By Maduka Nweke,
[email protected] 08034207864
In a bid to actualise the mega status, which Lagos aspires in the area of making the environment clean, a new waste management reform tagged “Cleaner Lagos Initiative” has been unveiled by the Lagos State government. The move, when in full swing, would make Lagos one of the cleanest cities in the world as residents would have a streamlined refuse collection method.
At a parley of the state government and the press on waste management, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Steve Ayorinde, stated that being the fifth largest economy in Africa, coupled with its population of about 25 million people, Lagos needs an upgraded waste management system.
This is why the new initiative tagged, “Cleaner Lagos Initiative”, informed by numerous flaws in the existing structure as well as dynamics of the existing system, is not only urgently needed but also calls for emergency.
To bring about this, the Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Samuel Adejare, who at that media session, disclosed that besides creating the enabling environment for the private sector to harness international best practices, the Cleaner Lagos Initiative is likewise concerned with addressing the existing challenges in solid waste management in the state.
Adejare, corroborating the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Ayorinde, on this, added that “Cleaner Lagos Initiative aims to protect the environment, human health and social living standards of Lagos residents by promoting a harmonised and holistic approach to the challenges thereby ensuring improved operational efficiency; and addressing the lacunae in the existing legislation to expand the scope of the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) to enable it enforce, regulate and generate revenue from the waste management process.”
Asides struggling with disposal of the enormous amount of wastes 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 others.
There is a huge gap in collection and the Private Sector Players (PSP) operators are obviously struggling with the huge amount of waste they have to collect. New York has successfully been able to collect its waste through several methods including government-regulated commercial waste systems where there are 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 modern machinery. The city 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, 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.
Describing the scenario as a “broken system,” the commissioner lamented that several factors had colluded to stall the hitherto smooth running of the state’s waste management process.
He listed some of them to include regular waste collection hindered by a vicious cycle between clients and operators as poor collection service delivery leads to irregular and poor payments; bin placement, transfer loading stations, and other supporting infrastructure have been ignored and undue attention placed on waste collection only; LAWMA in its role as regulator is overwhelmed by the responsibilities of having to coordinate the activities of 350 individual companies and still carry out its own collection services; the billing system is unduly complicated due to the differences and inconsistencies in charges and collection routes therefore leaving the billing system open to manipulation and fraud; and many individual operators have failed to fulfil their obligations on the trucks.
To address the situation, Adejare stressed that apart from the transformation of the existing Transfer Loading Station (TLS) and the introduction of no less that 25 Material Revolving Facilities (MRF) where wastes will be sorted, 600 new compactor vehicles would be acquired, and waste dumpsites would be closed and replaced with engineered sanitary landfill sites.
His words: “The PSP and LAWMA partnership was quite effective, but it is no longer applicable, considering the fact that the population of Lagos has increased several folds (and still increasing) coupled with increasing wave of technology in the state despite the fact that the over 300 compactors in use are obsolete and in a state of dis-use. Wastes should not bring us hardship and shame, but rather, we should make money from it. Emphasis would be on zero-dumping, recycling and generation of power from wastes.”
The Environment Commissioner stated that government would carry out a recertification of all the 350 PSP operators, relicense them and audit the state of their compactors.
“Each compactor would be tracked, the state would be divided into zones and compactors allocated to different zones with a control room where every compactor would be monitored, “Adejare said.
He noted that five new power stations with one in each division in the state would be built to generate power from wastes, with a promise that the numerous dumpsites dotting parts of the state would soon be a thing of the past.
“We will close down Olusosun and Solus (dumpsites) some time next year. Dumpsites are dangerous to health and the environment. The leachate and gas to be recovered from the proposed sanitary landfills would be put to good use.
“We plan to regenerate Olusosun and turn it into a park, where intercity buses would end their journey and would no longer be allowed to enter into the city. Passengers would from here now take taxis and intra-city buses to their destinations in town.
“Also, we would have about 25,000 community sanitation workers who would be engaged mostly as street sweepers. They would be well kitted with decent uniforms, gloves, boots, pickers, brushes, carts as well as mobile phones with which to communicate with the control centre. And they would be well paid.
“Every sanitation worker would reside in the Ward they operate from, for convenience and to curb high cost of transport to work. They would be well trained and given an attractive welfare package. In all, we hope to generate a total of 46,000 new jobs.
“A law is in the offing to support the Cleaner Lagos Initiative. It would allow big-time players in the waste management sector to do business with us. Lagosians would be required to pay a Public Utility Levy (PUL), which is not a tax but something similar to what is currently being paid to PSP operators. Part of the PUL goes into an Environment Trust Fund. The competitive initiative would consume the cart pushers out of existence.”
The state government is considering sites in Badagry, Epe and Ikorodu for the about five sanitary landfills being proposed.
While fielding questions on the monthly and market sanitation exercise, the commissioner said: “We lose so much money on our sanitation day. No other place in the world is a whole city completely shut down and movements restricted. Lagos is a growing mega city and this is not desirable. Besides, care for the environment should be an everyday thing. We need to realise that we should clean our environment and make such habits part of us,” he concluded.
This is why Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration decided to tackle this hydra-headed problem without minding whose ox is gored. The speed and enthusiasm with which the present administration tackled the Light-up Lagos Initiative is to 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 open to environmental disasters. It therefore becomes imperative that the citizens should cooperate with the state government in this direction to make the state the dream state everybody cherishes.
It is pertinent to note that Lagos State is increasingly becoming dirty, which is a return to its former status as the dirtiest city in the world, according to the UN. This is evident on its streets and roads, as well as the existing waste management tactic – waste dumping. To reverse this trend, it is important that the state government brings in experts that would redirect the methods and strategy using the latest machinery to address waste maintenance challenges in the state.
To do this, the state has to, among other things, 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; make way for an elaborate and standardised regulation of the environment of the state in line with international best practices while taking cue from the United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Kenya and Namibia; allow for private sector participation in the management of the environment in an organised manner; provide for an organised judicial framework for the administration of environmental law in the state; ensure efficient enforcement and compliance with environmental standards in Lagos State, and 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, as a matter of urgency, put the state on waste management and disposal path similar to what obtains in other mega cities of the world. This, if done, would save the state from dirt, save its residents from health hazards and protect the environment from being taken over by waste.