ILLNESS arising from ambient air pollution caused an estimated 11,200 premature deaths in Lagos in 2018, a recent report published by the World Bank said.
A summary of the report – ‘Cost of Air Pollution in Lagos’ – was published in an article titled ‘Air pollution: A silent killer in Lagos’, co-authored by Karin Kemper, Global Director, Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy Global Practice at the World Bank, and Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Nigeria.
The World Bank also said air pollution cost the Lagos State Government about $2.1 billion in 2018.
“A recent World Bank study, the Cost of Air Pollution in Lagos, estimates that illness and premature deaths due to ambient air pollution caused losses of $2.1 billion in 2018, representing about 2.1 per cent of Lagos State’s GDP,” a part of the report read.
“In the same year, it caused an estimated 11,200 premature deaths, the highest in West Africa,” parts of the article ‘Air pollution: A silent killer in Lagos.”
According to the report, children under five were the most affected in the premature deaths, as they accounted for 60 per cent of total deaths.
Adults were also affected by air pollution, with adult victims suffering from heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
”As Nigeria’s economic hub, Lagos is one of the world’s fastest growing megacities, but this rapid growth has had a downside with high rates of illness and premature death caused by unhealthy air,” the World Bank said.
It warned that, if, as experts predict, Lagos becomes the world’s largest city by 2100, major sources of pollution will likely increase as industry grows and transportation needs soar.
In an overview of the report, the World Bank said, “Our study estimates the impact of ambient air pollution on health, analyzes main pollution sources, and recommends options to improve Lagos’ air quality,” adding that “Indoor air pollution is another challenge that will be explored in a later study.”
The report observed that ambient air pollution is caused by pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, ozone, air toxics, and fine particulate matter.
“These are dangerous because they can pass lung barriers and enter the blood stream, contributing to mortality and morbidity”, the report said, noting that Lagos has recorded pollution levels “in the same range as other polluted megacities such as Beijing, Cairo and Mumbai.”
Road transport, industrial emissions and generators were identified in the report as the main sources of air pollution in Lagos.
While it noted that “road transport is the primary source” of air pollution, the report indicated, “With limited transportation options, the number of vehicles in Lagos has almost quadrupled in the last decade.
It added that the average Lagos commute takes four hours a day, the highest in the world.
“Every day, 227 vehicles clog each km of road. Most vehicles are over 15 years old, using old emission technologies and fuel with high sulfur levels: 200 times higher than U.S. standards for diesel.”
The report added that emissions from industries are the second source of PM 2.5 (air pollution), noting that earlier research showed that industrial and commercial zones like Apapa, Idumota, Ikeja and Odogunyan, where cement, chemicals, furniture, refinery, steel industries, and markets are concentrated, have high levels of pollution.
Highlighting the contribution of generators to air pollution, the report said, “Nigeria’s vibrant economy, large population and unreliable power sector have led to a heavy dependence on back-up generators.
“In Lagos alone, about half of the city’s total energy demand is met by generators, the third source of PM 2.5. Large diesel generators are used in institutional, commercial, and housing sites while small generators have proliferated across households and small businesses,” the report said.
The poor combustion of the gasoline and lubricating oil used for generators pollutes the air and causes huge health damage as they are used in closer proximity to people.”
Inadequate waste disposal facilities, and pollution from Tin Can and Apapa ports were also identified as major sources of air pollution in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial hub.
“Two other factors contribute to pollution: inadequate waste infrastructure and pollution from the two ports. Without a proper waste management system, people resort to open burning of waste and illegal dumping, causing the emissions of toxic pollutants.
“Nigerian ports statistics state that in 2017, 33 million metric tons of cargo passed through the two major ports of Apapa and Tin Can. Every day, about 5,000 highly polluting diesel trucks seek access to the ports or park around for months, picking up or waiting for their loads, causing heavy congestion and pollution,” the World Bank said.
However, the World Bank said it was working with the Lagos State Government to support the city’s efforts to improve air quality through its Pollution Management and Environment Health Program.
To address the problem, the World Bank recommended measures such as the introduction of low emission vehicles in the city, decommissioning of old generators, purchase of cleaner passenger vehicles, utilisation of solar technology and investment in waste management infrastructure.
It also called for more effective enforcement of waste management regulations.
The World Bank said, “It is clear that no single action can solve the challenges faced by a high energy consumption megacity like Lagos.
“But, we propose various options, keeping in mind that they can be effective only when implemented simultaneously. Low emission vehicles could reduce air pollution if they adopt cleaner fuels. Old generators could be decommissioned but alternative power sources must be put in place first.
“Through the Lagos PMEH/Air Quality Management Program, we are working with the Lagos government to prepare an air pollution control plan based on deeper research on key emission sources and implementation cost.
“We are also advising them on the adoption of policies that create incentives to purchase cleaner passenger vehicles, improve vehicle inspection, retrofit the most polluting vehicles, shift to public transport, and adopt cleaner fuel.
“Emissions from industries and power could be lowered with better technologies such as solar power. The massive amount of waste illegally buried, burned, or dumped requires investment in technologies, teams that monitor and penalize these activities, and appropriate waste management infrastructure.”
Noting that it was working with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to create a recycling market for plastic waste in Lagos, the World Bank further advised that Lagos State authorities should, in the future, prioritise long-term monitoring of air pollution, as well as causes of mortality or morbidity among the city’s population.