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As refuse overwhelms Lagos

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One of the refuse dumps in the open space serving both the swimming pool and indoor sports hall of the National Stadium, Lagos….yesterday. Photo by Gowon Akpodonor<br />

It is quite noteworthy that Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has personally swung into action to save the state from being overrun by refuse.

Of recent, there has been heaps of refuse dumped especially along major roads and streets of Lagos to the extent that residents and motorists have raised alarm over increasing mountains of refuse in the state. Many of the major roads and streets in the state are currently filled with refuse waiting to be cleared.

These include Lagos-Badagry Expressway specifically Okokomaiko end of the road, Ojuelegba, LASU-Isheri road, Oshodi Apapa Expressway, Mushin, Isolo road, Akanro and Ilasamaja. Mushin-Agege Moto Road, Ishaga, Lawanson and others are particularly bad. The Island especially the tony neighbourhoods of Lekki, Victoria Island and Ikoyi only fare a little better.

Refuse, municipal or household waste material that cannot be reused unless it is converted to another form through recycling or any substance that is considered not useful in the environment and can be harmful to human health is categorised into two types – solid and liquid waste.

The solid waste consist of used plastic bags and plates, damage home appliances, and so on while liquid waste consist of used water from bath, washing, faecal matter and oil. Generally solid waste that cannot be re-used or recycled or recovered should be dumped at a sanitary landfill, not on the roads. Uncollected wastes dumped on the roads, will result in unsanitary conditions.

So dumping refuse on roads, constitutes hazards and has negative impacts on human health and environment. Rodents, flies and mosquitoes breed in refuse dumps; and flies and rodents are very effective vectors that spread disease.

Also, dangerous items such as broken glass, razor blades, needles and other healthcare wastes pose risks of injury or poisoning, particularly to scavengers who unprofessionally engage in waste sorting and handling to collect scrap materials.

Burning refuse dumped on the roads also cause major air pollution, affect the climate change by increasing the green-house gas, GHG emissions, beside the effect on human health. When solid wastes are dumped in drainage channels and gutters, they block the flow of the sewage, which may cause flooding. At the same time, solid wastes also affect soil drainage which hinders the growing of crops.

Apart from the stench oozing from the refuse and the health risks, it compounds the gridlock in the state or causes harm to individuals, the environment, transportation and tourism in Lagos State.

Once again, the Lagos State government has acknowledged the problem and commenced action to address the situation. The Local Council Development Areas, LCDAs across the state should, however, complement the state government’s efforts to evacuate the heaps of refuse on the roads.

The private sector’s supportive role is also critical in refuse management at this moment. So, organisations can take it up as their social responsibility programme; while the health and environmentally-focused civil society organisation (CSOs) as well as the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency should work for good waste management practices. Community mobilisation and sensitisation to prevent the practice of dumping refuse indiscriminately on the roads is critical.

Furthermore, community development associations should stand up against indiscriminate refuse dumping and cooperate with Lagos State government by reporting such acts. Law enforcement and prosecution are critical in stopping refuse dumping and blighting of the city. Instead of spending millions of naira cleaning up, a special taskforce of law enforcement agencies can be employed to watch over the city with a view to keeping it clean.

A sustainable solution is embracing the practice of reducing, recycling, reusing – the Three R’s. Against the backdrop that refuse dumping is a result of high level of waste production, reducing the amount of waste generated will also lead to reduction in such dumping. Lagos residents therefore, can reduce the amount of waste they generate by purchasing and using only essential products.

The state government should open designated centres for collection of used obsolete appliances, furniture and other home products and promote the recycling of same. Furthermore, the practice of donating or selling used products that are still in good condition can reduce dumping of appliances and equipment.

Collectively, the people and government of Lagos State can combat refuse and create a more habitable metropolis.


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Akinwunmi AmbodeLagos
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