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Essay: Air quality case study

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Human activities are the major cause of air pollution today. These activities have been known to release contaminants into the environment, which endangers the inhabitants. Poor air quality has been the price paid for urbanization; Population, Industrial activities, Agriculture etc. According to WHO, in 2012 about 6.5 million deaths which is 11% of global deaths were as a result of outdoor and indoor air pollution, with 90% occurrence in low and middle income countries. The risks associated with urban air pollution has been known for a long period of time, but until recently trials, to mitigate them has become more complex than ever. In the past air pollution was mostly associated with developed countries, but today research has shown that developing countries have more air quality issues (Fenger, 2009).

In 2015, the little Green data book reported that the Nigerian population is exposed to high levels of Particulate matter(PM) 2.5 which exceeds the normal standards/guidelines set by WHO at 94%, and it went further to state that 3% of children under 5 years of age suffered acute respiratory infection. Particulate Matter pollution is becoming a big issue globally especially for low and middle income countries. It has many adverse effect on humans, environment and atmospheric conditions. (Pope and Dockery 2006; Taiwo et al., 2014)

A more recent report from WHO explains that 97% of low and middle income countries and 47% of high income countries have terrible air quality attributed to Particulate Matter, which puts the population of these countries at risk of lung cancer, chronic and acute respiratory diseases, stroke, and heart diseases.

WHO (2016) reported that Onitsha is the worst air polluted city in the world, due to its high level of Particulate Matter (PM) 10 which was thirty times more than the recommended concentration as set by WHO. (See appendices 1, 2, 3). Several studies in the past have tried to address the issue of air pollution in Onitsha; identifying the various contributors of PM such as transportation, industrial activities, poor urban planning etc. (Nwankwo, 2017). Not enough studies has been done about the issue of PM pollution in Onitsha. An air quality monitor in Onitsha recorded 594 and 66 micro-organisms per cubic meter of PM 10 and 2.5 respectively. Although this information was regarded not so reliable by WHO representative, because of the presence of only one single monitoring station in the city. The current emphasis is on PM 10 in Onitsha currently but it would also be necessary to pay attention to PM2.5 also, because it has been linked to health problems such as influenza (Feng et al., 2016) and many others.

Onitsha is located in Anambra, Southeastern Nigeria, with a population of 1,417,711 as reported by Fagbeja et al., (2017). It is located on latitude 6.1°N and longitude 6.8°E in the Anambra North Senatorial Zone of Anambra State. The city is divide into Onitsha south and Onitsha North local government areas (UN-Habitat 2012). Onitsha is known to be the portal to eastern Nigeria and economic headquarter of Nigeria (UN Habitat 2012). The entry points to and fro Onitsha makes it one of the four main possible industrial and commercial areas in Nigeria (UN Habitat 2012). The current air quality in Onitsha today, shows how Urbanization can negatively affect an environment if not well planned. Onitsha is faced with difficulties due to unguarded urban planning which has affected their economic development due to environmental problems (Obialor et al., 2017). There is a lot of open burning practice, where things like old tires, e-waste, food waste, waste from slaughter houses, and all sort of waste products one can think of are burnt, releasing high concentrations of Particulate matter in the air as implied by Cunningham (2018). The presence of so many vehicles releasing harmful fumes has made its traffic problem the worse in Nigeria (Alade, 2016). Ngele and Onwu (2015), compared PM levels in major urban centres in Eastern Nigeria and found out that Onitsha came out tops with high levels of PM 10 both in the rainy and dry seasons. Urbanization was observed to be the major contributor of PM in Onitsha compared to other states that were not actively populated or busied (Ngele and Onwu, 2015).

According to Nwoikeji et al., (2015), one of the major source of air pollution in the city is the indiscriminate building of Petroleum filling stations in residential area without proper Environmental and Health Impact Assessments. These petroleum filling stations found in these areas have posed as a big threat to health for those living there, as they are forced to inhale Petroleum products (a source of PM) causing them health issues.

