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Osun-Osogbo festival: Despite proven contamination, devotees drink from Osun river

Osun-Osogbo festival: Despite proven contamination, devotees drink from Osun river
August 14
09:09 2022

In June 2022, TheCable published an investigation which revealed how mining activities in Ilesa communities in Osun state have polluted the water body at the popular Osun-Osogbo grove.

Ilesa, also known as Ijesha land, is renowned for large gold deposits and other minerals. Owing to the heightened mining activity, waste, heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and chemicals are washed into the tributaries which end up in the Osun river.

Devotees at the Osun grove. Photo Credit: Kolapo Olapoju

On Friday, which marks the grand finale of the annual Osun-Osogbo festival, devotees of the Osun deity were spotted at the grove drinking from the contaminated river. 

Many devotees who trooped out in their white attires and beads were seen fetching the water into different kegs while some washed their heads with it and others drank from it.

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TheCable had earlier subjected a sample of the water to a test conducted by UNILAG Consult. It was found to contain 0.034 milligrams per litre (mg/L) of arsenic, 5.663 mg/L of aluminium, and 0.090 mg/L of lead. Other heavy metals found, according to the test result, include Barium (2.326), Lithium(0.004), Nickel(2.006), and Iron (3.197).

These heavy metals were found to be significantly above the limit prescribed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Urban Alert, a civic-tech initiative leveraging technology to amplify the yearnings of the masses, told TheCable in June that a health crisis is inevitable if the over two million people living in more than 20 communities in Osun state continue to get exposed to the contaminated water.

“In fact, our data has shown that 100,000 people may be facing serious medical challenges before 2032 if the situation is not arrested and the proper remediation process does not begin,” Anthony Adejuwon, Urban Alert team lead, had said.

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Following TheCable’s investigation into the pollution of the river, Abdullahi Binuyo, deputy chief of staff to Gboyega Oyetola, governor of Osun, said the state will carry out a clean-up of the sacred grove.

Binuyo said this while speaking on TheCable’s Twitter Space dedicated to the issue of illegal mining and pollution in the state.

LAST-MINUTE SENSITISATION

On the eve of the finale of the Osun-Osogbo festival, the state government advised tourists, devotees and visitors not to drink water from the river.

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Rafiu Isamotu, the commissioner for health, said the water had been contaminated by the activities of artisanal miners and was not good for human consumption.

But Urban Alert criticised the state government for issuing the warning 24 hours before the grand finale.

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Oluwatosin Olarewaju, communication officer of Urban Alert, said the response to the contamination of the river has been lukewarm and lacks the determination needed to address the issue of illegal and unregulated gold mining in the state.

“Despite vigorous engagements with the Federal Government, the Osun State Government and other stakeholders, nothing significant has been seen to have been done to avert the impact of the contamination, ” the statement reads in part.

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“Having informed the Osun State Government and all appropriate organs of the Federal Government of the deleterious effect of the Osun River contamination, no serious step has been taken for the safety of the affected communities and the Osun Osogbo Sacred Grove which sits on the bank of the Osun River. It is, therefore, shocking to see the Osun State Government issuing an impromptu warning to tourists and traditionalists, warning them from drinking from the Osun River on the eve of the Osun Osogbo festival.”

Urban Alert said the response to the issue “is a clear indication that the safety of the people and access to safe water is not a priority”.

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