Not in my Backyard (NIMBY): A Valid Excuse or Beautiful Nonsense
Today, if the FGN decided to establish a nuclear plant close to your area, would that be okay with you? Probably not, that is the concept of NIMBY. According to Britannica, Nimby is a phrase used to denote opposition to the location of something considered undesirable in one’s neighborhood. The phrase is very commonly used in the US and is considered a movement against developmental projects.In June 1988, toxic waste was discovered in Koko, a village in southern Nigeria, and it was reported to have been dropped there by an Italian Company. The company did not want it in their backyard and put it in ours. The incident, of course, led to the establishment of formal regulations and an agency for environmental management in Nigeria.
Societal decision is never without a consequence. Developmental projects can have enormous positive and negative benefits. These negative externalities affect the environment and the fabric of our society.
Yet, is it justifying to oppose the project because we don’t want it in our backyard? It is a fundamental question that speaks to the need to engage stakeholders before making decisions affecting their lives.
We live in a world without a short array of disasters. Indeed, if the recent event in Libya has taught us anything, having a hydro plant in our backyard may be as dangerous as having a nuclear plant.
Some of the reasons for opposition to projects could be:
- Environmental Concerns: Fears about potential environmental impacts, like pollution or habitat destruction.
- Health and Safety: Worries over health risks or safety hazards associated with a project.
- Property Values: Concerns that a project might lower property values.
- Quality of Life: Opposition due to expected disruptions in daily life, like increased traffic or noise.
- Change in Community Character: Resistance to projects that could fundamentally alter the neighborhood’s identity.
Thus, if every technology comes with its own risk, and that risk can materialize if all conditions are aligned, it calls for adequate mitigation and safeguards being built into projects. At every phase of the project, developers or the government should know that the project is only as valid as it meets the needs of its stakeholders. Furthermore, this is also a call to ensure our constitutional tools, such as the EIA, are properly carried out before any developmental project.
NIMBY in Nigeria’s Context
A quick look at our situation reveals that Nigerians do not imbibe the spirit of NIMBY. If you look closely enough, you will see a waste dump around you; this seems normal in most Nigerian cities. We have situations where roads have been blocked due to the accumulation of waste. If we do not oppose the proliferation of waste dumps in our area, then it is clear we have no moral right to object to developmental projects.
Nigerians are so liberal that, more often than not, they take no active interest in developmental projects in their area. Whether it is a school or a factory, there are positive and negative externalities attached to developmental endeavours. While NIMBY in some climes has been described as unfavourable and a barrier to projects and societal development, one can argue that Nigeria could do with a bit of NIMBYism if we can imbibe the spirit of NIMBYism and begin to speak up when people dump their waste on our street. In our immediate environment, perhaps we can address some environmental challenges affecting our livelihoods.
We cannot live and thrive in a society where everything goes. We must ask questions and demand answers. We must participate and have an opinion where decisions that could impact us are being taken. When we begin to ask questions, we will see the change we want in our society.
Generally, around the world, Nimbyism is seen as unfavourable and a hindrance to developmental projects. This article argues that for our context in Nigeria, caring and speaking up about environmental and social issues could be an excellent value to imbibe for a more sustainable future. If a repeat of the Koko incident is to happen, will you speak up, or is it okay in your backyard?