The drowning rivers cry out, but are we listening?

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Ilorin, Kwara.

The suffocating stench that permeate the air around Oja-Iya river in Ilorin metropolis is enough to change one’s disposition to disgust as to how people can live around such mountains of rubbish that pollutes the river.

This is the perception you get when you find yourself around the Oja-Iya river during the 2023 commemoration of the World Rivers Day celebration in Ilorin organised by the Lower Niger River Basin Authourity (LNRBA).

The Oja-Iya river waterways is a tributary to Asa River, which is also an important tributary to the River Niger, the main stream of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the longest river that flows.

Mrs Monsurat Zakariyyau, a fish seller who lives beside the Oja-Iya river, said the river is part and parcel of their lives, adding that her familymhouse building is situated beside the river which has housed generations spanning close to a century.

She observed that due to negative human practices, the river has become an eye sore polluted with rubbish and faeces.

“You can perceive the odour coming out of the river is really bad. I have my fish stall also close to the river where I sell smoked fish for a living.

“Everyday is like war around this place as some of us close to the river are always fighting people who come to dump the refuse from their houses. Our children are always getting sick due to the pollution,” she stated.

Zakariyyau lamented that they are practically living inside pollution and it is because the government has not done enough to provide “Okole” (wastes disposal bins).

According to her, some of the buildings beside the river are being eroded due to the heavy flooding that constantly occur around the river which poses threat to people.

Chief Isiaka Awokegba, the Mogaji of Oja Iya community, corroborated the assertion of Zakariyyau, saying that flooding and the mountain of refuse constantly polluting the river has left little to be desired.

He however appealed to the government that an embankment is urgently needed to be constructed, as more lands are being eroded.

Awokegba stated that the only gutter for the community is crude in nature and the polluted water gets into the Oja Iya river, which furthermore compounds the situation.

Despite the putrifying stench and the eyesore, the community is an important part of the metropolis as its road link to the major commercial area in Ilorin; Taiwo road.

It is disheartening however to see that people have adapted to the pitiful condition of the River, as they carry out their daily activities in spite of being surrounded by the odour and pollution.

Reacting, Dr Adeniyi Aremu, the Managing Director of Lower Niger River Basin Authourity, pointed out that water pollution occur when harmful substances, often chemicals or microorganisms, contaminate a stream or river.

He explained that these pollution degrade water quality and rendering it toxic to humans or the environment.

According to him, this widespread problem of water pollution is jeopardising people’s health.

Aremu warns that people must stop polluting and dumping refuse in the rivers, advising that all the negative activities that make barriers on water flow must stop.

He emphasised on the catastrophic effects of open defecation on human health due to increase in waterborne diseases and other problems associated with ingesting and exposure to human waste.

Mrs Rasheedat Oyedeji, the Executive Director, Planning and Design of the River Basin Authourity noted that all basic needs of life requirements are centred on water sourced from rivers.

“It is imperative that we must identify with rivers as to consistently contribute our individual and collective efforts in making our rivers clean, safe and sustainability available for our healthy living,” he said.

Similarly, Mrs Anthonia Akinpeloye, the Gender Desk Officer, Integrated Water Resources of the Authority, underscored importance of commemorating rivers days, as it plays significant role in the global climate system.

“Rivers moderate temperature and store carbon dioxide,” she said.

Akinpeloye further pointed out that rivers are essential services such as water, foods recreation, transportation and habitat for important fish species.

“Without rivers, life on earth is not possible for humans. Even the whole ocean cannot do what one river can; rivers need to be protected for better life,” she warned.

The Kwara Commissioner for Water Resources, Mr Usman Lade, said the government would continue to increase its tempo against open defecation and indiscriminate dumping of refuse in rivers.

Lade believed that the efforts of saving the rivers should be a collaborative by everyone involved, adding that there must be community engagement to fight the menace of polluting rivers.

Report shows that every year, rivers shrink due to depletion and pollution from humans coupled with climate change.

It behoves that to save humanity, we all must save the crying rivers, we must do all we can to save the rivers and stop destroying the rivers with our pollution. The change starts from you and I. (NANFeatures)

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