Stand Point

Sanitation Exercise: Kwarans treating environment with impunity


With Joke Adeniyi-Jackson

Cleanliness is next to godliness, goes a popular maxim. This saying goes to emphasize the need for people to appreciate and embrace practices that can promote good environmental sanitation and cleanliness, and consequently pave way for good health. But, it seems the import of this axiom is lost on members of the public in Kwara State. This can be deduced from the lackadaisical attitude of people to the Environmental Sanitation exercise in the state. To buttress this view,  a colleague and the Press Secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Mr. Gbenga Ishola in a recent write-up, raised the issue of nonchalance of members of the public towards the exercise. He chronicled  detailed unsavoury observations while on the field during the last exercise held on Saturday, February 24th, 2018, which points to the fact that Kwarans are yet to attach much importance to the sanitary programme, in spite of the obvious need to always keep the environment clean.
In Kwara State, the three-hour long (7am-10am) exercise, takes place on last Saturday of every month. Despite the fact that the programme is aimed at improving and protecting people’s health and well-being, many see it as loss of man-hour.  Youths playing football on deserted streets or engaging in other leisure activities, men gathering to discuss political issues, have become common sight during this exercise, while communities have set aside the Day for their monthly meetings. In spite of the restriction of movement during the period, some motorists flagrantly flout the law guiding the exercise. Residents hardly come out to clean where to clean; the laze around waiting anxiously for the exercise to be over air that they can go about their usual businesses.
The need for a healthier environment is more than ever before pertinent with the growing population in the state lately, occasioned by the influx of people into the state capital in particular from parts of the country. The consequence of this is high volume of activities generating waste, thus posing environmental challenges in the city and the fact that people have not attained the level of needed personal hygiene and cleanliness, makes the situation more worrisome. It is for this reason that the exercise is desirable, so as to make the metropolis in particular habitable.
It is important to point out the fact that the state government is playing its part of protecting the environment, by making it clean, beautiful and safe for life, through its Clean and Green programme. It would be recalled that before  the introduction of  the programme by the past administration of former Governor Bukola Saraki, the state capital was dotted with filth and was an eyesore. The programme, which has been sustained by present administration of Dr. Abdulfattah Ahmed, had changed the face of Ilorin and people began to imbibe the culture of cleanliness. Unfortunately, the culture has not firmly taken root as observed with the poor attitude of people to the monthly environmental sanitation exercise. It is, therefore, left for the citizenry to play their role by treating issues of environmental sanitation and health with all the seriousness that it deserves. One of the ways to achieve this is by participating in the monthly sanitary programme for the common good. Though cleaning of environment should be a routine affair, it is still very much in order to observe the environmental exercise, which is a government policy.
Just like the saying that ‘health is wealth’ people need to realise that it is in their interest to embrace the programme wholeheartedly.
An environment that is treated with impunity will ‘fight back’ with communicable and vector borne diseases such as cholera and malaria respectively, among others. The chances of getting sick is higher in an filthy environment.
It therefore behooves on the state government to embark on public educational campaigns and programmes to sensitize people on environmental sanitation and cleanliness, and to engage task forces to see to the compliance of the laws, on the protection of the environment and its integrity.
There should be sustained public awareness in communities on the need to engage in regular sanitation. The enforcement of the bye-law of the sanitation programme should be strengthened to encourage public compliance.
Environmental sanitation programmes could be counter-productive if they were not articulated and executed in pragmatic ways as such it will not be perceived as loss of man hours.
More so, people need to realise that it is their civic responsibility to keep their surroundings clean. The culture of cleanliness could be instilled in children from the cradle. It should be be inculcated in children from schools, as making people imbibe the culture of sanitation and personal hygiene is more effective than legislation.
Aside, the exercise, people should be encouraged to make cleaning of their environment a routine affair. This could be realised through sanitary and environmental health officers, who should be properly empowered to inspect, educate and bring to justice people who may flout any bye-law protecting the integrity  of the environment.
It is common knowledge that it is a healthy citizenry that can contribute to the socio-economic development of any place. Health is indeed wealth.

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