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Rain of pains in Lagos

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A clogged canal in Lagos PHOTO:SUNDAY AKINLOLU


For many residents of Lagos, the advent of the rainy season heralds fear, trepidation and misery because apart from the usual discomfort, the rains bring flooding as most of the waterways and channels in the state are blocked with plastic and refuse. Major canals in the state, it is discovered, have been taken over by weeds and refuse, causing difficulties, health problems and flooding for residents and commuters. Despite the fact that in August last year, the Lagos State Public Works Corporation said it would embark on ‘operation remove and cart away which would involve the strategic clearing of Lagos canals, especially the major ones that serve as water outlets to the secondary drainages’, investigations by The Guardian revealed that no major canal was cleared, leaving residents wondering what went wrong.

Visits to major and minor canals in different areas of the state including the Owode-Elede, Bariga, Egbe-Idimu, Ijeshatedo, Iyana Itire canals amongst others, showed them filled with refuse, posing potential hazards to residents and commuters in the areas. Residents of Karounwi and Kadiri streets have decried blockage of canal in their community, describing it as a cesspit of dirt and diseases. A trader in the area, identifying himself as Goodluck Chibuzor said he has been trading there for over five years and “the canal has not been cleared even once to my knowledge. I would however lay blame at the feet of residents more because the evil we do in this country is too much. Once little breeze blows, they are ready to throw refuse inside the gutter and everything ends up here at this canal. Because the water and refuse has nowhere else to go, the whole street ends up flooded and dirty after every rainfall. I am worried what would happen when the rainy season sets in properly because this canal would become unbearable.” Blaming the government as well, he challenged them to be responsible and alive to their obligations. “What are we paying taxes for? These are the things our tax monies should take care of. While sensitising residents on the dangers of indiscriminate dumping, PSP should be up and doing. When they refuse to come around for several months, they leave residents with little or no choice than to patronise truck pushers or dump refuse in the gutters.”

Former chairman of the Ifesowapo community development association in Ikorodu, Abayomi Okeowo decried government’s insensitivity to their plight. “These blocked waterways have done serious harm in more ways I can’t explain. Apart from the health implications, the flood damaged the roads we fixed by community effort. Everything you see here is by community effort and I am not sure if we can afford to clear this waterway,” he said.

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Shop owners on the popular Lawanson road berated the PSP operators, saying their services are erratic, forcing residents to dump refuse indiscriminately. A trader who didn’t want her name in print claimed that residents were told last year to put their refuse at their street’s entrance for collection. “People started dumping refuse anyhow and before you knew it, everywhere was overtaken by refuse. When the rains came, a good part of the refuse found its way into the gutters, blocking them and that is part of what we are still suffering till date. Despite the fact that the PSP operators have started coming around again, we have unfortunately descended into bad habits again as residents don’t want to pay for refuse evacuation, preferring to dump them inside gutters and by the road dividers,” she said.

Adewunmi (surname withheld), a resident of Ajao Estate said: “There’s little or nothing that we can do to avert the implications of this rainy season because our roads are bad and the pot-holes accumulate water instead of flowing into the drainage. Although most of our drainages are blocked which is another problem during the rainy season, but the roads are the major problem. There is no part of Ajao Estate with good road, all the roads are very bad, even during the dry season people struggle to ply the roads let alone the rainy season. Ajao Estate used to be a very good alternative route for people from every nook and cranny of Lagos to connect their destinations but now, it is a no go area due to deteriorated roads. Even when the bad spots are patched, the roads return to square one after a couple weeks because of lack of authenticity, heavy downpours which washes the tares away and of course the heavy trailers that ply the roads regularly. So this time, it is not a question of class or living in a rich or poor neigbourhood, we are all going to suffer the consequences of the bad roads and blocked drainages this rainy season” she said

Mr. Titiloye Adekanmi, a resident of Agodo Ikotun Egbe Lagos said: “Ikoto Egbe and its environs is one of the many areas in Lagos that experience disastrous flooding after heavy downpours. Year-in-year-out, we have had to experience loss of lives and properties during downpours especially late night, because there is no good drainage everywhere in Ikotun and so the slightest downpour constitute flood and people struggle to get by every time it rains. How can we be prepared this rainy season when we cannot do anything differently except hope that the downpours are not too heavy this season? You should see how people lament and pray against rain when the cloud starts to gather. People are supposed to be happy to have rain but not with the condition of the drainage system in Ikotun Egbe. Get to Ikotun bus stop after a 20-minute heavy downpour and see how the roads are flooded, amputating businesses and leaving people stranded” he said.

Mrs. Kuburat Salami, is a shop owner in Ikotun market and she said that aside the lack of drainage in the environ, there are too many refuse dump everywhere that disrupt the free flow of water which causes flooding. She said: “Being prepared for the rain implies ensuring that people do not make every nook and cranny a refuse dump site but the problem is, even if we monitor people during the day, who keeps watch at night? Most of the time we wake up to heaps of refuse that wasn’t there the previous night. So, I think until the people stop dumping refuse everywhere and come up with a better way of disposing their garbage even if government fails to do so, we are all going to keep suffering during the rainy seasons,” she said.

However, the Lagos state Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) Public Relations Officer (PRO), Obinna Onyenali has said PSP operators as well as themselves have been working round the clock to effectively tackle the hydra-headed monster before the rains set in properly to prevent diseases outbreak and clear refuse backlogs.

On allegations that canals in the state have not been cleared for years, he said they have intensified efforts to clear black spots around the city. “By black spots, we mean canals, general wastes and so on. We have some of our operatives moving around investigating and reporting areas that need to be cleared immediately. We are not resting on our oars and as rightly pointed out, the rains are here already and we know we have to do more. We are doing our best to provide proper waste management services to residents and we need support. We have a toll free line, 07080601020 that residents can call to make enquiries, lodge complaints and require our services. Please, we implore residents to call the number and I promise they would be attended to.”

Onyelani insisted that they have resumed door to door waste disposal as PSP operators have been mandated by the state government to go from house to house to pick waste at least, weekly. “The PSP is already doing that and LAWMA is backing them up as much as possible because we understand there is a backlog. We know some areas have PSP challenges and we are working assiduously to resolve this by empowering them and ensuring they do their job. Ineffective PSP operators have been and would be replaced by effective ones. If you have challenges with your operator, call the number above and report them to us and we would definitely step in and change them if they are found wanting.”

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“Our goal in the next six months to a year is to make it a taboo to see waste in any street or canal in Lagos. We recently introduced the LAWMA by 4am initiative; this is just one of the packages we are rolling out to ensure this problem is effectively tackled. Residents can testify that there have been improvements in waste management so far and we hope to do more in ensuring it is long lasting and effective.”

Blaming the refuse buildup and blockage in most major canals in the state on the activities of cart pushers and some residents who indiscriminately dump refuse in the canals and gutters at the slightest sight of rain. “The cart pushers are the major culprits but some residents contribute to this problem as well. They dump refuse every and anywhere and once rain falls, they go into the gutters and move into the canals. Overtime, these channels become blocked, leading to bigger problems in the long run.”

The LAWMA spokesperson said they have an advocacy team that goes round the state, sensitising residents on effective waste management and the need for every household and business establishment to imbibe effective waste management culture. He went on to add that indiscriminate dumping of refuse would no longer be tolerated and defaulters would be made to face the law.

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In this article:
LAWMAObinna Onyenali
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