Secondly, exhaust fumes from Vehicles and generator also contribute immensely to PM10. Nigeria is a major importer of generators and second hand cars; unfortunately most cars (tokunbo) imported are old fashioned resulting in high emissions (Don, 2009). Poor power supply in Nigeria has resulted in large scale use of generators as alternate source of power supply (Ladan, 2013) especially in Onitsha.

Onitsha is an industrialized city; having many industries; Chemical and pharmaceutical industries, plastic, rubber and foam, iron and steel industries and non-metallic mineral industries (Ezeabasili et al., 2015). These industries have poor waste control and management systems and as such release quite an amount of PM pollutants into the environment.

The proposed change event is to “Reduce the level of PM 10 and 2.5 to meet WHO set standards in Onitsha, which is aimed at achieving better and sustainable air quality for its residents”. The rationale behind this change is the Public health and environmental issues the people are facing presently and possible future problems they would face in relation to morbidity, mortality and economic crisis.

Studies relating PM with morbidity and mortality in Nigeria is poor; However, some studies (Adeoye et al., 2014; Obialor et al., 2017; Okumode, 2017) have shown the presence of PM through various sources in some cities in Nigeria including Onitsha. Ediagbonya and Tobin (2013) in their study in Sapele, Nigeria, found out some common respiratory symptoms and linked them to presence of PM; attributed to anthropogenic activities in the town. Also State of Global Air and Health Effects Institute (2017) reported that PM2.5 related deaths in Nigeria showed a trend from 1990-2015 (See appendices 4a and b). This shows that there is a need for research to be carried out in Onitsha to know the mortality and morbidity rates attributed to PM just like what Laden et al., (2000) did in six U.S cities and COMEAP (2010) did in countries like Wales, Scotland and England.

From a public health point of view, the damages associated with PM pollution are dependent on their size as reported by (USEPA 2018). This means the smaller the particle is, the more likely they are to penetrate deep into the bloodstream and cause harm. A recent study by Okhumode (2017) showed that PM is associated with diseases like ; Asthma, Coronary Artery Disease, Congestive Heart failure, Chronic obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) due to long term exposures.

The environment is not exempted as it also suffers the consequences of bad air quality. According to USEPA (2018), PM reduces soil nutrients, destroys forest and farm crops, promotes acidity in water bodies, encourages acid rain and reduces visibility in the environment.

In level of exposure, the entire population in Onitsha is at risk, however there is a certain percentage of the population that are more vulnerable. According to researchers, the most vulnerable people would be: People with existing heart conditions (NSW government 2013) because it can be aggravated. Peel et al., (2007) reported that hypertensive patients who were exposed to PM10 were most likely to visit the hospital due to Congestive heart failure. Also new born and kids (WHO 2017) because it hinders the proper development of their respiratory system [Mauad et al., 2008; Pinkerton et al., 2008). The elderly, (Cdc. gov. 2018), studies have shown that adults 75 years and above are prone to CVD due to long exposures to PM (Zhong et al., 2018). Lastly pregnant women causing low birth weight during their second trimester (USEPA, 2009; Harris et al., 2014; Han et al., 2018).

Before any change can be implemented, the need to examine all factors that might hinder or encourage its success is important. This would lead us to running a PEST (Political, Economical, Sociological and Technological) /SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threats) analysis. (See appendix 5 for a table)

  • Politically factors such as government policies/ACTs which are already a part of the Nigerian constitution but are only on paper and not implemented and lack of stamina and sustainability in ongoing projects would affect this change.
  • Economic factors like poor urban planning due to indiscriminate building of industries in residential areas, the cost on health expenditure due to household out of the pocket payment would affect this change negatively.
  • Social factors like the gap between the rich and the poor especially those living in the slum have to be put into consideration and lack of knowledge of health and environmental issues on the part of community leaders and residents.
  • Technological factors seeing that there is not much awareness generated by the media due to poor collaborations from government, environmental and health boards. Also a key factor which is the presence of only one monitoring station in Onitsha.

