Environment & Health

Environmental Hazards Management: The Role of Stakeholders

10) Natural Hazards: These include earthquakes, tsunami (earthquakes in the open sea), volcanic eruptions, landslides, tornadoes, flooding, erosion, hurricanes, snow sheets, heat waves, sun spot, desertification, drought, etc. The natural hazards are not preventable, but loses arising from them can be minimised. The only control measure is putting in place early warning system in areas prone to natural hazards.

Integrated Environmental Management Strategy

Environmental hazards management involves formulation of strategies for preventing, minimising or controlling environmental hazards. The task for improvement of environmental quality is predicated on four broad interrelated approaches. One, more or all of the approaches may be applied to solve a particular environmental problem depending on the prevailing circumstances and causal effects. In most cases, the four approaches are not distinct in application, even though they are discussed separately as below:

1) Social solution: As ‘green’ consumers, individuals can make a voluntary attempt to make a conscious choice and or self-denial to enhance sustainable use of resources. This personal sacrifice for environmental conservation/protection, which may or may not generate inconvenience, is usually for the benefit of the larger society and generations yet unborn. The issues involved in ‘green’ consumption include the following:

a) Becoming informed consumers of green products and services;

b) Asking for environmentally friendly products and services;

c) Boycotting and avoiding environmentally unfriendly products and services in disregard of some convenience derived from them;

d) Encouraging one’s family, friends and neighbours to do the same.

e) Joining and supporting campaigning and lobbying organisations concerned with promotion of ‘green’ actions.

The major limitation of this approach is that there may be no green substitutes for some environmentally degrading products. In this case, other approaches have to be applied to achieve sustainable development.

2) Scientific and Technological Solution: The Increasing level of civilisation has brought with it some environmental polluting and degrading development. These developments are necessary to raise the living standards of human race. Fortunately, science and technology also has its relevance in design and formulation of less environmental degrading process, equipment, or environmentally sound management of wastes. The solution of scientific and technological approach is better utilised in the presence of necessary economic and legislative instruments.

3) Economic Solution: The economic instrument ensures that cost of products takes full account of their effects on the environment. In the context of sustainable development, the total cost of a product is the actual cost of production and environmental cost. The total cost is also referred to as full social cost.

The environmental cost entails the cost imposed on society through any damage to ecosystems and other resources as a result of degradation and pollution; and the cost of future resource benefits foregone because they have been reduced or depleted by current use. Our present frontier economics mentality, which is against the ethics of a sustainable society, does not take cognisance of environmental cost.

Internalization of environmental cost can be defined as an economic mechanism for environmental protection and conservation. It may be in form of economic disincentives when producers and consumers of certain goods and services that deplete the natural resource base and pollute the environment are made to bear the cost of restoration and rehabilitation. It may also be in form of economic incentives provided for some target groups who are likely to be affected by government polices to protect and conserve their environment.

In essence, the concept of internalization of environmental cost entails bearing extra cost or restoration cost to enhance environmental quality. Internalization of environmental cost is predicated on the following:

(a) That the producers and the consumers of environmental depleting and polluting goods and services pay for the restoration of the environment;

(b) That the social cost of non – consumers of such environmental degrading products and activities are removed or reduced to the barest minimal;

(c) That the proponents of conservation of ecologically sensitive areas which have negative externalities on the livelihood of the local people should provide economic incentives for such people;

(d) That the institutional structure for monitoring and enforcement of environmental standards is borne and sustained financially by polluters and users of the resources;

(e) That the cost of our environmental unsound policies is not borne by our innocent children.

3.1) Economic Disincentives:

a) Indirect taxes: Producers and consumers of environmental degrading goods and

services will be required to internalise negative externalities by paying not only for

the goods and services, but also for restoration of the degraded environment and for up-

keep of institutional structures for monitoring and enforcement of environmental

standards and regulations.

b) Fines, Fees and Levies: With the appropriate regulations and institutions in place, the

environmental defaulters may be penalised as follows:

i.) A modest fixed amount based on the categories of the polluters/ users of resources is

charged to run the monitoring and enforcement process.

ii.) A fee is charged for licensing and authorisation of activities that impact negatively

on the environment.

iii.) An annual levy which is proportional to excess pollution/resource usage above the

limitation/recommended resource usage is imposed.

c) Environmental Performance Bond and Insurance: Posting of environmental performance bond large enough to cover the cost of envisaged environmental damages. This applies particularly to large industry in construction, oil exploration & production, solid mineral mining, etc. Environmental insurance is equally essential to indemnify the environmental polluters/offenders who will pay the indemnity to the appropriate individuals, communities and government authorities for reclamation process.

d) Removal of subsidies from products that encourage resource depletion and environmental pollution.

