GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS
Information Technology’s answer to Environmental Pollution
Physics and Engineering Physics Students’ Association Week, February 7, 2001
Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering,
Obafemi Awolowo University
FAX: 1 435 302 3178
The threat to human and sub-human existence is no longer a new piece of information. By the moment, the print and electronic media report cases of environmental pollution and its effects. On the developed side of the globe, the media’s ideas are taken into consideration for prompt action while the developing nations remain unperturbed, not because they do not want to solve the problems but because environmental pollution is given little or no priority. In case of doubt, consider the Ogoni people of Nigeria whose environment is not as valuable as their oil’s revenue generation to the powers that be.
I believe that the feats being performed by even the developed nations is still a far cry from what can be obtained if we employ the powers of the right tools in combating the global menace, Environmental Pollution.
Information Technology, through the Geographic Information Systems phenomenon, would help prevent, to a reasonable extent, the numerous crises we experience due to environmental pollution. Between February and April 2000, I was privileged to work on the application of Geographic Information Systems to the environmental pollution problem when we had to help the Niger Delta Environmental Survey deal with the environmental problems threatening the existence of terrestrial and aquatic lives in the Niger Delta region.
This paper takes a look into the current situation and introduces the age-long truth that prevention is better than cure. GIS can help monitor, track and prevent the various forms of environmental pollution effects rather than adopt the usual method of solving a problem that has already generated enough chaos. The paper explores Geographic Information Systems as Information Technology’s answer to the environmental pollution problem. It also highlights the action steps that we need to take in other to conquer the global monster. The modules covered include:
Ø Environmental Pollution
Ø Global effects and national reactions
Ø Information Technology in today’s society
Ø Geographic Information Systems
Ø Geographic Information Systems and Environmental Pollution
Ø Action Plan
In the words of Sir Isaac Newton in his Laws of motion, “An object will continue in its state of rest or constant uniform motion unless it is otherwise acted upon by an external force”. In that light, I believe that the situation would only change for the better if we decide to take action now.
2.0 ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION
Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary defines pollution as adding harmful or unpleasant substances; destroy the purity or sanctity of something. It also defines the environment as natural conditions in which we live e.g. land, air, and water.
Physics and other sciences agree with the two definitions and thus, we can safely say that environmental pollution is adding harmful or unpleasant substances and destroying the purity and sanctity of the natural conditions in which we live.
2.1 GLOBAL EFFECTS AND NATIONAL REACTIONS
The concept of globalization is not only bringing about a synergism of the efforts of all cooperative nations in combating technological, scientific, social and other issues; it also brings to the attention of the world all the activities and experiences of most nations in existence today.
It would be very difficult for everyone to pretend as if we cannot see the various forms of pollution that exist today. They range from deforestation to oil pollution and also includes air pollution, aquatic life termination, terrestrial extinction tendencies, etc. The truth is that much of the environmental pollution that we experience are man-made and can only be solved through the same process even though nature tries its best to maintain what we know as the earth balance cycle.
In Nigeria, oil pollution is not uncommon especially in the Niger Delta, hunters are not innocent of the terrestrial extinction crime, fishermen cannot claim innocence over the threat to aquatic life and loggers would honestly attest to the fact that most trees are not replaced.
The Federal Government, through the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA), has done some work in combating this global vice along with other organizations, some of which are guilty of what they preach against. (A political paper would deal with the job of listing such companies).
3.0 INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
If there’s anything that has changed our lifestyle - the way we talk, relate, communicate, eat, buy, sell or even sleep - it is the all-time chart buster, Information Technology.
We are obviously living in an age that true to the words of Prof. G. O. Ajayi (Chairman, INTECU and COPINE. Professor, Electronic and Electrical Engineering Department, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria) can be described as knowledge driven and information technology propelled. Information has proved to be the driving force of much of human endeavour over time and its present romance with technology that has given rise to Information Technology has not performed below expectation.
Information Technology applications have helped in solving much of human, business, societal and economic problems worldwide. Businesses would forever remain grateful to the introduction of eCommerce into their models, structures, patterns and processes. That is an example of the influence Information Technology can have on any issue.
4.0 GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS
5.0 GEOGRPAHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION
6.0 ACTION PLAN
Considering the efficiency of the obsolete methods used in combating environmental pollution, we must change our pattern of action. As much as that is true, we must set proper structures in place that would serve as a foundational for further development and also eventually help in the actualization of the prevention is better than cure scheme.
From study, observation and trend watch, I believe that we must do the following:
Ø Establish a massive awareness campaign on the effects of environmental pollution to reduce to a considerable extent, the ignorance level of the general populace of any given society.
Ø Adopt cutting-edge technologies such as Geographic Information Systems in preventing environmental pollution and break away from the usual happen first, then solve and mourn the loss approach.
Ø Encourage a good knowledge base in the area of a proper environmental maintenance culture in the residents of any given society.
Ø Motivate students whose disciplines or projects relate to the environment. This will in turn give a better sense of responsibility and accountability on their part.
Ø The Federal, State and Local Governments should endeavour to set machinery in motion to enforce decrees, laws and constitutional responsibilities that relate to environmental pollution, without fair or favour.
Ø Geographic Information Systems (as it relates to environmental pollution) should be introduced to the University course curriculum on elective levels for the general populace, and with richer modern-day instructions for related courses.
Having considered the aforementioned, it is obvious that Geographic Information Systems can help monitor, track, report, analyse and prevent environmental pollution. A good system can also predict the various effects that past environmental pollution events can have on our environment ahead of time.
This will help predict such things as the next time Florida will experience an earthquake, at what rate the Niger Delta coastal line is receding and maybe even when next area boys will strike at Ajegunle.
Geographic Information Systems is Information Technology’s contribution to a considerate reduction on the effects of environmental pollution in any given society.