Lagos is a paradox in many respects. It is the state with the smallest land mass in the country and yet the state with the highest number of people. Over the years, its growth has been phenomenal, both demographically and spatially. From a population of about 25,000 in 1866, Lagos reached 665,000 by 1963, covering 69.9 (km2). It became over ten million in 1995 thus attaining by UN definition, the status of a mega-city. It is projected to become the third largest mega-city in the world by 2015 (UNCHS, 1996). Its population is presently about 18 million according to National Geographic (2009). Lagos is currently estimated to be the fifth largest city in the world. To compound its geographical lopsidedness, almost half of its limited landmass is covered with water, a situation that makes land a very scarce and highly coveted commodity.
That Lagos is the commercial nerve center 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 tons of waste daily. A recent report has, however, puts the waste generates daily in the state at 10,000 metric tons, 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 device 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.
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 manners 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 detrimental to our common good.
No investor will come into a filthy place. It is, therefore, imperative that Lagos residents embrace positive attitudinal change with regards to the environment. Many people seem not to understand that the quality of our lives as human beings is substantially a reflection of the quality of the environment which we inhabit. It is still common to see people throwing things out on the highways from their cars. On the streets, stagnant gutters still occupy pride of place next to conveniently-located food hawkers – all the easier for garbage disposal. Even some of the fanciest areas are not exempt – “pure water” sachets (which surely rank very high on the list of the most environmentally-unfriendly products ever invented!), bottles and unofficial garbage dumps circle the gated walls of posh homes and well-manicured lawns.
Despite, the availability of civilized options for waste disposing as provided bythe Lagos Waste Management Authority and its other PSP partners, people still turn canals, streams and drainages into refuse dumping sites. It is so bad that while it is raining, people come out to toss their refuse into the flowing water body. No matter the level of government’s preparedness at tackling flooding, such practices would continue to negate its goals. As much as the government is doing its bits, NGOs, Community Development Associations, the media, members of the Civil Society and all well meaning individuals and groups in the state should partner with the state government to achieve attitudinal change towards the environment.
It is crucial to stress that 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. The idea is to make the dumpsites become usable resources from which methane will be extracted for electricity generation in Lagos State. Revolving waste into energy is an established technology that could help provide a major amount of domestic energy needs. Presently, the Olusosun dumpsite 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 twain issue of poverty and unemployment. Presently, the various waste management initiatives of the government has generated over 46,000 direct and indirect jobs for Lagosians.
Lagosians need to stop all practices that could put a clog 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 and brings in more tourists. This is because the state has successfully shrugged off the hitherto negative image of ‘a notorious jungle’.
Therefore, actions such as indiscriminate dumping of refuse in unauthorised places like drains and canals, trading on drainage channels, illegal building of structures on drainage alignments, road setbacks and verges among others should be shun by the people. Lagosians must, at all times, embrace positive attitude towards the environment. Lagos presently has an estimated population of 25 million people and it is still increasing. The implication of that on the environment is increased tons of waste generation. If this trend of environmental abuse, especially indiscriminate waste disposal, persists, it may have grievous consequences on the environmental landscape of the state.