Worried by the environmental devastation, the Rivers State government has begun moves to end artisanal refineries which are adjudged to be the major cause of soot pollution.
Soot is a mass impure carbon particles resulting from incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons. The substance was noticed in different parts of the State in 2016 due to the high concentration of oil exploration activities in Rivers State and has grown worse since then, thus affecting the health of the people.
To tackle the menace which many residents have raised the alarm, the State Deputy Governor, Dr. Ipalibo Banigo, Commissioners for Environment, Dr. Igbiks Tamuno, Paulinus Nsirim (Information and Communication) Dr.Peter Medee, (Energy and Natural Resources) organised a consultative meeting with the Local Government Chairmen and Community Development chairmen in the 23 Local Government Areas of the State to discuss the way forward.
Speaking at the forum, Banigo decried the menace of soot in the state, which according to her was as a result of illegal petroleum refining popularly known as Kpor fire, regretting that the development has caused terrible health challenges on the people.
She said the state is determined to end the soot problem and as such is working to encourage the take-off of modular refineries, assuring that those involved in bunkering activities would be given opportunities to embrace the alternative.
She appealed to those involved in the illegal business to desist from it and embrace the government’s steps towards achieving the establishment of modular refineries.
She said: “Soot problem is a matter that affects all. When you examine the particles, discover that it is harmful to human life.
“So, in the process of this, one of the major causes of the problem is artisanal refining, popularly called Kpor fire.
The deputy governor expressed fear that the situation would be unimaginable in the next 10 years if soot is not stopped now.
She appealed to local government and CDC chairmen to admonish the youths in their areas on the devastating danger of artisanal refining.
She stated: Government didn’t call you to kill or arrest you. But, because you are close to the people at the grassroots, that is why you were invited for this consultative meeting
In his speech, Commissioner for Environment, Igbiks Tamuno, said: “For us in government, we see the devastation, the threat to human lives resulting from Kpor fire. The government cannot close its eyes and watch”.
“ If we don’t take the soot problem serious and tackle it if coronavirus comes, it would be a double challenge”
He disclosed that the State government was working on a legal framework to ensure those into artisanal refineries do not continue as the government would go after then when the right time comes.
The commissioner disclosed that the existence of Kpor fire in 14 LGAs, saying that over 2,000 were involved in the illegal business, which has threatened the lives of 7 million people in the State.
Nsirim on his part urged the residents to be safety conscious and observe hygienic rules.