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LAGOS: RETURN OF FILTH IN THE MEGA CITY

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LAGOS: RETURN OF FILTH IN THE MEGA CITY

The Lagos State’s effort at re-engineering waste to make the city clean in the face of rapid urbanisation appears to have backfired as garbage heaps now take over the metropolis, reports ISIOMA MADIKE

 

Grace Ogwuche lives in Alapere, Ketu. He told Saturday Telegraph that the heaps of refuse and stench that engulf the air every morning as residents of the area wake up on a daily basis is terrible. She kept wondering the people that generate the wastes overnight. She pleaded that the state government should do something about it to avert outbreak of epidemic within the neighbourhood.

However, Ogwuche is not the only one that has expressed shock at the rate mounds of filth have resurfaced in the Lagos metropolis of late. Anthony Chinyenwa, who resides at Wharf area in Apapa, also said that refuse dumps had completely taken over some sections of the road.

He said that the situation has worsened in the last few months since the Public-Private- Partnership (PSP) operators stopped working ahead of the takeoff of the state’s new model of refuse disposal. In like manner, Mrs. Elizabeth Nwaka, another resident of Iyana Ipaja, equally said that her locality’s environment had not been this dirty since he moved into the area four years ago. At Ojuelegba, heaps of refuse dumped along the busy and popular Tejuoso Road is equally jostling for space with humans. Oshodi is not spared in this seeming descent into filth.

A mountain of garbage and its foul odour often force some commuters back into moving buses to avoid contracting diseases. Stretching almost the entire length of the rail track are piles of trash with an awful stench. Those dumped on the weeds also constitute a sore sight for inbound and outbound commuters going in and out of the Oshodi vicinity.

This may be the reason why many people now avoid the Oshodi axis. As the rubbish struggle for space with commuters in various parts of the city, commuters typically held their noses while shaking their heads in disgust. These bring unpleasant movement to many. Indeed, the gradual return of heaps of dirt in Lagos metropolis has become a source of worry to residents of the mega city.

Abule- Egba, Mushin and Ikorodu areas are not different as heaps of refuse have literally taken over the landscape. While some of the dirt littered the ground, creating an unpleasant sight, other scenes of mountainous refuse, beaten by rain in the various parts of the state, are causing an irritation to the public and putting residents at the risk of preventable diseases.

Some residents of Ikotun area in Alimosho Local Government have also bemoaned the failure of the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) to evacuate refuse from there. According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), which monitored the community, there were several heaps of refuse in many areas of the community. It also observed that offensive stench was oozing out from the dumps. Many passers-by and residents close to the dumps usually cover their nostrils so as not to inhale the odour.

Some of them who spoke to NAN urged LAWMA to come and clear the waste, saying it could lead to an outbreak of communicable diseases like cholera. A retired nurse, who lives on Ajewole Street, said that the dirty environment could endanger lives if nothing was done as soon as possible. She said: “It is so disturbing; everywhere is filled with heaps of refuse.

The waste residents will generate during the coming festivities will, awkwardly add to the mounting heaps, thus increasing the degree of the stench and polluting the environment the more. If care is not taken, there will be an outbreak of cholera and other airborne diseases in the area.”

A food vendor on Rasak Tijani Street also noted that the absence of the officials of the LAWMA had messed-up the street and the community in general. “We have never had it so bad like this in the past; for some weeks now, no LAWMA officials had visited this area to clear the waste, and this had really made everywhere very dirty. “I have been extra careful by ensuring that my food is well covered and protected from being contaminated by flies.

I hope the LAWMA officials will come and remove the refuse as soon as possible,’’ she said. Eko, as Lagos is fondly called, could be as interesting as it is repulsive these days. It is fast becoming a slum that qualifies to be called a jungle. Houses in most suburbs are largely wooden shanties interspersed with dilapidated concrete buildings. And the streets and most neighbourhoods are jumbled in surging heaps of refuse and a mass of terribly stinking human waste. In most of the outskirts, nearly all the houses have lost touch with modernity. They are dilapidated and surrounded by stinking heaps of refuse.

