Waste Management: Illegal dumpsites still exist as cart pushers defy order
Twenty months after the Lagos State government unveiled 102 new waste collection trucks, and 100 bins to improve waste evacuation from homes and within the metropolis, as well as check the spread of illegal dumpsites, the situation has not manifestly improved.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu who said that the vehicles, comprising 30 12 Cubic Metre (m3) compactor trucks, 60, 24 m3 compactor trucks, 12 hook loaders, and 100 double dino bins were locally assembled, expressed confidence that the addition of the new assets to existing ones would quickly bring about visible improvements in waste evacuation and reduce the incidence of black spots that blight roads and clog drains.
According to him, the government is still determined to rewrite the narrative of waste management in the state, and people must act like responsible citizens at all times, as they cannot continue to litter the roads, or dump waste by the roadside/illegal dumpsites, or patronise cart-pushers for waste disposal.
But almost two years after the launch of the new assets, illegal dumpsites are still sprouting up while cart pushers who are collecting dirt from homes are experiencing a business boom.
The Guardian had, during the Sanwo-Olu-led administration’s first-anniversary ministerial press briefing inquired about steps being taken to stem the proliferation of unapproved dumpsites to which the Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tunji Bello, promised that the state government would not just close the unapproved dumpsites without having the required facilities to evacuate waste from homes.
According to him, once the state government procures additional waste collection trucks, which would be distributed across local councils, there would be no need to patronise cart pushers, who dispose of their wares in illegal junkyards.
But more than a year after the procurement of additional waste collection trucks, the number of illegal dumpsites is not just increasing, the cart pushers, who feed them are still very much active and growing.
At the unveiling of the trucks, the governor stressed that the residents cannot be irresponsible in waste disposal and be spared of its consequences.
However, residents claimed that patronage of cart pushers was a product of the inefficiency of the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA). In addition to this, is the state government’s failure to implement its law that kicked against the operation of unapproved dumpsites and cart pushers.
Section 63 (1) of the Lagos State Environmental Management and Protection Law 2017 makes it illegal to operate any waste collection, transportation, recycling, and disposal business without a license issued by an agent of the state government.
Despite this, unapproved dumpsites have been springing up in different parts of the state. From Orile to Ijora, Iddo, Mosalasi, Agboju, Oluti, Alakija, Abule-Ado, Berger Suya, Anthony, and Badia, there are spots with heaps of refuse dumped there mainly by cart pushers.
The law that made it illegal for cart pushers to collect waste and patronage of illegal dumpsites gave LAWMA the statutory responsibility to collect waste and dispose of them at designated landfills. LAWMA does this through its numerous Private Sector Participation (PSP) operators working across the state.
According to the Managing Director of Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) Ibrahim Odumboni, there are no fewer than 42 unapproved dumpsites in the Amuwo-Odofin area of the state. Odumboni, who spoke recently said that despite that cart pushers and illegal dumping of refuse being outlawed in the 2017 environmental law, the agency has witnessed an increase in the number of cart pushers over the years, resulting in a high number of illegal dumpsites all around.
“There is a big menace around Mile 2 to Iyana-Iba,” he stated, adding that other areas within the state with illegal dumpsites include Ikeja, Abule Egba, Oyingbo, Kantangua Market, Badore-Ajah, Mile 2, Iyana Iba, and a few others.
The Akinwunmi Ambode-led administration as part of efforts aimed at closing unapproved dumpsites in 2017 enacted the Environmental Management and Protection Law of Lagos State (2017) to consolidate all laws and regulations in the state applicable to the management and protection of the environment.
Aside from Section 63 (1) of the law, Section 81 also prohibits the collection and disposal of waste in a way that has an adverse effect on the environment.
“A person shall not treat, keep or dispose of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health,” an item on Section 81 states, adding that an N50,000 fine with two years imprisonment awaits persons who contravene the law.
Ironically, despite these provisions, cart pushers have continued to operate unabated in different parts of the state, with most of them emptying their carts in unapproved dumpsites thereby instigating environmental hazards with negative health implications.
In some of the junkyards, the outer part of the sites is usually a “recycling point”. This is because different recyclable items are separated and heaped at different locations there. It was learnt that at night, managers of these unapproved dumpsites burn whatever is left after recyclable items had been sorted from the waste collected during the day by the cart pushers.
In places like Anthony and Orile, aside from some of the waste being burnt, some are emptied into swampy spots within the area in an attempt at land reclamation. It was gathered that the cart pushers pay at least N500 to managers of these illegal landfills every time they make a trip there.
Surprisingly, while Lagos State law prohibits the activities of cart pushers and people who patronise them, some residents said that they prefer the outlawed cart pushers because of their affordability and accessibility.
“It is more convenient for me to acquire their services so that I don’t have to wait for two weeks before LAWMA operatives come to carry my waste. They (cart pushers) pass by every day and I decide when to dispose of my waste at a small price,” a resident, Tajudeen Ajao, said.
Another resident, Esther Kalu, said that even though there are no illegal dumpsites within her area, which is close to Ikosi-Ketu, cart pushers are being patronised heavily.
According to her, “It’s because the PSP trucks come late and the residents’ waste bin would have overflown.
“Also, some houses in the neighbourhood do not pay for PSP services, so, they have to resort to the use of cart pushers as an alternative to disposing of waste.”
For Lukman Balogun, who stays in Ikorodu, there are PSP operators that usually come to pick up waste, but because they don’t come on schedule, people resort to patronising cart pushers.
“However, some residents that are not willing to pay for the services of the PSP operators are those that are involved in indiscriminate dumping of waste in unapproved sites
“But the introduction of LAWMA security personnel at various identified illegal dumpsites, who operate day and night has reduced indiscriminate waste disposal drastically,” Balogun said.
According to Kemi Adetunji, a resident of Abule-Ado, there are a few cart pushers who roam the area to pick waste from homes just as some residents that do not patronise the PSP operators often burn their waste.
A resident of Aguda, Ogechi Okechukwu, said some persons within her locality often drop their dirt in the canal within the community.
For Tayo Ogunbanjo, there are no major illegal dumps within Ogba where she lives, even though some residents indiscriminately dump waste around.
According to her, many residents within her vicinity patronise LAWMA’s PSP. “We pay our fees individually, but a few others in the area still patronise cart pushers though they are very minimal compared to those who patronise the PSP operators.
“We still have residents who also throw their waste be roadsides late at night in violation of the law,” Ogunbanjo said.
Speaking on the matter, Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Gbenga Omotoso, maintained that it remains illegal for cart pushers and unapproved dumpsites to operate in the state.
“They are not supposed to be operating; if they have staged a comeback, I can assure you that the government will find a way of taking them out. Too many things have been attributed to their trade and it is not now that the government will embrace them.”
When the commissioner was informed about the specific locations where some illegal dumpsites thrive, he said: “Your observation may be right, but whatever those guys are doing is illegal and the government is going to go against them and make them face the law; that is, illegal dumpsites operators and cart pushers.”
Omotoso, however, recalled that some illegal dumpsite operators and cart pushers had been arrested in the past, as they cannot be using their business to disturb the peace of the state. “They are not going to be spared at all,” he insisted.