That Nigeria has one of the poorest records in waste management is an open secret.
It is common to see very high heaps of refuse in most Nigerian cities and rural communities, as many residents adopt self-help strategies to dispose their household and industrial wastes despite the existence of waste management authorities in every State in the country.
It is estimated that up to 80 percent of residents in most of these cities and rural communities dispose their waste illegally, with some dumping them on the streets and drainage channels, burning or burying them indiscriminately.
The impact of indiscriminate waste disposal in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest Urban centre alongside efforts been made to find lasting solution to the challenge and the national policy is the focus of this report.
Records from the Federal Ministry of the environment shows that Nigeria generates more than 32 million tons of solid waste annually, out of which only 20-30% is collected.
Over the years, improper disposal and treatment of waste generated by human activities have been a challenge in both rural and urban areas as these wastes seep into the underground water table and contaminate the water supply source affecting not just the public water supply but also the private water supply sources like boreholes
Health experts have linked Incidences of diseases like cholera, typhoid, gastro-enteritis, salmonella and many others to the prevalence of open waste sites.
IMPACT ON PUBLIC HEALTH
According to a public health physician at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, Idi-Araba, Dr Mobolanle Balogun “When refuse litters the place for sustained periods, it affects the community members in different ways, and this could be classified under hazards. And the hazardous implications could be physical, biological, psychological and chemical.”
She said the physical hazard, could be in form of injuries from broken bottles, metal and sharp objects which are part of the waste, while the biological hazard comes into being when rats, mosquitoes and flies turn the refuse dump into breeding grounds leading to Lassa fever, diarrhea, malaria and other infectious diseases.
Dr Balogun pointed out that improper treatment of waste could also have negative implications for the environment, affecting the soil texture and topography as well as marine lives.
In spite of being a model for other States in the country, Lagos is not immune from the challenges of municipal waste management as the State Waste Management Authority; LAWMA has been juggling improper garbage disposal and lack of reliable transport infrastructure despite collaboration with private sector participants, PSP.
The Environment Manager, Ministry of Environment, Mr. Michael Bankole explained that the challenges of waste management in the State are multifaceted.
“The challenges of waste management in Lagos can be categorized into different stages; financial, technical know-how and then, where to dispose the waste. The topography of Lagos is such that you cannot just indiscriminately build landfill anywhere and that’s a problem for the population of Lagos, and the amount of waste we generate everyday, 13,000 metric tons is a lot” he said.
According LAWMA, an estimated 7,000 tons out of the 13,000 metric tons of municipal solid waste generated every day is disposed by the authority in the five landfill sites across the state.
The largest of them, the Olusosun dump site at Ojota, a major transportation hub and gateway into the State has an ugly reputation of consistently contaminating the air with negative impacts on the health of residents.
Reports have it that Olusosun was not designed to be a land fill but Lagos converted it into an incidental dumpsite after it was mined for construction of roads in the south west in the early 60’s.
Many attempts have been made by the State government to shut down the dump site, which has self ignited many times without much success.
An Environmentalist, Mr Idowu Salawu attributed the occasional fire at the dumpsite to high level of gas, noting that the State could turn the dump site which is reported to have been land filled with more than 40 million metric tons of waste into an energy city.
The waste consultant who pointed out that sitting of more landfills or dump sites in the State would throw up more challenges advised Lagos to also start considering waste to energy plants within the City as a lasting solution.
Concurring with this, LAWMA’s Managing Director, Mr. Ibrahim Odumboni said the agency is already holding talks with a number of private organisations on Waste2Wealth and Waste2Energy plants even as the Stat government has in December last year, introduced the Recycle and Earn incentives to encourage residents to separate recyclables from organic waste
EFFORTS AT NATIONAL LEVEL.
In July last year, (2020) the Federal Government approved a national policy on solid waste management based on the reuse and recycle system to generate resources and employment.
The Minister of State for the Environment, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor who aknowledged that waste management is one of the major environmental challenges for the Country said efforts would be made ensure that the policy is effectively implemented across board.
She said “Waste management and lack of understanding of the consequences of our actions and how we treat our environment, so, we have to do a lot of awareness campaigns, lots of education and advocacy and enforcement. We have to start making people responsible for their actions; that you do this, this is the consequence of this and this is the price”
It is expected that with proper sorting of waste from source, recycle, upcycle and conversion of solid waste to energy, there would be a much healthier environment across the Country while the impact of improper waste management on the health of citizens would be reduced.