Environmental sanitation is a well known idea in Nigeria. Around 1985, the Federal Government of Nigeria introduced the observance of the last Saturday of each month as environmental sanitation day. Every environmental sanitation day, youths and adults were required to spend the time from 7am to 10a.m. in cleaning the environment including home surroundings, markets, workshops, factory premises, office premises, road side gutters and open spaces in both urban and rural areas. This practice is still observed in some states but the commitment of people to its implementation has varied from state to state and from one government to another.
In this article, various human activities
that affect environmental balance will be identified, ways in which communities and schools can dispose of refuse, the difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials and the need for environmental sanitation will be explained.
Various Types Of Human Activities that Affect Environmental Balance
There is a balance in nature. The plants that grow in an area are just those that can be supported by the available sunlight, rainfall, minerals and other resources in that area. Living things feed on one another along food chains.
In each food chain, the herbivores are just as many as can be supported by the plants they feed on, and the carnivores are just as many as the herbivores can support.
Many human activities affect environmental balance. Specific human activities and the ways they affect environmental balance are described below.
Farming is an important human activity. It is essential for production of food and various other materials.
- Vegetation is cleared from the surface of the soil before cultivation is done.
Clearing of vegetation for cultivation of the soil exposes the soil to soil erosion by rain water.
- Mechanised cultivation of the soil for
crop planting promote wind erosion of soil, and dust pollution of the atmosphere.
- A part of fertilizers applied to farms is
washed out by surface floods into
streams and is thereby polluting the streams and rivers.
- Bushes are cleared in order to construct markets, deforestation affects environmental balance.
- Markets generate much refuse.
- Vegetation is cleared in order to build manufacturing industries.
- Each manufacturing industry produces refuse and materials that pollute the air, water or soil in the neighbouring area.
- Some industries produce noise or heat that disturbs human beings or other living things in the environment.
Every construction project involves a certain amount of destruction of plants in site clearing.
Construction may soften or otherwise disturb the soil and often promotes erosion (unless special steps are taken to prevent this).
Construction may affect natural courses
of streams and rivers.
Students write, eat and wash. Waste from these activities affect the environment. Students discard old shoes, clothes and other materials. Unless cleanliness is strictly maitained, a school compound may become litered with groundnut shells, orange and banana peels, plastic cans and pieces of paper.
Transportation affects the environment. Some of the effects are listed below.
- Road transport requires roads. In order
to construct roads, vegetation is cleared.
- Motor vehicles, trains, ships, aeroplanes
produce carbon dioxide which pollutes
Each mining industry produces mining wastes that pollute the environment. If you visit a coal mine, iron ore mine or limestone mine, you will observe various types of mining wastes.
Ways in which a community or school disposes of refuse
Refuse is most easily collected individual homes. Either on a daily basis or when full, the dustbins are carried to refuse collection centres and emptied there.
Sorting of refuse
Refuse at a collecting centre should be sorted into different kinds namely:
i) remains of plants and animal materials II) plastic
iv) textile materials
vii) others, e.g. rubber.
The purpose of sorting the refuse into kinds is to facilitate disposal.
Refuse disposal means doing away with refuse. The following methods are adopted.
- Decomposable materials, namely, remains of plants or animal are thrown into farmlands to decay and form compost.
- Combustible materials are burnt in incinerators. These materials include paper and textile materials. Plastics are burnt in high temperature incinerators which reach up to 1500°C.
- Metal scraps are collected by their kinds. e.g. iron, aluminium and where possible, sent back to factories to be used again.
- Glass materials are collected, ground and used to make new glass containers.
- Land filling: Materials which are not burnt or used again may be used in land fills, that is, to fill up valleys in the area.
- Recycling: Recycling means using again what has been used before. In Nigeria, almost everybody is familiar with the use and return of beer and soft drinks bottles. In this way the same bottles are washed after each use, and are used over and over again. This is an example of recycling. It prevents the throwing away of glass bottles all over the environment.
Another example of recycling is the recycling of paper. Newspapers which have been read, and other kinds of used, paper are collected and sent back to the factory where they are reconverted into paper pulp and used to make recycled paper or toilet paper. Recycled paper is often not as white as original paper. The recycled paper also saves many trees that should have been cut to make original paper everytime.