Producing thousands of tons in waste and pumping millions of gallons of sewage into the waterways daily. Can new environmental policies save Lagos?
The Lagos State Government has been trying to clean up Lagos for years and every valiant effort has shown remarkable improvements in the cityscape. The city has become a model for the rest of Nigeria on how to properly dispose of trash. However, many Lagosians are unaware of where their waste goes after the trash they collect is picked up.
Prompted by a recent environmental impact assessment report revealing alarming pollution and toxicity levels and mounting pressure from vocal environmental and health advocates pushing for reforms, the government has actively been exploring avenues to tackle the considerable public health concerns posed by these reports.
Two problems are paramount. Lagos is estimated to produce over 10,000 tons of solid waste daily and millions of gallons of effluent waste pumped directly into the lagoon rendering the waterways effectively an open sewer. With a teeming population of nearly 22 million – and counting, it is apparent that Lagos cannot handle the abundant waste on its own.
Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Samuel Adejare, revealed that the Ministry’s primary focus is to map out sustainable and economically viable methods to dispose of waste. These plans have come under an initiative tagged ‘THE CLEANER LAGOS INITIATIVE’ (CLI). The “Cleaner Lagos Initiative aims to protect the environment, human health and social living standards of Lagos residents by promoting a harmonized 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.”
The current waste management system in Lagos is rife with poor waste collection infrastructure, non-payment of waste disposal fees and a lack of enforcement. Other major cities have found ways to significantly reduce their waste by adopting recycling and waste recovery efforts. The water supply is of particular concern as some toxicity levels are so high, there are parts of our water that are anoxic, devoid of oxygen and of life.
Building sustainable cities requires enormous investment. The challenge the Government has faced thus far outside of bureaucratic delays has been one of financing this herculean task. Recognizing the urgency needed to take action on cleanup efforts in the midst of volatile economic times, the Ambode-led administration is not shying away from the monumental environmental challenges facing Lagos and has forged ahead aggressively in making inroads to ensure that Lagos will be cleaner and most importantly pollution free.
A quick glance at similar cities in emerging markets who have embarked on similar clean up efforts show capital intensive numbers such as the Indian Government’s plans to clean up the Ganges River at the time was estimated to cost about $3 billion over a 5 year period. More recently, the infamous clean up in Rio, Brazil for the Olympics, was unsuccessful because the Brazilian Government could not afford the $4 billion price tag that was needed to execute the efforts successfully. So far Lagos has defied all financial forecasts this year especially in the area of attracting foreign direct investment and is encouraged by the level of expertise and waste management industry leaders from all over the world who have expressed keen interest in helping Lagos reach its sustainability goals.
For many Lagos residents, especially those who live in economically disadvantaged areas, who are exposed to deadly pathogens daily causing endemics such as cholera, upper respiratory problems, Hepatitis A, and typhoid could see drastic improvements in their health which is the ultimate goal of The CLEANER LAGOS INITIATIVE and that alone cannot be quantified.