You Should Know This About Car Washing
Running a car wash business is a convenient and an inexpensive way to put a mud-riddled vehicle back to a clean state while providing succour in the form of funds to young men. For many drivers in the city of Abuja and environs, it is not unusual to find a cluster of young men, beckoning drivers from the road to wash their cars, especially now that the rains are here. But lucrative as it may seem, how safe is the business for the environment? SUZAN IRONSI asks.
Suleja, as he is popularly known, until lately, was one of the many Abuja car wash boys who had been ever present in the Wuse Zone 3 area of Abuja. His primary clienteles consist of civil servants from the Federal Civil Service Commission and Customs headquarters who parked close to the Plaza he washed in front of. From 2007 to 2014, Suleja had relied on the income he obtained from washing cars for his livelihood. “I live in Niger State, which is why the boys around here call me Suleja, or ‘Yellow’ because I am fair. I did not complete my education before I came to Abuja looking for work to provide for my mother; that’s how I took to car wash-business. Before, this area used to be free, and we used to be about eight boys who worked from here. However, the government agencies have taken up the space for parking and I moved to the Total Filling Station to work from there. Things were not easy for me and I have moved back to Niger State to look for work,” he stated.
Suleja’s story is an ill-fated end to the deliberate daily struggle these young men endure to make a living. However, the presence of the growing Abuja car wash boys is symptomatic of the employment crisis which the nation is battling with and accompanying their presence is the commonly seen badly damaged roads, drains and blocked drainages.
Dr Edicha Jibril, who is with the Department of Geography and Environment Management at the University of Abuja, explained that, “Essentially, if you are looking at the environmental impact of any activity, you have to look at it from the perspective of the physical impact, the impact on the ecology, which has to do with water, soil and atmosphere as well as the impact on the social economy. If you want to base it on the impact on the social economy, that these boys who wash cars are making a living from it, and therefore it has created jobs and taken them off the streets, this is a fantastic argument. However, if you look at the physical impact on the environment, in terms of water uptake and in terms of the aesthetic value of the environment, of course, you’ll witness the negative issues that will arise.
“Cars contain different fluids, including motor oil, anti-freeze, gasoline, air-conditioning, brake, transmission and hydraulic fluids to name a few. These fluids are toxic to humans and animals, and can pollute waterways if they leak from a vehicle or are disposed of incorrectly. These car fluids are exposed to heat and oxygen while an engine is running, and undergo chemical changes and also pick up heavy metals from engine wear and tear, making them even more toxic to the environment.”
Dr Jibril explained that these particular matters that are being deposited on the immediate environment have the potential of being washed away, from one part to another and may just find its way to streams or rivers, thereby polluting the water for human consumption.
“We are talking about soil pollutions; these materials have the tendency to percolate into the soil, if the oils and other contaminants are discharged into the immediate environment, it could be water, it could be soil and these have the potential to contaminate the water. You’ll also find that these oils that are washed from the cars contain heavy metals like lead, and lead is very poisonous. Beyond this, is that when these car washes are indiscriminately established, it also tends to destroy the aesthetic value of the environment and therefore it is important that there should be a restriction on these activities so that it will not degrade the value of the environment,” he said.
In line with development of the city, a growing trend is the manifestation of professional car wash businesses, independently operated and as services within filling stations, which are in direct competition with these young men. To set up these car washes can cost anything from N2,000,000 to N5,000,000 for just the equipment. Getting a car washed professionally is believed to be good for ones car and also the environment. In support of this, conservationists attest that a professional car wash is expected to use about half as much water as it takes with hand washing. That means lower water waste, and properly routed wash water drainage.
So, why should Nigerians consider transitioning from a road corner car wash to the professional ones, which in most cases, will cost 50 per cent more than the Abuja car wash boy?
According to Mr Emeka Eze, the manager of a popular Garki Abuja car wash, “The benefit lies in the attention to detail. Nothing gets things cleaner than using our high-pressure nozzles and pumps which clean cars thoroughly and is harmless on the car.”
Eze added that the car wash employs 14 boys, who ensure that the environment they work in is clean and who are taught professional discipline, which includes not stealing from their customers’ vehicles.
John Ogbo has worked for this Garki Car Wash for three years and expressed his satisfaction with the operation and stated that it has provided him with stable income. “I live in Mararaba, Nasarawa State and I was directed to this place by a friend. My wife is a nurse and I have three kids. When I first started work here, I was paid N15,000. After a while, my salary was increased to N30,000. I start work at 7am and close at 7pm. The place, so far, is okay. The more work comes, the more money we get and I am able to feed my family.”
On the other hand, LEADERSHIP Weekend spoke to customers who identified themselves simply as George and Hassan who stopped by along Gudu District to get their cars cleaned by the car wash boys in that area. “The FCT administration needs to do more with being innovative to support these boys,” George said.
“Apart from looking at the ‘big man’s car wash, the FCTA can develop dedicated cooperative car wash centres, managed by the city where these boys can go to. After all, the land is there,” Hassan added.
Unlike developed nations, where environmental regulations monitor such activities, Dr Jibril stated that it was regrettable that procedures and mechanism had not been put in place in the country. “Before you can establish any project, like a car wash, there is a need to carry out impact assessments. Even though car washing may not be subjected to a proper environmental impact assessment, it can be rapidly assessed to look at the implication of this industry, with regards to the social economic implications and the environmental implications,” he stated.
Source: Suzan Ironsi, Leadership Nigeria