There is also the need for a Risk Assessment, which helps identify possible risks, the like hood and consequences and how it can be managed. According to (Levenfeld, 2016) a risk assessment can be generated from a PEST analysis.

Using the above PEST analysis the first risk that could hinder the success of this change from a societal point of view is accessibility to health care centres due to out of the pocket payment by residents (Pharm Access foundation, 2015). Majority of the people cannot afford medical bills for check-up and treatment.

Illiteracy and ignorance is a problem in Onitsha. According to the Guardian a resident was reported saying “dust does not kill people”. This shows that compliance to the change might be slow.

Secondly, operational risk is a challenge,for example the availability of only one monitoring station in Onitsha WMO (2017) which is not enough to record the values of PM. Also the absence of technical know-how and skilled staff. This is a risk because if both equipment and man power are not available then health risks from PM would increase as reported by (Terra.nasa.gov, 2009).

Thirdly, according to a report made by (British Lung Foundation, 2017), making policies is not enough, there is the need for political will and adequate funding to make progress in a quest for better air quality. For the case of Onitsha, we are faced with the financial risk of funding, which is needed to mobilize resources.

A fourth major risk this project would face is possible threat to foreign investors politically. Investors’ challenges would be the fear of terrorism (World Investment and Political Risk, 2009) of which the bokoharam insurgency has not come to an end as reported by (Aljazeera.com, 2018). Another challenge is the upcoming election in 2019 (Inecnigeria.org, 2018), which means there could be change in power and with this investors might fear breach of contracts or un-fulfilment of grants as required by the new government (World Investment and Political Risk, 2009). Lastly it’s no news that there is massive corruption in all levels of government in Nigeria due to greed and insatiable quest for power leading to lack of commitment to public causes (Edeh and Nwakamma, 2017).

Lastly is natural risk which also has an element of human intervention. Particulate matter can be exacerbated through bad roads, vehicular emissions and other human activities causing dust storms (Zhang et al., 2016). Seasonal effects should also be considered; PM levels are usually higher in dry season (Akinfolarin, Boisa and Obunwo, 2017). The natural risk from this studies is increased respiratory illness and cancer. The Best way to mitigate these risks would be removing likely hood and consequences, sharing risk in terms of funding, meeting with government officials etc. (See appendices 6a and b).

To be able to reduce and monitor the Concentrations of PM in Onitsha, the involvement of stake holders are of importance and influence depending on where they are placed on the matrix. The residents of Onitsha, The Government, especially at the state and community level, Environmental board, Health Boards/hospitals, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria-MAN, Traffic Warders, Federal Road Safety Corp, Anambra Transport management Authority, Teachers (primary, secondary and tertiary), National Automotive Council (NAC), Centre For Atmosphere Research (CAR), Standard Organisations of Nigeria. (See appendix for 7 Matrix)

There is an urgent need to take action, by involving all stakeholders mentioned earlier on to run a risk and needs assessment and also adopt the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence air quality guidance. (See appendix 8 for a table).

The way to approach this Environmental and Public health issue requires a competent and selfless form of leadership, because with this set objectives would be met and would be sustainable to avoid or reduce the risk of PM pollution in the city. Various leadership styles can be adopted in this project such as transformation, situational (coaching, directing, supporting and delegating), autocratic and bureaucratic styles (Kolzow, 2014). For this project to be a huge success, leadership should be based on the task at hand and the people involved. According Mullins (2010) the best way to inspire and empower a team is to ensure there is effective communicate and mentoring.

