12 Aug 2001
For Africa’s poor, the only thing that they could share evenly with the rich was fresh air. Unfortunately for these downtrodden masses this God given commodity will soon escape their grip. This is particularly so for the urban masses.
The speed at which Africa’s environment is fast degrading is quite alarming. If you make a case study of air pollution alone you will be taken aback by the quality of air that urban dwellers breathe. Even in cities without factories that produce air pollutants the situation is not any better. The reason for this state of affairs is simple and straightforward.
In many environmentally conscious countries, there are strict regulations in force to ensure that fuel consumed by cars is free of lead. The refineries are thus constructed to meet these standards. It should be recalled that lead from vehicle exhaust is a health hazard. Researchers have even implicated this lead laden fuel with brain retardation in children.
Secondly, the high cost of petrol is pushing many people to purchase cars that use cheaper diesel oil as fuel. These diesel cars aided by their usual advanced age are the principal vectors of air pollution in many countries. These cars are particularly popular in towns with low income and high petrol cost. If you stand on a street in one of such towns, you will sadly appreciate what I am talking about. You can observe car after car belching black smoke from their tail pipes as if they were mobile chimneys. Some countries have prohibited the use of diesel cars let alone the old ones. The unfortunate situation in many African is that it seems the policy makers are indirectly encouraging the use of these cars by sanctioning unreasonable fuel hikes.
From our knowledge of nature study in primary school we know that green plants use carbon dioxide and energy from sunlight to produce the oxygen that we breathe through a process called photosynthesis. Ironically, we have embarked on unprecedented deforestation at the same time that we are increasing air pollution.
It is obvious that the poor quality of the air we breathe plays a dominant role in the high incidence of such ailments of the respiratory tract as asthma, bronchitis and some pulmonary tract infections. The average ignorant when it comes to environmental issues. This is the more reason why it should be the moral obligations of those in power to go the extra mile to ensure the safety of those they govern. History will view them as accomplices in the misfortune that is visiting Africans if they do not take step to halt and reverse the trend.
Copyright ã August 2001 by Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah