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Geography of Environmental Injustice and Health Inequalities

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Geography of Environmental Injustice and Health Inequalities in the Nigeria

Abstract

The unfair distribution of toxic wastes and other acute and chronic health hazards on vulnerable populations, which have contributed to negative health inequalities in less developing nations, such as been observed in Nigeria is term as global health inequalities. The link between environmental injustices, risks, and health inequalities has not been well established in Nigeria, in understanding its impact on futures health outcomes. The issue of environmental injustices and health inequalities is treated as a distinct issue from the problems associated with health, well-being and environmental sustainability. This research aims to understand health outcomes and its associated future health burden taken into consideration in the link between pursuing environmental injustice, and health inequalities in the oil producing region of Nigeria.

Ultimately, examine the conceptual issues relating to environmental injustices, health inequalities, and non-communicable diseases that challenges the development of better future health outcomes programmes and planning for environmental justices in Nigeria.

Introduction

"Global Environmental Injustices", is the unfair circulation of toxic wastes and other acute and chronic health hazards on vulnerable populations, which have contributed to negative health inequalities in less developing nations, such as been observed in Nigeria (Schroeder et al., 2008: 551; Roberts, 2007: 286; Adeola, 2000: 686, 2001:45) has been observed in Nigeria for over 50 years due to the exploration of crude oil. According to Roberts (1985), "the industrialization of any region is greatly influenced by the presence of rich mineral deposits", resulting in the heavy industrialisation of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

The Niger Delta region is the location for most of the oil exploration activities in Nigeria, resulting in many people and companies' attraction to the area. The migration flow and influence of the various companies has adverse impact on health outcomes. In addition, environmental risks such as oil spillage, gas flaring, and other wastes resulting from oil production polluting the environment could affect health and well-being on the residing communities (Nabofa, 2011).

Another major cause for concern is the cumulative effect of the crude oil contents on the health and wellbeing of the people over a long period of time (Khursid et al., 2008). Ajayi et al., (2009), revealed in a study carried out on natural radioactivity and trace elements in crude oils implications for health, that Niger Delta oil, although, has low metallic contents; however, the cumulative effects of the radioactivity and metallic properties on health outcomes is alarming.

Therefore, communities in the oil producing areas live with a lot of externally generated factors; resulting from additional pressure to highly stressful ways of living, leading to specific risk related non-communicable diseases (NCDs), for instance skin cancer and psychological disorders (Ilo, 1998; Loewenson, 1998; Kathari and Nababasing, 1996; Fuentes et al., 1994).

According to Ana et al. (2010), "It is apparent that populations living in highly industrialized communities such as Port Harcourt with higher environmental risk factors may be more vulnerable to pollution-related morbidities including a higher predisposition to cancers of the lung, skin. and eye.

It is thus, apparent, that the major driver of environmental injustices is the activities of Multinational/Transnational Corporation engaged in the oil business. As the major revenue generation for the country, oil production had been followed by countless environmental problems, associated with other broad inequalities in livelihood, wealth, well-being, poverty; interactions and inequalities in the distribution of burden and responsibilities of the health outcomes.

Statement of Problem

Literature on environmental justice have emphasised that there is growing concern about the health outcomes associated with intensive oil and gas activities in many communities (Palinkas, et al.,1993) as well as concentration of these occurrences in poor communities (Gill, et al.,2011). The link between environmental injustices, risks, and health inequalities has been established internationally but in Nigeria, this link has not been established in understanding its impact on health outcomes. The issue of environmental injustices and health inequalities is treated as a distinct issue from the problems associated with health, well-being and environmental sustainability.

Are the questions of health outcomes and its associated future health burden actually taken into consideration the link between environmental injustice, and health inequalities? Can Nigeria (Government, Multinational companies, and the communities) especially the oil producing region achieve health equity without promoting environmental justice and empowerment of the vulnerable population as a result of the burden of NCDs?

These questions will be examined with conceptual issues relating to environmental injustices, health inequalities, and NCDs that challenges the method of developing better future health outcomes programmes and planning for environmental justices in Nigeria.

Objective of the Study

According to Pearce et al., (2010), "One potential driver for the increasing geographical differences in health is the disparity in exposure to key characteristics of the physical environment that are either health promoting or health damaging". Thus, the objectives of the study are:

  • to examine linkages between environmental injustices, health inequalities and health outcome;
  • to study and understand the reasons for the prevalence increase in health inequalities and the consequences on the future especially in the Niger Delta region;
  • to clarify conceptual issues relating to environmental justice and inequalities as it relates to Nigeria and to evaluate what considerable impact establishing the link will have on the goal of environmental justices.

Justification of study

The politics of oil in the Niger Delta region have promoted the lack of transparency and accountability throughout the region. There are inadequate environmental assessments on the impact of the oil industry on the health of the people. While NCDs rates of causing respiratory ailments, and other illnesses are increasing, the government do not want to fully acknowledge their contribution to these health outcomes.

It is imperative to undertake a conceptual clarification of what environmental justice and health inequalities mean in the context of the oil producing communities in Nigeria within the theoretical framework of justice theory, and health inequalities. This will lead to a more imperatively comprehensive spatial distribution studies with a multi-disciplinary approach to identify health consequences within the oil  and non-oil producing regions (Ogri, 2001: 20; Dung et al., 2008; Ana et al., 2009) so as to properly assess environmental health disparities through the use of Geospatial techniques. The research will contribute to literatures on the global environmental injustices and health inequalities and the growing need for environmental justices. In addition, understanding these linkages would assist regulators and operators in the oil producing regions to address questions of social and environmental justice; through suitable allocation of scarce resources for rapid response, distribution of cost and benefit and promote community level participation for sustainable development and better health outcome and well beings

Time scale Schedule

The first year will be devoted to the review of relevant literature, proposal writing, and fulfilling additional training requirements. Included in the first year is the initial generated data period (initial generated data period for the literature review and data collection). The second year will be for the actual fieldwork and the analysis of the data; the first six months will be used for data collection and the next six months for data analysis. The third will be devoted to writing up of the thesis.

Methodology

Study area

The Niger Delta region of Nigeria, consist of 37 million inhabitants, constituting about 22% of Nigeria's population (Aaron, 2005), with a population density of 265 per square km. it is made up of nine states with more than 1500 communities hosting several oil and gas companies. The oil and gas resources of the Niger Delta accounts for over 85% of Nigeria's gross domestic product (GDP), over 95% of the national budget, and over 80% of the nation's wealth (Forest, and Sousa, 2006). The region is home to the oil wealth that made Nigeria the highest producer of petroleum in Africa, and the sixth in the world (Yakubu, 2008).

Methods

Spatial clustering methods and Quantitative risk assessment methods will be used to explain the first and second objectives of this research. Spatial clustering methods will be used to make sense of the complex geographic pattern between the environmental risk and health records in this research. Knowing whether this pattern and cluster exist and where they are located will provide important information for policy formulation and health research (Cromley and McLafferty, 2002; Croner et al., 1992). To avoid the bias of latency and migration, that can present itself in the cause of the research, only information on long term residents in the communities will be used.

The spatial distribution of environmental risks will be used to provide a means for determining communities likely to become susceptible to health inequalities and NCDs. For this assessment, communities in the area were treated as substitute for human population and settlement while land, vegetation and rivers were considered the medium of land use. The thiessen polygon will be developed in ArcGIS environment to demarcate boundaries of the communities (because there are no community boundary shapefiles available) and determine the number/different environmental risk sites in each thiessen polygon that represents a community.

Quantitative risk assessment will be used to characterise the effects expected from the exposure to an environmental risk, estimating the probability of occurrence of health effects, while estimating the number of occurrence in the population and recommending acceptable concentration of the risk in the air, water or food (Hallenbeck, 1993) Overlaying cluster maps with other spatial maps will provide clues about the cause of disease, while identifying variations in health outcomes linked to differences in the physical and social environment.

Clarification of conceptual issues, (the 3rd objective) will be achieved by discussing the results of the analysis carried out within the study and existing studies on environmental injustice and health inequalities to provide justification for the research.

Data and Source

Secondary data will be collected from published government statistics from the states that make up the sample communities such as maps, etc. Data were also collected from relevant government agencies such as the health board and teaching hospitals information, and local government and chieftaincy affairs. The data will majorly focus on the use of some selected indicators of development vital for health well-being and basic amenities needed to support effective living. The local government areas will serve as aerial units of analysis while the choices of socio-economic indices will be based on the appropriateness of the variables and the availability of the data covering all the LGAs in the study region.

The selected indicators that cut across health include number of NCDs, hospitals; doctors; midwives; hospital beds/ '000 populations (2014 census). In addition, GPS data of all environmental risks sites from 1985-2015, will be acquired from the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in Nigeria (DPR, is the regulatory agency of oil and gas activities in Nigeria). The data were used to assess the environmental risks spatiotemporal distribution and determine exposure susceptibility in the areas. The datasets will contain information on geo-coordinates of individual risk sites, date of occurrence, date of survey and quantity of discharge.

Analysis

Spatial Analysis description for Average Nearest Neighbour Analysis, Getis-Ord General G tests for High and Low Cluster, and Cluster and Outlier Analysis will be performedin the study (see Appendix A). These spatial analyses were undertaken to measure the spatial pattern and relationship between risk that are spread over a given geographical region (Ebdon, 1985). It helps in assessing and determining the closeness and patterns of the environmental risks sites near settlements. The methods with generate geographical distribution, cluster and pattern analysis of environmental risk and spatio-temporal nature of the incidents.

To examine the degree of deprivation among the local government areas in health variables, the Gini index descriptive statistical technique of date analysis was used. The Gini index of concentration examines the extent of concentration of each of the indicators among the local government areas. The Gini Coefficient ranges from zero to one, (0-1) with zero representing perfect equality, and 1 total inequality

Intellectual and User Benefits

The intellectual contribution of the study will be to enhance the understanding of the effects of socio-economic and cultural characteristics upon the spatial pattern of environmental injustice and health inequalities. The benefits of this research are a direct contribution to developing policy on health management strategy and planning for equality, environmental policy and its applications especially within vulnerable populations.

For the researcher, there will be the academic benefits of doctoral research and training in health geography and the development of expertise in research methodology techniques. By working closely with interested parties, the researcher will gain insights into the relationships between academic research and the needs of users.

Ethical considerations

Full consent will be provided to all research participants with the full research disclosure and confidentiality according to the ethnical research procedure of the University of Edinburgh.

Summary and conclusions

As the major revenue generation for the country, oil production had been followed by countless environmental problems, associated with other broad inequalities in livelihood, wealth, well-being, poverty; interactions and inequalities in the distribution of burden and responsibilities of the health outcomes. The research aims to undertake a conceptual clarification of what environmental justice and health inequalities mean in the context of the oil producing communities in Nigeria within the theoretical framework of justice theory, and health inequalities. Leading to a more imperatively comprehensive spatial distribution studies with a multi-disciplinary approach to identify health consequences from the oil industry versus non-oil producing areas. Thus, properly assess environmental health disparities through the use of Geospatial techniques. The research will contribute to literatures on the global environmental injustices and health inequalities and the growing need for environmental justices.

About me

Right from my secondary school, Geography had been an extremely interesting field of study to me because of the vast range of topics involved and how it relates to every subject in one way or another, for instance, Health Geography and Public Health. Geography is the study of the world, and geographers proudly holds the keys to the world's problems. These problems extend to, injustice, health, eco-systems, development, globalisation and natural disasters, all of which are areas which attract me. Geography has been essential for interpreting and solving the concerns of the world, and by furthering my geographical knowledge through the PhD studentship, it will enhance my ability to tackle the imminent problems relating to environmental injustice, crime, pollution. I have a particular interest in the human side of Geography and especially the topics of: health, medical, hazards and the environment.

My interest in the PhD research which will covers processes functioning in time as well as space, linking health over the life course with processes of environmental change, human migration, human relations and length of exposures to different environmental risk factors. I am keen to explore the various spatial questions of how and why human health/environmental injustices varies from one area to another at the rate of population increase. I will be interested in examining how individual health- related practices and health outcomes relate to man's varying experience of physical and social environments and injustice.

Dissemination

The research outcome will be communicating with colleagues and your supervisors as well as with the wider community and, the funding body supporting your research. The dissemination activities include internal seminars, publications, conference presentations and exhibitions.

References

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Ana, G., Sridhar, M., and Asuzu, M. (2010) Environmental risk factors and hospital-based cancers in two Nigerian cities. Journal of Public Health and Epidemiology Vol. 2(8), pp. 216-223.

Ana, G., Sridhar, M., and Bamgboye, E. (2009). Environmental risk factors and health outcomes in selected communities of the Niger Delta area, Nigeria. Perspectives in Public Health, 129(4), 183-191.

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DOI: 10.5897/JTEHS12.056

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Appendix A

Average Nearest Neighbour:

Getis-Ord Genral G Test:

Spatial Autocorrelation Analysis (Global Moran's I):

Outlier Analysis:


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