Cleanliness of a long distance runner
Lagos has a long way to go but the state has a marathoner in its governor. By signing into law the Environmental Management and Protection Bill the other day,
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has not only secured the legal teeth needed to turn into reality his vision of ensuring that every person living in Lagos has a right to a clean, safe and healthy environment, he has shown his commitment to making Lagosians live in bliss.
The new law also empowers the Lagos State Government to set up the Environmental Trust Fund. The trust fund, which will be chaired by the state commissioner for environment, is aimed at promoting the development and sustenance of the state’s performance in managing its environment as it will create a system that can attract funds from persons, organisations and authorities in tackling environmental issues. The trust fund will also promote the creation of job opportunities for the state’s huge young population in waste management and waste recycling, among others.
In the newly promulgated law, no person or group of persons shall dump any toxic waste capable of causing harm in the state. All emissions from vehicles, plants and equipment, including generating plants in residential, commercial and industrial areas within the state must also mandatorily meet air emission standards.
Similarly, the new law will ensure that no manufacturing of chemicals, lubricants, petroleum products, gases, quarry, cement (except for those used in construction), take place in a residential premise. The law prescribes that any manufacturer of such items will procure an insurance policy from an approved insurance company.
Also, under the law, every owner or occupier of a facility who uses, stores, keeps and maintains underground storage tanks and surface storage tanks shall register such tanks with the enforcing authority while a facility monitoring and inspection exercise shall be carried out on all sites with surface or underground tanks periodically to determine the integrity of the facility involved while the soil test of the immediate environment shall be carried out as required.
The Lagos State Government said defaulters of the law will face stiff penalties from the government which ranges from N250,000 to N5,000,000 and/or imprisonment.
The law also makes it an offence to engage in street trading along the major highways and streets of Lagos. It equally prohibits selling in an unapproved market in Lagos while every owner, tenant and occupier of any shop, kiosks, space or stall in any market within the state would be required on a regular basis to clean their space.
It will be mandatory for every commercial vehicle in the state to carry a litter bin for the use of the passengers so that passengers will not throw waste onto the road from the vehicle. If the driver fails to provide the litter bin, the driver will also be penalised alongside the passenger who commits the offence.
The government is also planning a swoop on structures built on sewage systems without approval. Such structures will be demolished when the law takes effect. Also in the bill passed by the Assembly, anyone who wants to sink borehole or any structure connected with the supply of water must obtain permit from the office of drainage services.
As forward-looking as ever, the state has set up a consortium of reputable international companies involved in the cleaning of major cities of the world. The companies include Visionscape-CSH Environmental, Wastecare Solutions and Resources Management Limited. Others are: VS Industries-Coseco/Ships, ABC Sanitation Taylor Bins and Bespoke Management and Maintenance Services-Interwaste.
Visionscape, the principal waste collection company in the consortium, is a globally acclaimed leading waste management company which has pledged its support to help transform Lagos, the fifth largest economy in Africa, to one of Africa’s cleanest megacities. The company has a rich pedigree. It has operated successfully in many countries including the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, India, South Africa, Malawi, Romania, among many others. As part of its strategy to collaborate with others to make Lagos the cleanest city in Africa, Visionscape promises to use a fully integrated waste management and recycling solutions targeted at achieving zero waste through reduction, recycling and reuse of wastes.
In addition to creating 27,500 new jobs, the new policy will fast-track the process of metamorphosing Lagos State into a cleaner megacity by decisively tackling the problems of air and water pollution, preventing deceases and halting the deterioration of the environment to avert adverse effect on socio-economic activities.
The new policy has also made a very special provision for the thousands of Community Sanitation Workers (CSWs) who will be directly employed to work on the scheme by making their salaries tax-free.
Additionally, the new environmental regime will provide numerous insurance benefits including Life, Health, Accident and Injury cover to the 27,500 CSWs who will also enjoy a pension scheme.
In a carefully articulated strategy to enhance the quality of lives of the sanitation workers who will be saddled with the task of keeping Lagos clean, an arrangement has been made to ensure that the sanitation workers will only work in their immediate communities, thereby eliminating transportation cost.
The government is indeed spot-on when it said that Lagos is at critical levels of pollution and this must change because our children’s lives and future depend on it.
Ambode’s optimism that the new law would result in historic environmental victories for a state which over the years has struggled with effective management of the 10,000 metric tonnes of waste it generates daily is certainly not unfounded.
His observation that the state’s major environmental laws were outdated and could not address present-day challenges was appropriate point from which to begin the realisation of his vision for a clean Lagos.
His acknowledgment of a new world in which the protection and preservation of public health and the environment are primarily driven by data and that Lagos would not be able to compete if laws are based on obsolete information further drives home his seriousness about taking Lagos into the league of the world’s best cities.
Mohammed, an environmental scientist, lives in Lagos
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