Most of them are almost submerged by floodwater that constantly threatens to swallow the entire neighbourhood. In front of their rickety bungalows, mills a crowd, their faces forlorn. Lagos, to many, has become a classic example of a jungle city; dirty, thickly populated with life in the neighbourhood becoming rough by the day.

The city is surrounded by water, on whose shore it is located. Yet, there is none to drink. The well water in most of the houses is murky and smelly. One would almost vomit his intestine and stomach out if the water accidentally touches one’s mouth. Everywhere you turn, you see human faeces as well as floating animal carcasses that provide free meal for scavengers. Owing to dearth of potable water and poor sanitation in the mega city, residents continuously do battle with typhoid fever, cholera and other deadly water-borne diseases. “We lose children, even adults here regularly to typhoid and cholera,” Chinedu, a 45-year-old mechanic from Anambra State, said.

“We live on shit, cook, eat and sleep on dirt. The environment is not alright at all. It’s only the grace of God that is keeping us alive.” In virtually every corner of the city’s vicinity, heaps of refuse dumps, literally jostle for space with human beings. Yet, no one seems to bother about it. Empty cans, pockets of assorted remnant food, drinks, fast foods and disused household items, regu-larly assault the eyes.

Faeces wrapped up in newspapers are launched from a certain window scattering into a spatter mess and the “pure water” cellophanes, which have assumed a notorious identity, all piled the streets as though they are articles of ornament. Apart from fear of imminent outbreak of epidemic, drainages are filled to the brim with smelly murky waters, a situation which forces children to play anywhere they could find space.

Rainy seasons bring tears and sorrow also to most residents of Lagos. Whenever it rains, flood sweeps chaos and confusion into this ‘Centre of Excellence’. Anytime the rainy season is back and at its peak, it is usually bad news for most residents in Nigeria’s mega city. At junctions of feeder streets in most parts of the sprawling city are heaps of used water sachets and debris percolated by shallow floods that found inadequate avenue of normal flows blocking the canals and waterways. Some are overgrown with weeds; others filled with refuse heaps.

The roads, apart from being riddled with huge potholes and gullies, have been narrowed to single lanes due to the mammoth refuse congealed by rain water whose passage is inhibited by blocked drains. Whenever it rains, the flood sweeps the refuse to the middle of the road, making movement of any kind difficult. Allen Avenue, one of the major commercial centres, which is also close to Alausa, the seat of the state government, is fast losing its glamour too. The heaps of garbage at the Alade Market end of the road make the road impassable for cars and pedestrians.

They are, most times, forced to make a detour. The same scenario plays out in Ikeja Roundabout and Oba Akran Avenue areas of the mega city. On Agege Motor Road, the situation is also terrible. “The situation is pathetic,” said Idayat Balogun, a nurse in one of the private hospitals in the metropolis. According to her, the situation deteriorated when most of the local government areas decided to turn sites meant for refuse dump to shopping malls.

“Now, there is no place for the people to dump their refuse,” she added. Residents of Ejigbo, Bariga, Shomolu, Idimu, Ogba and the slums of Ijora Badiya are also groaning as refuse have taken over major roads in the areas. Even the highbrow Victoria Island is not spared by the mounting dirt. Dolphin, a sprawling estate for business and residential purposes, appears to be the worst hit in Ikoyi.

Obalende, the popular bus terminal on Lagos Island, and all the nearby streets such as Lewis, Igbosere and Hawley are currently struggling under filth also. This may be the reason why the itinerant cart pushers, whose trade was once banned by the Lagos State government, are back on the streets.

They relentlessly comb the streets to evacuate refuse for a fee. Many now see their services as the needed solution to the troubling garbage heaps in the metropolis. They were banned in 2010 and accused of being responsible for the indiscriminate dumping of refuse in unauthorised places. That was the time LAWMA had an arrangement with the PSP to help clean up the city.

Indeed, there has been a gradual return of garbage heaps in Lagos metropolis, lately. In spite of the massive infrastructural renewal the state government is embarking to change the city’s landscape, heaps of refuse on roadsides, bus-stops, markets and highways have remain a blot on its effort to remodel the city.

This is compounded by the state’s new waste management initiatives, primed at reengineering the challenge of waste to make the city clean in the face of rapid urbanisation. For a consultant psychiatrist and public health practitioner, Dr. Ogunnubi Peters, the mounting heaps of garbage is not only defacing the aesthetics of the state but also posing a potential health hazard to the citizenry. Rodents, he said, are vectors of the Lassa disease, which breed rapidly in refuse-infested and polluted environments. “The resurgence of refuse all over the place makes nonsense of the state government’s effort at beautifying the metropolis.

“A lot of canals are packed with empty plastics of water bottles and other rubbish and when there is dirt here and there, it will bring rodents and cockroaches that could also contribute to the issue of Lassa fever and other diseases. Most streets are littered with dirt which is a very good space for rats to feed. These rats find their ways into shops, warehouses and our different houses.

Many could also come down with other ailments associated with filth. And it’s like a chain in which it could trigger other sicknesses that may not be easily traced to dirt. This could make many to go for medical check-ups and mortality could set in. “We shouldn’t also forget the fact that some rural areas still drink from the stream water. Such water may have been polluted from another area and travel down the suburbs where it could cause serious health challenge.

The heaps of rubbish could also promote air pollution; we breathe it in and unknowingly take in some bacteria that could cause harm to the body system. In no time you see people being afflicted with different diseases. This gets worse during the rainy season as it would wash dirt into homes and block drainages. So, the state government should do something fast to arrest the ugly situation. It needs to be more proactive with environmental sanitation issues,” Peters said. Meanwhile, Saturday Telegraph efforts at getting a reaction from the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Steve Ayorinde, were futile as calls and the subsequent text messages sent to his telephone line were neither picked, returned nor responded to.

However, the resurgence of waste, according to The Guardian newspaper report, has been attributed to the early hitches been experienced in the new waste management policy of the state government, encapsulated in the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI). The good news, the report said, is that the state government has assured residents that it will soon be a fading history. Under the CLI arrangement, apart from the 600 brand new compactors that will be used to collect waste, 900,000 electronically tracked bins will be provided in homes across the state, while wastes generated by the commercial sector will be handled by licensed private sector participants. In the meantime, efforts of the state at ensuring proper management of waste is said to have started yielding results with the commencement of work at the Visionscape’s Eco Park in Epe.

As one of the platforms designed to package the over 13,000 tonnes of waste daily generated in Lagos, said to be the largest in the world, the construction of West Africa’s premier landfill in Epe, is in tandem with the pace-setting nature of the megacity. It aggregates contemporary strategies of turning waste to wealth.

The landfill, which is said to be the most ambitious part of the CLI, will, according to information from the state government, save the city the horror, which current dumpsites in Olusosun, Igando and other areas constitute. An environmentalist, who does not want his name in print, said the closure of these dumpsites will enable the state to convert the eyesores to better uses.

For instance, the Olusosun site, he said, is being proposed as location for a golf course, which will enhance the aesthetics of the entrance to Lagos. The Epe Eco park, according to Visionscape, is designed to encapsulate all the facilities listed above and when operational in the next few weeks, will facilitate world class waste collection and management, waste water management, preserve the environment and contribute to the state power generation programme. According to Visionscape, modern equipment and machinery fortified with geographical information system (GIS) facilities are one the features of the Epe landfill.

The Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Babatunde Adejare, said retrofitting of the site to a world class standard was part of the new waste management policy of the state government initiated by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode’s administration. He stressed that the new initiative, which would be a clear departure from the old system of waste management, was geared towards engendering the protection of the health, social living standard of the people and the environment in general. “The Epe landfill is a modern site of first class engineering innovation, designed to meet modern day waste management, where what had hitherto characterised our operations will be eliminated. The location of the site, which is more than five kilometres to the main township of Epe, makes it more environmentally friendly,” he said.

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