For the beginning of this project, the appropriate leadership style to use would be transformational style because there is the need to care about the needs of the various stake holders and to motivate them to put others especially those who are most vulnerable first in this situation Fathurrahim et al., (2018). The idea behind this style is to transform and change how people think (especially looking at social-cultural factors in the PEST analysis) by being a strong influence, motivating, stimulating creativity and supporting them NortHouse (2015). There is need to make them understand the necessity of change by bringing the idea of a better air quality in Onitsha and empowering them to take action unlike transactional style which is more like a give and take depending on the outcomes of their tasks Amanchukwu et al., (2015), focusing more on his benefits and not the stakeholders. This style would help to bridge the gap between government and all stakeholders for this change. This is the best form of style at this stage, because it exhibits John Kotter’s change model (see appendix E). One of the benefits of the style is it gives room for strategic planning because it looks at the now and the tomorrow of the consequences of better air quality as opposed to transactional style which is more tactical dwelling on the now Martin (2011). It encourages team work through participation sharing and giving feedback when necessary. This style gives room for massive awareness on the recent reports Onitsha faces. So it allows all stakeholders to be educated and enlightened about the issues attached to PM (Nash 2012).

For the middle part of this project the best styles to adopt would be from Blanchard and Hersey’s Situational Leadership theory. The reason for adopting the styles here is because along the line of this project, there might be a change in skills, motivation or development of each follower NortHouse (2015). There is a need for directing, coaching, supporting or delegating depending on the team members approach to the change. The leader can be directive, if there are new members on board (an example is where there is a recruitment into the environmental unit) or if any older team member cannot recall the work instructions NortHouse (2015). Coaching allows a personal relationship with team members by being supportive through personal development Vesso and Alas (2016) and still directing them on what to do NortHouse (2015). Supporting as a style in this stage is trying to bring out the best in team members, it involves giving more acknowledgment to them and getting feedback NortHouse (2015). An example is giving funds where it is need and also word of mouth on a job well-done. There is no need for much directing if team members show they have good understanding on the task ahead. There are some major stakeholders who are expertise in handling the problem at hand such as NESREA, SON,NAC, Ministry of Environment etc. these group of people know their jobs, so a delegating style can be used here. There would be very low support or directing style attached to these people NortHouse (2015). This doesn’t mean the leader is adopting the Laissez-Faire style of leadership, because he would still be available to offer help just means he won’t be in the picture all the time Chris (2015). Using situational theory approach at this stage is good because it shows that the leader understands the needs or competencies of the followers, it is a constant reminder than subordinates could react differently at various stages of this project NortHouse (2015). This could be either through recruitment of new staff, understanding of the task or level of competency. I would not recommend Pathgoal theory at this stage because it shows that subordinates are not capable of performing a task on their own making their own abilities valueless NortHouse (2015) and it is a well-known fact that stakeholders want to be valued and trusted. Situational theory appreciates and encourages self-development and very little dependency on the Leader (See appendix 9 for matrix).

For the last stage of this change, it is best to adopt an Autocratic style of leadership at the end of this project because group members already know what is required of them to make this change a success. So the idea of this style is to instil discipline so that they would be consistent with the change and provide a shield that protects and sustains this change because it gives no room for mistakes Khan et al (2015). This stage has to do with a lot of monitoring and control of PM, so enforce is required to make sure Onitsha does not go beyond set standards by WHO. Using the democratic style at the stage is time as it delays decisions and gives room for mistakes Khan et al (2015). Also an extreme form of autocratic style can also be used, which is the bureaucratic style. This has been known to be a good form of leadership when performing routine assignments Khan et al (2015). An example would working in the hospital to do test and analysis and those working in the control room keep watch on each monitoring stations. This is also good for those who would be working with harmful substance to ensure their safety Khan et al (2015). An example is an Environmentalist who need to work with testing samples. This style requires a firm and strict leader to guide them. However a style like the Laissez-Faire which supports a free hand rule, allowing follower to take actions as they wish is not needed at this time of change Khan et al (2015). They would not treat the project with caution because they are not monitored e.g. indiscriminate burning, poor shift times in the control rooms.

In conclusion, there is a need for better air quality in Onitsha by reducing the levels of PM, which can be achieved by involving the right stakeholders and good leadership strategies to empower them to lead and be a change. Also by adopting what cities like Paris, Delhi, Copenhagen, Bangalore etc. have done to reduce outdoor pollution Vidal (2016), Onitsha would be headed for a clean and sustainable atmosphere.

2018-12-9-1544391514

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