Dirty Gutters Deface Lagos

•A drainage channel overflows with debris in Ogba, Ikeja area of Lagos

•A drainage channel overflows with debris in Ogba, Ikeja area of Lagos

Gradually, the monthly environmental sanitation which used to be observed every last Saturday of the month is fading and our city gets dirtier.

Some parts of the city are cleanier with beautiful landscaping, but majority of streets remain dirty with stinking gutters which residents have refused to clear.

•A drainage channel overflows with debris in Ogba, Ikeja area of Lagos

Sometimes, it is not the fault of residents because the gutters are blocked and water is stagnant and overflowing; there is no way these gutters can be cleared by the residents.

The new covered drainage channels are very good but are the residents mature enough to use them without further endangering themselves and even the environment? Can they stop their wards and even themselves from stuffing them with refuse?

One disadvantage of the covered gutters is that nobody knows what rubbish is under the concrete slabs. The ones at Ojuelegba axis of Funsho Williams Avenue is a good example. A look under the concrete slab would reveal a picture of filth and stench.

Many of the recently constructed drainage channels are filled with refuse. Some of the worst hit are the residential axis of Kudirat Abiola Way, especially Olusosun, Oregun and Alausa.

The Ojota axis of the once-beautiful highway is the worst hit. The gutters are overflowing with refuse and stink to high heavens.

Another highway with stinking drainage channels on both sides is Itire road, which stretches from Yaba. In some places, the gutters are filled with sand and refuse. The waste water they are meant to convey cannot flow anywhere, and hence have become breeding places for mosquitoes, apart from the odious stench.

How people still manage to cook, sell food, and even eat, in such an environment remains a puzzle, yet everyday these places are beehives of activities.

From Itire, Lawanson and Oshodi to Agege and Kollington in Agbado-Ijaiye, the story is no different. Ikotun may be better, but for how long, perhaps until the novelty of the new covered drains fades. This must be prevented. the concerned authorities have to constantly monitor these new drainage systems to prevent further abuse, because some of them are already being stuffed with refuse.

Most Lagosians seem not to care about their surroundings and the government, though doing all it can, seem too preoccupied with other things, thus leaving that most crucial part of the environment, the gutter, to so much abuse by residents.

Every household generates waste water daily and there’s no other place it flows, except the gutters. So, one can say without fear of contradiction that we all use the gutters, daily. Yet, majority of us neglect these gutters, even the ones in front of our houses. Perhaps for fear of flooding, we sometimes make half-hearted attempts to clear the drains in front of our houses.

There are too many stinking gutters in the city to make one comfortable. Sometimes, visiting a friend or relative in some part of the metropolis is a tough job because of the stench associated with the area.

There is a particular street in Surulere where the gutters do not flow and there is a pervasive stench in the air, yet there are about half a dozen bars and bukas, doing their business and fouling the gutter even further. One wonders if both the operators and patrons do not realise the health implications of ‘enjoying’ themselves in such an environment.

So many things have been said about Mushin, although not many have discussed the way in which most residents dispose of their refuse. It is a study in how to create a flooding problem.

In suburbs of the city, things are no different. With little or no respect for the environment, refuse is disposed at random, and the drainage channels or lack of them has added a new dimension: Refuse is disposed right on the streets, and nobody seems concerned, and whenever it rains, it is another story.

Children are not being taught that it is wrong to litter the streets. They are not being taught how to dispose of refuse properly. They are not being taught not to throw candy wrappers into the gutters. In fact many parents encourage their children and wards to dump things in the gutter. Don’t get it wrong: Where do most families, average or poor, throw rotten food and leftovers? If we answer the question honestly, we all know it is in the gutter, which is why most of our gutters, especially those in residential areas, stink.

Gutters in highbrow areas will not stink because the residents are better educated and enlightened enough to know the implications of throwing refuse into drainage channels. Ikeja GRA, Ikoyi and Victoria Island have gutters, but they don’t stink. Is poverty synonymous with stupidity?

The slums have very few gutters, if any; which is why each time it rains, there is a flood. Why can’t better developed areas learn from this? Surulere is supposed to be a middle class area, though the real middle class has been wiped out by Ibrahim Babangida’s Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP,  but the gutters are no better. How many residents of Surulere, Magodo, Yaba and other such neighbourhoods take part in the monthly environmmental sanitation exercise?

Agreed, some residents still take the monthly environmental sanitation exercise serious but they are in the minority. Many Lagosians spend the environmental sanitation exercise period sleeping. Most of them don’t even look into the gutters in front of their houses, except when they are stinking.

We all behave as if these gutters do not exist, though we cannot do without using them daily, yet do nothing to protect them. The concerned Lagos State government ministry should realise that only a synergy between it and residents can change this sad situation.

While public enlightenment would go a long way, we may have to dedicate one Saturday to clearing all gutters in Lagos State and begin the re-education of the residents on how important these primary drainage systems are to our health.

If the residents have become so dirty or perhaps complacent about dirty gutters, the government must not follow suit. Agreed, in some areas, the gutters have collapsed and the concerned local councils will always give excuses about how they do not have enough money to finance projects, though they usually have enough to buy brand new cars for elected officials, but we can begin the exercise from where there are functional gutters.

If the residents can be compelled to clear out the gutters, government has no excuse not to clear the debris from the gutters in the next few hours. Although this is impossible to achieve in just one day, we can do it one council after the other and the result will be amazing.

It is not enough to desilt the canals, every effort must be made to clear the primary drainage system and make a habit of keeping it so. Efforts should be made to identify badly constructed gutters that do not flow and find ways to rectify the situation. Blocked drainage channels too should checked and cleared.

Community Development Associations, CDAs, and Community Development Committees, CDCs, Local Government Councils, Ministry of the Environment, Lagos State Waste Management Authority and all other concerned authorities must device ways to arrest the situation, and complete the revolution of change that is sweeping through Lagos.

Residents must be educated and made to understand the role these gutters play in their lives. In Lagos of the sixties and even seventies, there used to be sanitary inspectors, called Wolewole in local parlance, who checked the environment for signs of environmental degradation. Although some of them overdid it, their presence alone was enough to ensure cleanliness in the compound and surroundings. If the people refuse to be responsible and keep the environment clean, then laws may have to be enacted to whip them into line.

—Tunde Adekeye