Residents of Port Harcourt and Nigerians across the country are sharing details on their life expectancy in order to raise more awareness for the health, economic and environmental crisis that is the deadly soot pollution in Rivers State’s capital.
Having been diagnosed with several soot-related illnesses like respiratory, skin, reproductive, and other life-threatening conditions, thousands of Port Harcourt residents are coming together through the launch of the crowdsourced website SootCity to call the Government to action and raise awareness of the urgent issue.
Sandra Hart, a resident of Port Harcourt, who lost consciousness following an acute asthmatic attack exacerbated by the air pollution caused by the soot said, “I am impressed with the coordination that has gone into raising awareness of soot in Port Harcourt over the last few years.
“Having been in and out of the hospital constantly and surviving a coma, I want Nigerians and particularly residents of Port Harcourt to understand why we need to make sure our Government puts an end to illegal refining of oil once and for all.”
According to Dr Bieye Renner Briggs, a Public Health Physician and an Environmental Advocate in Port Harcourt, “most people living in the affected communities know that soot is bad, but just how worse things can get is what is unknown to them.
“Nigerians In Port Harcourt, are daily being diagnosed with and dying from soot-related illnesses like birth defects, cancerous growths, miscarriages, and irritations of the eye, nose, throat, and skin.”
Eugene Abels the Founder of The Extra Step Initiative, a Non-Governmental Organisation based in Port Harcourt says,
“After 60 years of Rivers State being the hub of the hydrocarbon industry and with the damaging activities of the non-state actors, the Rivers State Government with external support must lead the charge to audit the damage to our flora and fauna particularly the respiratory health of the residents of Port Harcourt and other host communities from the activities of legal and illegal refining of crude oil so as to curb the rate of cancers and renal failure amongst children, indigent people and pregnant women.
“It is also our belief that even the United Nations Ogoni Clean Up report is obsolete and should be updated by the Federal Government to reflect the current realities which a 10-year-old report does not capture.”
“We need to be very clear on the true impact of the damage soot causes and how the crisis is slowly killing residents, in a way that is candid and easy to comprehend by all, that’s why SootCity is very jarring,” Steve Babaeko, the Founder and CEO of X3M Ideas added.
Through the use of data gathered from years of research across multiple countries, and bodies like the United Nations, World Health Organisation and German Environmental Agency (Umweltbundesamt) – SootCity.com developed by Steve’s company, X3M Ideas, accurately determines the life expectancy of each user and with their consent makes them public to raise awareness and jolt the Government into action.
With direct letters written to all Senators from Rivers state through the website, SootCity aims to proffer solutions to the grave issue.
Some of these solutions include the collaboration of government at all levels with all stakeholders on clear and strategic activities like the identification and containment of pollution sites; ensuring that IOCs conduct their businesses in line with international best practices; and restructuring and empowerment of environmental and security agencies with the finance and equipment to implement and enforce environmental laws amongst others.
A deep black powdery substance consisting largely of amorphous carbon, soot is produced by the incomplete burning of organic matter. In Port Harcourt, black soot has become a health and environmental hazard as a result of illegal oil refining and bunkering activities in the region.