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pollution has been identified as one of the greatest environmental risks to human health,
with far-reaching impacts, owing to its spread over long distances. In fact, it is estimated that no fewer than seven million people die prematurely from this every year worldwide, according to World Health Organisation (WHO). The deaths occasioned by complications arising from respiratory problems, heart disease and cancer, are all traced to polluted air.
Given the significance of casualties from air pollution, the United Nations earmarked every 7 September as International Day of Clean Air for the Blue Skies. Air pollution is a major environmental problem that affects people all over the world, therefore it calls for the need for strong partnerships to stem its tide and attendant effect on human beings, hence the theme for this year’s Day being “Together for Clean Air.”
The transboundary nature of air pollution calls for concerted efforts and that was why this year’s theme focused on alliances, shared responsibilities and increased investments, to protect the earth from fouled atmospheric conditions and enhance healthy and clean air for all.
It is on this premise that leading African manufacturer, Dangote Cement Plc, joined the rest of the world to mark this year’s Clean Air Day through the creation of awareness on the dangers of polluted air, the importance of clean air for health, productivity, the economy, the environment and the strategies for achieving clean air, both at individual and organisational levels. This is because, air pollution manifests in the dual fold of health and climate impacts. The Day was marked across the three plants of the company in Nigeria and across Africa.
The health impacts of air pollution consists in
tiny, microscopic particles, which penetrate deep into human lungs, bloodstreams and bodies. These pollutants are responsible for about one-third of deaths from stroke, chronic respiratory disease, and lung cancer, as well as one quarter of deaths from heart attack.
On the other hand, the climatic impact consists of pollutants with a high global warming potential that harms people, ecosystems, and agricultural productivity. They are also responsible for up to 45 per cent of current global warming.
With this view, Dangote Cement, a notable champion of climate change segmented its Clean Air Day activities, with each plant and its corporate centre marking the Day in style. As part of the activities to mark the Day at the global headquarters of the cement company in Lagos, the Occupational Health, Safety and Environment (OHS&E) department, led by Satya Prakash, organised a
webinar involving stakeholders from the renewable energy private sector, Arnergy and the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), a government bureau, who spoke on the roles of Individuals, industry, and regulators in achieving clean air.
Omobola Omofaiye, the chief commercial officer of Arnergy, analysed the air quality index, explaining that air quality connotes how clean and suitable the air is for humans and the environment and that good air quality indicates the air is free from pollution, while the Air Quality Index is a public measure of the dangers of air pollution.
According to her, the Air Quality Index has six categories representing different levels of health concerns, ranging from the good, moderate, and unhealthy for sensitive groups, in addition to unhealthy and hazardous, noting that greenhouse gas emission constitute the major cause of air pollution of the ecosystem.
She said the Nigeria ecosystem is impacted negatively by the heavy reliance on fossil fuel for power generation and quoted the African Development Bank as estimating that Nigerians spend $14 billion fuelling petrol or diesel-powered generators, and over 40% of Nigerian households own fuel generators and bear the associated costs, according to a Stears and Sterling report in June 2022
Omofaiye posited that fossil fuels have an outsized negative impact on the environment. “The consumption of one litre of diesel emits, on average, 2.7kg of CO2. In addition to carbon monoxide, fossil fuel creates air pollutants and hazardous exhaust fumes.”
She therefore canvassed for the use of easily accessible alternative fuel in solar energy, which is a clean energy source that is highly reliable and accessible. “It can be offered as centralised or distributed systems with lithium battery energy storage system for commercial and residential use. It is built with embedded intelligence application for remote monitoring and energy management.”
At the industrial level, the renewable energy expert listed other sources of clean energy as comprising of biomass, wind and Hhydropower. Benefits of these clean alternative energies, she stated, include: “the reduction in fossil fuel consumption; reduced greenhouse gas emissions: The reduction in CO2 emissions from solar power generation helps combat climate change, which can exacerbate air quality issues through factors such as increased heatwaves and the formation of ground-level ozone; decreased indoor air pollution and energy efficiency and lower waste generation.”
The concomitant effects of these alternatives, she pointed out, are that they would aid the reduction in carbon emission and achievement of good air quality; lower cost when compared with the cost of fossil-based generators, and asides guaranteeing 24 hour stable business operations for productivity and reduction of operating expenses, they bring about compliance to regulatory emission standards and good corporate image.
In his presentation, The Assistant Director and Head, Environmental Quality Management of NESREA, Mr Usman Musa appreciated Dangote Cement for the initiative, which supports the regulation of air quality in Nigeria, as the cement production process worldwide contains primary air pollutant sources.
From the regulatory point, Musa highlighted some regulatory measures, which he said are targeted at preventing and minimising pollution from all operations and ancillary activities of the industrial sector players.
Part of the measures are the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for new projects or modification, including expansion of existing ones before commencement, while existing industries are required to submit Environmental Audit Reports (EAR) conducted by external consultants accredited by the agency for existing industries every three years and permit for waste generation and air quality to be obtained every year.
The Dangote Cement Plc, Group Head of OHS&E, Prakash, in his own remark while stating Dangote Cement’s commitment to clean air gave insights into eco-friendly activities the cement company had undertaken and still working on and which everyone can switch to in order to achieve less emissions of dust and GHGs to the air.
At the ibese, Ogun State plant of the company, talks were held on achieving clean ambient air quality, air pollution crises, types of pollutants, and how to ensure cleaner air and blue skies. The awareness engagements on particulate and gaseous emission management (measurement, calculation, and control) involved staff across production, instrumentation, mechanical, electrical, OHS&E departments.
At the Gboko, Benue state plant, the Clean Air Day was commemorated with presentation to the Plant Director (PD), Heads of Departments, Unit Heads, Staff and Drivers on the types of emissions present in the plant processes, the hazards to human health and abatement measures with emphasis on the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and adherence to Dangote Health, Safety, Social and Environment golden rules.
The Clean Air Day at Obajana, Kogi State held with discussions with personnels across production lines on their roles in controlling particulate matter and gaseous emissions whilst ensuring effective cement operations. The plant maintenance team was enlightened on the two-abatement technology that had been adopted – the electrostatic precipitator (ESP) and Bag Filter for the improvement of equipment maintenance for efficiency.
Similar activities were held Okpella Cement plant in Edo state, with the sensitization of staff on poor air quality and the impact of the business on the environment during a safety gate meeting.
The sensitisation of management and frontline supervisors dwelled on the Importance of maintaining clean and healthy air, which can be impacted by the different plant activities from clinker, and cement production, to bagging and finally proper housekeeping. The management of plant then took a walk to the emission-prone areas and location of emission control systems.
In Dangote Cement’s pan-Africa operations in Zambia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Cameroon and South Africa, among others, the Clean Air Day activities were centered on prevention and reduction of air pollution to improve air quality. The operations staff had sessions on the high cost of
air pollution to the society due to the negative impacts on the economy, work productivity, healthcare costs and tourism, among others.
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