4th December, 2014
By Tayo Ogunbiyi
That Lagos is the commercial nerve centre of West Africa and one of the most populous cities in the world is incontrovertible. It is this reality that is partly responsible for the prosperity of the city. However, as much as its population constitutes a great strength in terms of human and economic resources, it also serves as a great challenge to the city managers. One area where this becomes quite perceptible is waste management. A 2008 report estimates that Lagos generates about 9,000 metric tonnes of waste daily. A recent report, however, puts the waste generated daily in the state at 10,000 metric tonnes, almost three times higher than what the whole of Ghana generates daily.
A major headache for successive administrations in the state has been how to devise appropriate and efficient waste management mechanism that would enhance a cleaner, safer and healthier environment. It got so bad, in times past, that major highways and streets in the city became dumping ground for heaps of refuse. It was such a sorry sight. Since it came on board in 2007, the Fashola administration has been working hard to enhance improvement in the state’s waste management system. One vital strategy it has successfully deployed in this regards is the establishment of Transfer Loading Stations. It has since established three of such stations at Simpson (Lagos Island) and Oshodi respectively while the third and latest one, which was recently formally handed over for use by the state government, is located at Agege. When the Fashola administration commissioned the first Transfer Loading Station at Simpson Street in Lagos Island, the State blazed a trail with an innovation uncommon anywhere in the country. Unlike the first one at Simpson which was simply about solid waste, the Oshodi Transfer Loading Station does more as it addresses the danger of medical waste, syringes and all of the end products of surgery which are usually indiscriminately dumped to constitute health and environmental hazards.
Interestingly, the provision of additional loading stations is equally bringing up fresh developments in the sector. Shrewd industrialists are already taking advantage of government’s efforts to turn the loading stations into recycling plants. At present, a new recycling plant is in place in Alimosho. And going by the efficient and professional manner the plant is being managed, Lagos may no longer need the envisioned 20 Transfer loading stations any longer.
Other strategies of the state government in waste management include the introduction of Dino bins in over 2000 locations of the state, contracting highway managers for cleaning of highways and roads, introduction and regulation of PSP operations. Equally, government has acquired a new Mobile Sewage Laboratory to improve on efficient sewage management in the state- the first of its kind in Africa. The state has also rehabilitated the dump sites at Olusosun (Ojota), Solous (Igando) and Abule Egba in addition to the establishment of additional mechanized land fill sites in Badagry, Mowe and Ikorodu. Also, government has provided over 200 new refuse compactor trucks. Before now, rickety vehicles were used by the PSP operators in refuse collection. With this, the sight of dispersing refuse all over the metropolis has become history. Similarly, the state is working on a programme that would ensure that cart pushers are properly integrated into the state’s waste management programme.
In order to inculcate the culture of proper waste disposal in the younger ones, the state government devised a school advocacy programme. This is already yielding positive impact. Today, there is no school in the state that incinerates or burns refuse as they have all been supplied with waste bins which are regularly collected. Equally, government has provided schools with waste sorting bins to teach students how to sort their wastes and effect attitudinal change. It has also constructed modern toilets in schools in the state to enhance sanitation and inculcate personal hygiene and sanitary habits in pupils, students and teachers.
Perhaps more importantly, the state government is already exploring the possibility of turning the huge waste the state generates into wealth. This is being done through the Landfill Gas Recovery and Utilisation Project which has reached an advanced stage. The idea is to make the dump sites become usable resources from which methane will be extracted for electricity generation in Lagos State. Recycling waste into energy is an established technology that could help provide a major amount of domestic energy needs. Currently, the Olusosun dump site boasts of a recycling plant that processes waste into various products. A waste-to-wealth project as being put in place by the state government will, no doubt, transform waste management into wealth creation venture that will help tackle the twin issue of poverty and unemployment. Currently, the various waste management initiatives of the government has generated over 46,000 direct and indirect jobs for Lagosians. However, it is important that Lagos residents support the state government in its bid to rid the state of waste. Most cities of the world experience environmental abuse as a result of the ignorance of the people. As a people, we need to really come to terms with the significance of an improved environmental habit. When we deliberately choose to act in a manner that could endanger the environment, we are the ones that would certainly bear the consequences of such actions. What is required to maintain sane and friendly environment is not just about what the government is doing, but also about the people’s attitude. It is still common to see people throwing things out on the highways from their cars. This dirty habit is not justifiable in a state where the government is doing so much on environmental sanitation. It is detrimental to our common good.
Lagosians need to stop all practices that could put a cog in the wheel of government’s efforts aimed at tackling waste. Lagos residents must be ready to cooperate with the state government by embracing positive attitude in their response to waste disposal. Today, thanks to the new waste management initiatives in the state, Lagos attracts more foreign investments, commands greater respect, brings in more tourists, as it has successfully shrugged off the hitherto negative image of ‘a notorious jungle’. All hands must, therefore, be on deck to ensure that we don’t go back to the jungle years.
•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja