Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Healthy living

One word I hear used a lot by Lagosians is "environment." I even started to wonder if the Sierra Club had been doing some covert recruiting here. But Nigerians don't use the word the same way Americans usually do, when we refer to things like clean air, healthy wetlands, and thriving forests.

They mean, "is there trash on the ground?," which is indeed a pretty serious nuisance here, although I don't know if it's a health risk. This woman in the Dr. Seuss hat is one of teams of women who canvas the highways, obsessively sweeping the remnants of sand that invariably collect in the gutter after each rain.

I thought about this last week after speaking to some vendors in the port community of Apapa. I had to cut one interview off after ten minutes because of all the exhaust from the line of trucks that was backed up outside a big flour factory. I literally couldn't take it. And the traders stand there every day, inches away from these trucks, breathing that stuff in. I told one guy he was losing a day of his life for each truck that passed by. And I probably wasn't far off. It was unbearable.

I'm all for things looking neat and tidy. But is enough attention being paid to the environmental issues that impact on the health of the Nigerian people? Governor Fashola and President Yar-Adua, please let me know, when you get a minute.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting--one of the things that drove me nuts in India was the littering, but on the flip side, at least in Delhi, they have made major strides RE air quality.

    So which is worse? Tough to answer, but you might be right on this one.

    Are you ever coming back? We miss you!