Understandably, a major pre-occupation of the Lagos State Government is environmental regeneration. The government is challenged to invest in the environment because the Lagos is exposed to environmental abuse occasioned by intense economic and social activities. Lagos, for instance, generates 10,000 tons of waste daily, almost three times higher than what the whole of Ghana generates daily.
Justifiably, solid waste management has, therefore, been recognized as decisive to the realization of the state government’s vision of making Lagos a clean, secure, and more prosperous State with a robust economy built on service, equity and justice. However, current realities in waste management reveal deficiencies that are not only wasteful in terms of resource utilization but also detrimental to environmental and public health.
This existing position evidently does not ally with the state government’s vision of a Smart City. Therefore, there is an urgent need to bring it to the required level of international best practice. It is in order to provide a holistic solution to waste management in the state that the Clean Lagos Initiative, CLI was conceived. CLI represents a strong resolve and commitment to redefining solid waste management in the state.
It is envisioned to deliver a new solid waste management mechanism that is devoid of the challenges of the old order. Part of the goals is to generate a new financially feasible and technology-driven waste management system to the Lagos economy with the ultimate target of creating new businesses and job opportunities.
The components of the initiative include Residential Waste Collection and Processing, Commercial/ Industrial Waste Collection, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Drainage Maintenance, Provision of Engineered/ hazardous Sanitary Landfill and Manual/ Mechanized Street Sweeping. Others are the provision of Transfer Loading Stations (TLS) and Material Recovery Facilities (MRF) and Marine Waste Collection.
Through the new initiative, 600 brand new environment friendly compactors and over 900,000 waste bins that are electronically tracked for ease of monitoring are to be provided. Equally, the scheme has offered over 40,000 jobs for residents, including 27, 500 Community Sanitation Workers (CSW) who are to work within their residences in the entire 377 political wards in Lagos State.
To sustain the collection operations, refitted old three Transfer Loading Stations/MRF (Agege, Oshodi, Simpson) and two totally new MRF are to be built (Ogombo and Ojo) while three Waste Depots (Mushin, Ogudu, and Simpson) are being Concessioned with the main goal of revitalizing and modifying the facilities to international standard.
Similarly, under the new arrangement, primary, secondary and tertiary drains across the state will be maintained throughout the year to allow for free flow of storm water.Also, Engineered Sanitary/Engineered Hazardous Landfills will be constructed under the Built Finance Operate and Transfer model in different locations across the State. The target is to guarantee safety of public health and the environment.
An instructive aspect of the new plan is that it is set to inculcate in Lagos’ residents a rich culture of appropriate waste disposal. Part of the plan is to ensure that youths in secondary schools and tertiary institutions are brought into the deal. The purpose is to make certain that the future is guaranteed in terms of waste management in the state.
Perhaps more importantly, the possibility of turning the huge waste that is generated in the state would be highly heightened through this fresh scheme. 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 will, no doubt, transform waste management into wealth creation venture that will help tackle the twain issue of poverty and unemployment.
To complement government’s plans and efforts in promoting a cleaner Lagos, Lagos residents need to come to terms with the reality of the necessity for an improved environment. What is required to maintain a sane and friendly environment is not just about what the government is doing but also about the people’s attitude.
Lagos residents need to understand that the quality of our lives, as human beings, is considerably a reflection of the quality of the environment which we dwell in. Many still seem not to comprehend that the environment which we inhabit, like the air which we breathe, is life.
We need to change our attitude to environmental issues. The earth, for now, is our home. It is where we live, breathe, eat, raise our children, etc. Therefore, we cannot afford to destroy the environment because our whole essence depends on it. Consequently, when we imbibe positive attitudinal change towards the environment, we are sure of living free of any pollutants or hazards.
Traditionally, talks on environmental protection often center on the role of government, legislation and law enforcement. However, environmental protection ought to be the duty of all the people and not simply that of government. Therefore, we all need to embrace positive attitude towards the environment. Parks should not be turned into market places, toilets, refuse dumps or places where animals graze. Failure to control animals or allowing their defecation or engaging in an unhygienic use of fountains, pools or water in the parks, gardens and open spaces would be counter- productive and as such must be discouraged.
No matter the level of government’s commitment to upgrading infrastructure and improving the aesthetics of the State, residents must be on same page with government for the efforts to become successful. This is why the campaign for improved sanitary culture should not be left for government alone. The media, artists, comedians, religious bodies, Community Development Associations and Civil Society Groups etc should be actively involved.
Considering the outlook of the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, It is therefore important that we all cooperate with the government to ensure that it not only succeeds but that it is sustained. Hence, Lagos residents need to appreciate the need to pay for utilities and social services like water and solid waste disposal. The solace for all of us as we discharge our civic responsibilities is that we are joining the rank of patriotic citizens who rise in aid of the environment to banish diseases, safeguard our health and bequeath a cleaner state to the pride of all.
No doubt, in other parts of the world, waste is no longer a burden but wealth. Certainly, this is the direction of the new initiative in solid waste management; to create wealth from waste; to utilize waste for electricity and other potentials, and as well bail it for export purposes.
On its part, the State government will continue to explore opportunity of its diverse town hall meetings and other such public outreaches to further impress on Lagosians on the imperative of living a dignified life through proper sanitation and environmental friendly activities.