Story by Maduka Nweke
Waste management in Lagos has continued to pose great challenge to governments despite efforts put in place by successive administrations.
World over, waste remains a threat to healthy living. The fact that wastes are unavoidable also means that method of disposal ought to be constant to avoid epidemics. This is why every sensitive government is expected to take waste management/disposal seriously as negligence could be more damaging or disastrous.
Waste management entails all the activities and actions required to manage waste from its inception to final disposal. This includes amongst other things, collection, transport, treatment and disposal of waste together with monitoring and regulation. It also encompasses the legal and regulatory framework that relates to waste management and guidance on recycling.
In the past, Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) had attempted managing waste methods through characterisation, improved technology and partnering with other nations. However, only limited success has been recorded. Indeed, health hazards due to the activities of the Private Sector Players (PSPs), the aging equipment they deploy, sharp practices by cart pushers, and the sorry state of the waste dump sites have all combined to worsen the situation. The need for an urgent action to turn around the conditions cannot therefore be overemphasized as delay in declaring emergency in the sector can be better imagined.
In fact, there is the need for an elaborate and standardised regulation of the environment in Lagos State, in line with international best practices, while taking cue from locations such as the United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia, and New York City in the United States.
Lagos and New York City, for instance, are two mega cities that mean the same in terms of entertainment, commerce and global trends. While Lagos has a population of 21 million with an estimated population density of 13,405/ sq.km, New York City has a population of 23 million and with a population density of 10,833/sq.km.
While New York with its huge population has been able to successfully handle the massive amount of waste generated daily, Lagos, on the other hand, is struggling with storage, collection and disposal of her waste. New York has about 120 landfill sites while Lagos has only six landfills, with only three of the six functioning. This is grossly inadequate for a mega city like Lagos, considering that it generates approximately the same amount of waste as New York does, even though, a huge percentage of this is solid waste.
Asides struggling with disposal of the enormous amount of waste generated daily, Lagos has not been able to effectively collect its waste. This is invariably taking it back to the days when it was judged the dirtiest city in the world. This is exemplified as waste is littering roadsides, waste being disposed into drainages, and overflowing public bins, among several others.
There is a huge gap in collection and the PSP operators obviously struggling with the huge amount of waste they have to collect. New York has successfully been able to collect its wastes through several methods including government-regulated commercial waste systems in which they have over 250 commercial waste haulers, as well as disposal through recycling methods and landfills. In that part of the world, waste is wealth. In Nigeria, and Lagos to be precise, waste is a curse rather than a blessing. It’s simply a disaster waiting to happen.
It has been shown that only 60 per cent of the daily waste collected in New York go to the landfills compared to about 95 per cent in Lagos. Lagos must, as a matter of urgency look for a better waste management firm that would use the modern machinery. Lagos therefore needs to start recycling as an alternative to land filling. It has been seen that the heavy reliance on landfills has brought about environmental pollution and several health hazards to residents around the sites as seen in the Olusosun landfill, in Lagos’ biggest landfill sites. Newer method of waste collection should be explored to help effectively handle the waste generated. Other collection agencies need to be employed as it is obvious that the PSP operators alone cannot handle the massive amount of waste in the state.
The Akinwunmi Ambode administration should tackle this hydraheaded problem without minding whose ox is gored. The speed and enthusiasm with which the present administration tackled the Light-up Lagos initiative should be deployed to combat this age long problem that has now grown to become a monster. The recent clean up exercise embarked upon in highbrow areas of Lagos like Victoria Island, Lekki and Ikoyi should be extended to the waste management sector. Government must, as a matter of urgency, seek help from those who have managed waste in mega cities around the world, while bearing in mind the nation’s and the state’s peculiar solid waste generation status. The call has become urgent as the current waste disposal and management regime in Lagos is ineffective to the extent that residents of the state are susceptible to outbreak of diseases as the state gets flooded and opened to environmental disasters.
Lagos State is increasingly becoming dirty, a return to its former status as the dirtiest city in the world according to the UN. This is evident on its streets and road, as well as the existing waste management tactic – waste dumping. To reverse this trend, it is important that the state government would engage experts to redirect the methods and strategy using the latest machinery to address waste maintenance challenges in the state. To do this, the state would among other things;
A• Harmonise the various laws on environment into a single law to allow for a more convenient administration of the law and management of the environment.
B• Make way for an elaborate and standardized regulation of the environment of Lagos state in line with international best practices while taking cue from the United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Kenya and Namibia.
C• Allow for private sector participation in the management of the environment in an organized manner.
D• Provide for an organized judicial framework for the administration of environmental law in the state.
E• Ensure efficient enforcement and compliance with environmental standards in Lagos State.
F• Provide for public and private sector driven advocacy, enlightenment, education and re-orientation of the public on environmental protection and management.
To get this done, Lagos state government should therefore, review current waste disposal and management regime, the roles of Private Support Programme (PSP) because the state of untidiness of the state calls for questioning to ascertain their effectiveness. Government should therefore, as a matter of urgency put the state on waste management and disposal part similar to what obtains in other mega cities of the world. This if done, would save the state from dirt, save her residents from health hazards and protect the environment from being taken over by waste.