Impact Of Lagos Environmental Renewal Programme

Opinion

By Tayo Ogunbiyi

Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, posits that excellence does not come by accident; it is achieved by habit and conscious commitment to one’s goals and objectives. This has, indeed, been the operational philosophy of the Lagos State Government, under the leadership of Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, since May 2007.

Without doubt, one of the major areas where the state government has demonstrated a strong resolve to make the difference in the society, is in its environmental renewal programmes.

Being a littoral state, which is greatly exposed to environmental abuse due to intense economic and social activities, the government has significantly invested in transforming the Lagos environment. From landscape design and management, promotion of cleaner cities through greening and solid waste management, enforcement of pollution control for industries among others, the state government has demonstrated its commitment to changing the face of the Lagos environment. Indeed, the results are visible for all to see. Today, thanks to the new face of its environment, Lagos attracts more foreign investments, commands greater respect, brings in more tourists as it is has successfully shrugged off the tag of ‘a notorious jungle’ mischievously placed on it in some quarters.

The efforts of the government can best be assessed and appreciated if we put into perspective what the state looked like prior to 1999 and the transformation that has taken place till date. It will be recalled that in time past, the state  used to be one dirty jungle as residential areas and major highways were turned into dumpsites. One other vital issue that needs to be understood before one could dispassionately evaluate how well the government has fulfilled the promise of raising the city’s standard is that close to 10,000 metric tons of refuse is being generated daily in Lagos, more than what Ghana as a country is generating.

The beautification programme of the state government has been able to transform the environmental landscape of the state. Hitherto, filthy and appalling loops, roundabouts and other unused spaces have been turned into beautiful relaxation centres where people now visit regularly to relax. Incorporated into the beautification project is the greening programme which in itself includes the planting and maintenance of trees and flowers. This is seen as a major way of tackling the challenge of global warming and climate change which is becoming a major threat to the world. So the greening programme is a partial response to the challenge posed by the global warming, as well as beautifying in order to improve the aesthetics of the environment.

There are over 150 trucks that patrol the highways to collect bags of refuse that are collected all over Lagos. Before now, rickety vehicles were in use by the PSP in refuse collection but in the last year, they have all re-fleet and are now making use of proper equipment such as compactor trucks. Consequently, the sight of dispersing refuse all over the place is no longer in vogue. Aside this, lots of Transfer Loading Stations are being constructed so that there will be little pressure on the existing ones. For instance, the one at Simpson Street is now serving Lagos Island, Eti Osa and its environs. As a result, people in this area don’t have to go to Olusosun to dispose their waste thereby reducing the travel time and other such stress.

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It is important to emphasise that it is the proactive measures which the Lagos State Government has been taking with regards to the environment, that have helped in mitigating the effects of flooding in the state. This is the outcome of the amount of work that the state government has done in sanitizing the environment in recent time.  Ironically, when the state government started its environmental regeneration programme, which led to strict enforcement of regulations that had been evaded for long, cynics were quite vocal in their condemnation of the programme. When the state government was converting hitherto abandoned loops into parks and gardens, they were the ones that thundered: ‘is it flowers we will eat.’ Now, we know better.

There is also a security angle to the environmental renewal programme as hitherto notorious areas in places at Oshodi, Agege, Obalende, MKO Gardens etc have been reclaimed and beautified such that robbers and miscreants cannot use them as hideouts anymore. The result is that the rate of criminal activities in the state has dropped significantly as hoodlums who have held the people hostage for long now have no hiding place.

But it really goes beyond that as the programme has become a veritable source of employment for many who earn a living through working in the beautification programme. And as government continue to expand the scope of the exercise, more hands are being employed. In a world where previously buoyant firms are folding up at an alarming rate, thereby throwing people into a labour market that is already saturated, every effort made by government to create jobs must be appreciated.

The state government is also taking a leading role in its approach to the climate change phenomenon through an integrated tree planting drive across the state. Trees have been scientifically proven to be very useful as first line of defence in the fight against global warming as they absorb the carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, replenish the air with oxygen and also contribute immensely to the aesthetics of the environment. They also check erosion and stem the tide of windstorm by serving as wind breakers, instead of leaving the gas to become free floating and further pollute the atmosphere. In this natural function alone, trees directly reduce the growth of the Greenhouse Effect and counteract Global Warming.

Many people seem not to understand that the quality of our lives as human beings is substantially a reflection of the quality of the environment which we inhabit. Many still seem not to comprehend that the environment which we inhabit, like kola in Igbo culture, is life. It is from this perspective that one needs to comprehend and situate the state government’s committed and renewed drive to changing our attitude towards the environment. It is heartwarming to note that Lagosians are gradually coming to terms with the significance of an improved environmental habit as they now willingly buy into the government’s vision. This is the right thing to do. This is the way forward.

•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.