3.2) Economic Incentives: The mechanisms for disbursing these incentives are as follows:

a) Direct Transfer (DT): This involves transfer of fund to some target groups to promote environmental projects and goals. The fund is to be used for specific environmentally friendly programmes. It is usually a medium –term or long –term strategy. And the target groups must be identifiable. DT could take any of the following forms:

(i) Provision of repayable funds for installing pollution abatement equipment in industries that produce essential commodities.

ii) Provision of repayable funds to citizens of communities for improving their degraded environment or to safeguard it from degradation as a result of peculiar cultural or economic pursuit of their activities.

iii) Provision of repayable funds to citizens of local communities who are victims of negative externalities resulting from broader policy initiatives or certain environmental programmes. The environmental programmes may include designation of areas of economic importance to a community as protected areas or parks; protection of biodiversity areas from economic exploitation by the local community; conservation of critical environmental resources etc. The fund which is disbursed on a periodical basis as environmental royalty must be spent locally for economic development initiatives including health, welfare, education and other environmentally sound programmes. The fund may be suspended at the discretion of the disbursing authority in the event that the fund is misused or the community has encroached on the area of environmental interest.

b) Direct Technology Intervention: This involves direct intervention where the existing technology techniques for provision of goods and services have adverse effect on the environment It has dual purpose: It could be part and parcel of economic incentives for beneficiaries of DT and could also be a disincentive for producers and consumers of certain goods and services who have to internalize more pollution cost by adopting cleaner technology.

c) Property rights: This removes uncertainty of ownership over environmental resources or the commons in a manner that promotes environmental care by those who have rights over the resources.

d) Subsidies: The government may subsidise ‘green’ goods and services to disuade people from patronising the environmental degrading ones.

e) Debt-for-Nature Swap: This involves diversion of service payment on foreign debt obligation towards local environmental intratives. This is in line with global co- operation that the developed countries should help reverse the poverty- driven environmental degradation in the developing and undeveloped countries.

4) Legislative solution: This approach comprises the law /regulations and institutions provided for review and enforcement of these regulations and standards. It employs scientific/technological solution by way of stipulating specific technological method for management of a particular problem; and economic solution by way of imposing fines and charges on polluters and wasteful resource users.

The Role of Nigerian Stakeholders

The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) is a new agency under the Federal Ministry of Environment (FMENV). The agency is charged with enforcing compliance with all environmental laws, guidelines, policies, standards and regulations in Nigeria. NESREA also has the responsibility to enforce compliance with provisions of international agreements, protocols, conventions and treaties on the environment to which Nigeria is a signatory.

NESREA is a replica of the defunct Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA). FEPA was at different times an extra-ministerial department under the Federal Ministry of Works & Housing (FMW&H) and the Presidency. FEPA became the core of the Federal Ministry of Environment (FMENV) in 1999.

NESREA has admitted some challenges bordering on obsolete environmental laws, lack of equipment and inadequate manpower. Consequently, NESREA is currently reviewing the environmental laws with a view to developing relevant instruments for effective enforcement of environmental laws in Nigeria.

At this point in time, NESREA should pay a greater attention to economic instruments for enforcing environmental conservation and protection in Nigeria. The economic disincentives such as fines, charges and levies in our current law are ridiculously low. And it is cheaper for environmental offenders to pay the paltry amount than use environmentally sound technology and techniques. There are also no elements of economic incentives to encourage environmental protection and conservation at local levels. All these should be adequately addressed in the new law.

The role of individuals, communities and non-governmental organisations as environmental ‘guards’ at local levels should be considered as an important ingredient of our enforcement regime. This is because the people at local levels are always at the scenes of any incidents on environmental pollution and degradation. The enforcement regime should provide a transparent process for dealing with their complaints with dispatch and also build their capacity to monitor the environment.

Above all, NESREA should be adequately equipped in terms of experienced/qualified personnel and adequate facilities to discharge its statutory duties. The agency should also take an urgent step to domesticate the international agreements, protocols, conventions and treaties on the environment which Nigeria has ratified and/or acceded to.

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