By Kingsley Adegboye
Lagos is a city with a population of over 20 million people, according to National Population Commission’s report of 2016. This explains why overpopulation resulting to congestion, is an unavoidable problem in the country’s commercial nerve centre.
Consequently, lack of waste management infrastructure coupled with the city’s congestion problem makes it difficult to manage the sprawling city, and this is taking a toll on its residents.
In Lagos, we find people living close to dump sites, which are not properly managed, resulting to a city with an increasingly terrible environmental degradation. The dump sites have, over time, become health hazards to residents.
Because of poor waste management awareness, residents dump waste indiscriminately into drainage channels, gutters and on the streets. The refuse then builds up to block drainage channels in residential areas and the residents suffer the implications.
With the growing population, management of waste became a serious problem in Lagos State. However, starting from the administration of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, efforts to rid the stste of waste from source began to yield fruitful results with Lagos State Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, supervising the waste management process. The process became much improved under the Babatunde Fashola administration, as PSP refuse collectors picked domestic refuse from door to door and the residents were quite comfortable with the arrangement.
But since the introduction of Cleaner Lagos Initiative, CLI, by the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration, waste management in the state (with Visionscape driving the process), has become a source of worry to Lagos residents, as refuse has returned to Lagos streets without control.
This explains why solid waste has taken over major highways, road medians, road junctions, street corners, and drains across Lagos metropolis. The story of refuse heaps taking over the maga city is the same from Alimosho to Ikeja, Mushin to Agege, Ikotun Egbe to Isolo, Ajah to Epe, Ikorodu to Ketu and virtually all Local Council Development Areas including Badagry and environs.
According to the state government, CLI was created to improve the environment, make it cleaner, safer and healthier for Lagos residents by promoting a harmonised and holistic approach to the challenges of waste management.
Explaining the concept of Cleaner Lagos Initiative, CLI, and its objective to the state at a forum, Special Adviser to the Governor on Cleaner Lagos Initiative, Adebola Shabi, an engineer, said the governor believed that waste was responsible for pollution in the state and hence, the need to get rid of it. According to him: “Waste contributes to underground water pollution and even air pollution. There is also the land and soil pollution factor. The governor thought of how to mitigate the issue of pollution. Before now, we were contributing to the pollution through the landfills where waste was being buried, and when they decompose, there is leakage into underground water up to a radius of two to three kilometres from the area where they are sited. These chemical compounds released at the stage of decomposition wash into the lagoon and contaminate the fishes, which humans in turn consume. The governor decided to have a holistic approach to reduce pollution load by inviting investors to the state, which is why Visionscape is here.”
But Mr. Oladipo Egbeyemi, Chairman, Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria, AWAM, says the current problem of refuse in Lagos will persist until the state government reverts to the old system of waste management in the state which specified all stakeholders’ roles in the process, adding that there are also a whole lot of raging issues about waste management to be addressed to bring the situation back to normalcy.
He said the state of the dump sites across the city which is one of those issues, needs to be addressed, as the dump sites which constituted the major challenge in previous administrations, are still in a mess.
According to Egbeyemi, apart from the Epe landfill, which is currently being constructed, and the fairly new one at Ewu Elepe in Ikorodu, Olusosun, which was said to be taking 60 per cent of the estimated 20, 000 tonnes of waste generated daily in the state, has been shut down.
“Even the Epe landfill, by our findings, is not viable and sustainable. This is because you are saying that refuse collectors from Badagry should go to Epe to dump their waste, people from Ikotun, Iyana Ipaja, Mushin, Agege and across the entire metropolis should go to Epe to dump refuse. It elongates turn around time, and this is profitable to us.
“Government needs to improve on the dump sites by turning them to mechanised sanitary landfills while access roads to the sites should be motorable for us to be able to make as many trips as possible per day. For instance, Igando dump site, which is said to have the capacity for just 20 per cent of the waste generated in the state, is overstretched, with waste almost spilling onto the highway, increasing the turnaround time for operators. The site is in dire need of intervention”, AWAM boss stated.
Waste managers stated that the way forward should be the full restoration of door-to-door waste collection and effective enforcement, by way of advocacy as it was in the past.
According to them, in the past, PSP operators were allowed to bring in at least two compactors each and they were divided in all the political wards in the state and the idea was to have 600 to 650 compactors.
They said LAWMA was empowered to collect public waste, such as those on highways, and take care of collection of waste in poor settlements, because the cost recovery from such areas was difficult.
“The compactors are not meant to travel far. We need to sit down and have a proper and genuine system. The government should stop this divide and rule system. All stakeholders need to sit down and enhance the process. Waste was a problem due to lack of management. The system was changed and the potential unlocked.
We need to sit down, everyone with their expertise, and let us look for the way forward.”
He stated that LAWMA, which also appears weakened by the new system, should be empowered to protect the public as a regulator, while residents should be sensitised to pay for services rendered.
He adds that the government, rather than engage PSP operators in merely evacuating heaps of waste from the streets, should allow them to continue with the collection and transportation of both domestic and commercial waste, while Visionscape should focus on the waste infrastructure such as material recovery facilities and landfill management.
According to Egbeyemi: “We need to sort out the dump sites. We need material recovery centres, we need to move away from burying our waste to recycling and reusing. There should be functional transfer loading stations. At the moment, what we have, sadly, is that Visionscape has monopolised the three functioning TLSs.
Government should ensure enforcement of environment sanitation practices and payment of bills. The government should also provide us with financial assistance to mitigate our imminent losses as a result of the debt currently owed us by residents, which will be lost under the Cleaner Lagos Initiative,”
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to the governor on CLI, said the government has deviated from the previous action plan of waste management in the state, pointing out that the state government is still working with the action plan put in place by the past administrations, but based on international best practices.
According to Shabi: “We have not deviated from the former policy. The public has only been misled; we never deviated. When you talk about waste management, it goes beyond collection, it has five chains – generation, storage, collection, processing and disposal.
“What we had in the past were dump sites, but Visionscape, as a contractor, is here to build three engineered sanitary landfills for the state in Epe and Badagry, where the contaminants will be controlled through a chamber that will channel the underground secretion to where it will be treated before it is released.
The gases that have been escaping will be captured as bio-gas, which will be turned to energy in the future.
“We are building something from the scratch. A landfill is not something you build in six, nine or 12 months. It will be built in a way that nothing escapes into the environment. There is nowhere in the world where there are still landfills, except, maybe, in Nigeria. The best international practice is not for them to be located in the middle of cities. We are moving towards a mega city and this is the kind of initiative that is needed.