological pollution now witnessed in Kano City.
The public has raised concerns for environmental pollution around Bompai Industrial Area as early as 1978.  Records indicate that the Kano State government commissioned a study on the problem the same year. The White Paper recommended treatment of the industrial wastes through natural drainage channels with a discharge into the Jakara Dam. Then, the system of wastes management was seemingly adequate as an effective method of waste treatment and disposal. As new industries sprout in Challawa and Sharada Industrial Areas, effluents generated were discharged into Challawa River and Salanta River respectively.
In the three industrial areas in Kano, the environment is under increasing pressure from solid and liquid wastes emanating from the tannery industries. The metals in tannery effluents such as chromium, aluminium and zirconium are all classified as having a high and chronic toxic effect on organic life.
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They are inevitable by-products of the leather manufacturing process and cause significant pollution unless properly treated prior to discharge. Moreover, the tannery industry can cause high influx of chromium into the biosphere, which contributes 40 per cent of the total industrial use.
Untreated waste water discharged from tanning industries contains high level of biochemical oxygen demand, chemical oxygen demand, electrical conductivity and heavy metals, especially chromium above permissible levels, making it potentially toxic.
Mindful of the dangers which wastes constitute to the people and the environment, the Kano State government, the Federal Ministry of Environment and other stakeholders have carried out several preliminary studies and made sundry recommendations on how to manage industrial wastes in Kano.
The options are varied with rising cost over time, but Kano State government could not respond to the pollution problems due to paucity of funds. Last year, the Ecological Fund Office (EFO), an arm of the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, stepped in to address the problem in a sustainable manner.
A technical committee, which reviewed all options, was mandated to produce a cost-effective and sustainable management plan for the industrial waste in the Challawa, Sharada and Bompai Industrial areas of Kano.
Information gathered from the EFO indicated that the technical committee embarked on data collection, including reconnaissance survey of the project site, inventory of existing physical features, drainage evaluations, soil materials assessments, the volume of effluent discharged by the companies during peak and ordinary periods, quantity of skin processed during peak and ordinary periods per day and evaluation of research works previously undertaken on the matter.
The committee, considering international best practice, studied effluent treatment in similar industrial clusters in other climes such as Austria, Kenya and Ethiopia.
The committee, according to EFO Permanent Secretary, Dr. Habiba Lawal, recommended that a Central Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) for both primary and secondary treatments of 4,000m^3/day capacity be built in Sharada; a similar CETP capable of handling 15,000m^3/day volume for Challawa; and a primary treatment plant of 1,000m^3/day capacity for Bompai. It also recommended the construction of closed effluent conveyance pipes and covered culverts in all the industrial sites as well as road improvement especially at Challawa and Sharada Industrial areas.
In April, this year, Messrs. Alps Global Link, which won a competitive bidding last year, moved to site.  Construction work is ongoing steadily. A team of reporters, who toured the project sites at Sharada, Challawa and Bompai last week, noticed that workers were busy at all the locations laying pipes through deep tunnels.
A civil engineer, Nurain Akewusola, spoke on the scope of the project which entails digging tunnels and laying pipes across over 10 kilometres. Every 30 metres apart is a reinforced concrete chamber, between 2.5 and 4.5 metres deep. “The disparity is to facilitate easy flow across varying gradients,” said Akewusola, who revealed that the chambers are linked by 300mm high density polyethylene pipes.
Hundreds of pipes are linked to three separate effluent treatment plants. Every industrial hub will get a treatment plant. While civil work has reached about 90 per cent completion, the construction of the treatment plants would soon commence for the three locations.
“We have the full co-operation of the Nigerian Railway Corporation on the site earmarked at Bompai, where construction of the effluent plant has commenced,” Lawal said.
At Sharada and Challawa, the state government is reaching out to host communities in a bid to ensure that workmen have unfettered access to the sites to build the treatment plants. Kano State Commissioner for Environment, Kabiru Ibrahim Getso has reiterated government’s resolve to ensure completion of the project on time. He said the Bureau of Land Management has submitted its assessment report, which is awaiting Governor Abdullahi Ganduje’s consideration.
Dr. Getso also expressed his gratitude to the Federal Government for taking a bold step in containing the persistent environmental challenge faced by the people of Kano, even as he expressed optimism that EFO’s gesture will restore the industrial glory of Kano State, and help old and existing industries operate more profitably in line with global best practice.
More stakeholders have hailed Federal Government’s timely intervention  in reversing the age-long environmental devastation of Kano industrial areas.
Mohammed Usman Tayyib built a tannery factory at Sharada in 2003 to process hides and skin.  The company produces finished leather goods and employs hundreds as factory workers. “We handle primary processing and collect the sludge, but waste water is discharged to the open gutter,” said Ambassador Tayyib, who praised the Federal Government for addressing the age long problem.
“Now waste water can be recycled and re-used. In the long-term, this makes our business competitive in the international market, preserving the environment because we all know that untreated industrial water is harmful,” Tayyib said.

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