Sustainable Development: The Role of Chemical Technology in the Industrialization of Nigeria

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Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa (Volume 12, No.7, 2010) ISSN: 1520-5509 Clarion University of Pennsylvania, Clarion, Pennsylvania


E. M. Okonkwo, O. J. Okunola and C. S. Ezeanyanaso National Research Institute for Chemical Technology, Basawa, Zaria, Nigeria

ABSTRACT Like any nation in the world, the challenges facing the sustainability of technological advancement of chemical industry in Nigeria today are re-inventing the use of materials. To address this challenge, chemistry is actually central to many of the environmental and resource use issues at the heart of sustainable development. Also, collaboration from an interdisciplinary group of stakeholders will be necessary. An emerging approach to this challenge seeks to embed the diverse set of environmental perspectives and interests in the everyday practice of the people most responsible for using and creating new materials—chemists. The approach, which has come to be known as Green Chemistry, intends to eliminate the intrinsic hazard itself, rather than focusing on reducing risk by minimizing exposure. This addresses the stake of chemists, stakeholders, and policymakers in everyday practices that are re-inventing chemistry and its material inputs, products, and wastes in a developing economy, otherwise known as Nigeria. Keywords: Sustainability; Chemical; Technology; Nigeria

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT The Brundland Commission (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987) defined sustainable development as the process in which the exploitation of natural resources, the allocation of investments, and the process of technological development and organizational change are in harmony with each other for both current and future generations.

Based on this context, “sustainability” is a path forward that allows humanity to meet current environmental and human health, economic, and societal needs without compromising the progress and success of future generations World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987; Graedel & Allenby, 1995). Sustainable practices refer to products, processes, and systems that support this path. For example, such processes might involve developing new energy resources to meet societal needs; but to be sustainable, they must also be economically competitive and not cause harm to the environment or human health. Addressing sustainability necessarily cuts across all disciplinary boundaries and requires a broad system view to integrate the different and competing factors involved. This includes “strategic connections between scientific research, technological development, and societies’ efforts to achieve environmentally sustainable improvements in human well-beings” (National Research Council, 1999) and involves the creative “design of products, processes, systems, and organizations, and the implementation of smart management strategies that effectively harness technology and ideas to avoid 135


environmental problems before they arise” (National Academy of Engineering, 1997). In this paper, progress in the chemical industry is considered within these broader efforts to address sustainability.

According to the American Chemistry Council (Graedel & Allenby, 1995), “the business of chemistry (in the United States) is a $450 billion enterprise (about 26 percent of the global chemical production) and is a key element of the nation’s economy. It is the nation’s largest exporter, accounting for ten cents out of every dollar in U.S. exports).

Going forward, the chemical industry is faced with a major conundrum — the need to be sustainable (balanced economically, environmentally, and socially in order to not undermine the natural systems on which it depends) — and a lack of a more coordinated effort to generate the science and technology to make it all possible. As the feedstock industry for modern society, the...
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