By Josephine Agbonkhese
Her enthusiasm, intelligence and energy could leave you lost in admiration. The General Manager, Lagos Sate Environmental Protection Agency, LASEPA, Dr Dolapo Fasawe, is one fascinating woman truly fit for the herculean job of regulating and improving Africa’s largest city’s environment—Lagos State; one popular for its complex environmental issues ranging from noise to air and water pollution.
A public health practitioner who holds a MBBS degree from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and graduated on honours roll from College of Medicine Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Ile- Ife in 1999, she also has in her kitty a master’s degree in public health from the Lagos State University College of Medicine and a diploma in International Health Consultancy from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. Fasawe is the first woman to have ever headed LASEPA in its 23 years of existence. AMAZON was with her.
How has it been since you resumed office?
I resumed officially September 2nd, 2019; that’s exactly three months. Exciting and challenging would both be understatements. It is exciting because we are getting results in spite of all our challenges. I am grateful we have a leader who is supportive; Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu is an advocate for the environment.
Our Commissioner, Mr Tunji Bello, is actively fighting for the environment as well. What has been lacking in the past is passion. When you have passionate leaders, the difficulties and challenges become easy to surmount. LASEPA has been very lucky because environment is one of the pillars in the mandate of this government and the governor is not joking with it at all. We also have a strong partnership with the Lagos Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, whose MD/CEO, Dr Muyiwa Gbadegesin, I am having a meeting with today.
Many do not understand the statutory functions of LASEPA…
LASEPA is Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency. The duty of LASEPA is to ensure human beings are protected from the environment and the environment is protected from human beings. We are talking about air, water and land, which can affect human beings and animals. I’ll give examples. A drop of oil from a tanker’s broken tube can contaminate 2,000 tonnes of water. Gases from construction and articulate matters can cause cancers.
They also emit greenhouse gases that damage the environment as well its inhabitants. Everything we eat comes from land. So, if we have a piece of land polluted with toxic chemicals or oil, agriculture cannot flourish, the natural ecosystem is disturbed and even the water under the ground is poisoned. So, oil pipeline vandals should know they are not only stealing money but also stealing human lives.
Also, global warming is real and we are here to reduce the rate of this warming ; and if possible, repair the damage done by mankind. By now, we should be in harmattan but human activities such as indiscriminately meddling with the environment, releasing greenhouse gases and increased carbon footprints, are destroying the earth. The evidences are here— flood worldwide, drought in some places, extreme heat and temperature.
Talking about air pollution, how do you plan to address smoking in public places which is killing non-smokers?
Section 199 of the Lagos State laws has a sub-section against smoking in public places. As an environmental protection agency, the onus is on us to prevent all forms of air pollution. LASEPA laws clearly state around sub-section 167 that in every commercial or entertainment area where a group of people are gathered, there should be designated smoking spots while the rest of the area is ‘no-smoking’.
Building engineers and architects should know how to pick out the smoking section so that those in the non-smoking spots are not disturbed. But we realise that a lot of people take this law for granted due to lack of enforcement. But also, I see a little problem—a lot of people are not aware of these laws and if we start to arrest every law breaker, the prisons cannot contain them. So, what we are planning to do is orient people on their fundamental human rights to smoke or to choose not to smell smoke since smoking is bad for the health.
We are about to start a big advocacy campaign because people have to know before we start enforcement.
I also need to say that part of our activities in regulating entertainment houses is to ensure they have visible ‘no-smoking’ signboards and smoking areas.
Talking about global warming, are we doing enough as individuals to address the situation?
The most difficult thing to tweak is an adult who has a set mind. It will be difficult for us to understand that every drop of water from our tap is contributing to global warming; so we shouldn’t waste water. It is difficult to understand that you have to reuse your water bottle over and over when you are rich and comfortable because you believe you can afford to throw away the bottle and buy another fresh bottle of water. This is not only a Nigerian situation; it is worldwide. I agree with you that people are not jumping on the climate action in spite of the Montreal Protocol, the Kigali Protocol and the Paris Protocol. At the last United Nations General Assembly, our president gave a very intelligent paper on his determination to tackle climate change too.
You know what? Climate and the environment are the only things everyone on earth has in common. So, if they are remediating in New York and Nigeria is still emitting carbon and greenhouse gases, it will reach New York. The good thing is that this has become a global, collective war since there is no boundary in the air.
As a state, our governor has mandated us to incorporate environmental protection into basic curriculum. That way, generations to come will not have a mindset problem.
We will launch our advocacy next year so that we can address mindsets and habits.
Have you noticed that most Nigerians leave their homes daily without putting off light bulbs and other electrical appliances?
For every atom of energy we are consuming, not even to mention wasting, something that should be a natural resource balancing our ecosystem, is suffering for it. I will tell you how. Energy is artificial. We need to burn oil, burn gases, use a lot of water in dams, use wind turbines, just to generate energy.
And what is the climate action call saying? Reduce, manage efficiently and recycle energy. How do you help ‘reduce’ if your electricity bill is constant every month? In developed countries, pay-as-you-go helped and I am happy we now have that here in Nigeria and that people are learning to reduce energy wastage. But unfortunately, we still have a generation that depends on power generators which, unfortunately, are burning fuel and emitting greenhouse gases.
In essence, my message is: charity begins at home. For every light bulb you leave on unnecessarily, you are damaging the earth, emitting greenhouse gases and damaging the habitats of future generations. I cannot explain this in a simpler way.
Where do you see LASEPA in six months?
Right now, my project, which is time-bound, is “Less Noise, More Sense” and we have a ‘Noiseless Lagos’ hashtag on our social media handles to promote this campaign. We are hopeful that in six months, every church, mosque, entertainment house, infotainment house, guesthouses and hotels using external speakers and public address systems would have caught the drive. Otherwise, we will seal them up. Domestic homes are not left out. Noise pollution has become endemic in Lagos State but we can regulate sounds so they don’t become noise.
We understand that urbanisation comes with noise and night life. We want these but within a stipulated standard that is safe to the environment and mankind. Even indiscriminate use of horns is no longer acceptable and we will go after offenders.