A practical set of national standards for control of air, water and soil pollution should be adopted
By Businge Otto
A modern industrial society inevitably must release by-products and waste materials into its surrounding environment in quantities ranging from small to substantial. From an absolute or purist viewpoint, any release of material foreign to the local environment, within that environment, could be defined as pollution. People sometimes become very alarmed about pollution and frequently campaigns may be launched by purists who, without any basis in fact, refuse to be satisfied with any amount of release of waste products from an industrial operation.
As Uganda modernises and shifts from a low-income to a middle-income country, we must accept the fact that there will be some pollution from an absolute point of view associated with modern industrial activity and even modern everyday living.
What is needed is a practical and realistic pollution control strategy that creates reasonable strategies to prevent damage to health or property, while at the same time, not unreasonably burdening industry with red tape, restrictions and extra cost.
In my own perspective, the public has a role to play in this. There should be a sense of concern and awareness about what and how pollution can be harmful to health and measures to limit or clean up any unavoidable pollution. That person practising agriculture should have the knowledge and skill of how to use those materials which can result into soil pollution. The public media too have a role to play in the provision of information basing on facts; there shouldn't be any guilt in reporting the emotional statements of the alarmists. It should also be a role of the health workers at any given time to educate the masses about pollution
The main functions of the government as regards to pollution with respect to industrial operations could be in form of setting acceptable levels of pollution within the environment or requirements to clean up unavoidable pollution, but with clear prescription of the regulations to the different industrial sectors. When that is accomplished, there should be a system and standard procedures of monitoring and evaluating these activities such that the targeted levels are not exceeded.
Pollution is properly a matter of concern to government at all levels since this is where the public interest is taken care of and it is only through government that a co-ordinated sensible control system can be achieved. In a personal view, the role of government should pay attention to particular areas where there's leadership and improvement.
A practical set of national standards for control of air, water and soil pollution should be adopted, in line with international/regional standards. Efforts should be made to deal with known and existing sources of pollution, especially when they involve immediate risks to public health. It's also important to note that the environmental standards at times differ with the type of activity they control
Attempts to regulate the polluters' level of discharge into the environment (emission standards) should also consider the maintenance of the naturalness of the land
Regulations must be established and administered consistently in order to be seen as legitimate and fair. It is inconsistent to require a new industry to comply with certain anti-pollution measures when other older established installations are exempt or ignored by virtue of predating the current regulation.
Monitoring and inspection of industrial installations must be scientifically sound, impartial, and must take into account all possible sources of pollutants in the area. Inspection and monitoring must be done by competent people with a sound knowledge of the measurements and analyses they are taking.
The industrial community must accept pollution control as a mandatory part of doing business and co-operate and assist government in setting acceptable standards and operating in such a way as to be within these standards. Technological study and development should be pursued vigorously by industry to find ways to dispose of industrial wastes than literally putting them in the nearest part of the sky, water or land.
As we move towards middle-income status, Uganda needs to consider a strong, but practical pollution control strategy built on cooperation with industry to ensure the sustainability of our country's economy. This is the only way to ensure that any economic gains do not harm the environment that is necessary for these economic gains to be sustained and grow.
Writer is a student of Bachelors of Environmental health science at Makerere University, School of Public health