At an interactive session with a group of editors penultimate week, the Lagos state Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, had warned that the two major dumpsites in Lagos are time bombs waiting to explode.
Not long after this, exactly the weekend following Ambode’s warning and in far away Ethiopia, disaster struck as a major dumpsite in the outskirt of the country’s capital city of Addis Ababa, gave in to a massive landslide which left 60 pe0ple dead on the first night of the incident. At the moment, the death toll has risen to over one hundred with more counting.
The Ethiopian dumpsite called Koshe meaning dust because of its dusty impact on the environment, has reportedly been in existence for many decades accommodating and servicing the increasing waste disposal needs of Addis Ababa and its environs.
Like the Koshe dumpsite, the Olusosun and Igando dumpsites, are also surrounded by many residential homes with hundreds of people in Lagos besieging them daily for survival. Unlike Koshe however, more than triple the size of residents live around Olusosun and Igando dumpsites and equal that size if not more depends on the two Lagos dumpsites for making ends meet.
Beyond this, the two Lagos dumpsites are also notorious for heavy stench which are offensive to the neigbouring communities as well as hundreds of people whose livelihood depend on them.
Recent developments show that the nauseating odour also affects industry and commerce depending on the direction of the wind.
There are also reports of serious negative health implications emanating from activities at the two dumpsites. At least once a month, Magodo, Ketu, Ojota, Oregun and Alausa communities are covered in thick black smoke billowing particularly from the Olusosun dumpsite.
Governor Ambode attested much to this in his interaction with the media.
“I enter Lagos from Ibadan and the first thing I see on the right side is a dumpsite. Should I sit down and continue to watch? The answer is no. The city is very dirty. It is not healthy and our total well-being is defined by our health status and our productivity but the health status has been diminished by the state of what we have. Now, the first identification of this dream is that government must provide the infrastructure to make the city clean”
The governor confessed being a dreamer with a vision and wants Lagosians to dream along with him.
“I have been given the opportunity to process something and improve on it. That is the singular opportunity that this office bestows on me and I don’t want to misuse it. I have lived in this city for over 50 years. What i see is wrong, I don’t like it and i want to change it”
That change is what has currently birthed the Cleaner Lagos Initiative whose major thrust is addressing the landfill problem in Lagos. The government through this measure, plans to frontally attack the colossal environmental problems in the state but first it must reform the existing environmental laws to pave way for the needed change.
“So, government now thought of going frontally to face the issue of refuse to reduce public expenditure in those other sectors, and the first step was a review of the laws to make them investor-friendly so as to allow Public Private Partnership in the business of collecting refuse not only in Ikoyi but also in Ayobo.
“We have consolidated all our environmental laws. What this new law is trying to achieve is that we can invite private sector investment in the collection of refuse. What you have in Igando and Olusosun are not landfill sites, they are dumpsites. Land-fill sites are clinically engineered and treated but what you have in Olusosun and Igando are bombs waiting to explode and we cannot allow that to continue.”
The saddest part of the Ethiopian landslide, was that the disaster occurred in the middle of ongoing reforms in the Addis Ababa environment with plans of relocating communities around Koshe dumpsite and make way for its conversion into an energy production factory.
"It's a sad story because the government has been trying to resettle the people residing in the area.
“The government had also been building a factory to convert waste products at the landfill into energy,”said Ethiopia’s Communications Minister, Negeri Lencho.
But for the Lagos government under Ambode, the only way to prevent the deadly Ethiopian experience, is to give the Clean Lagos Initiative the needed support in all its ramifications for a resounding success that will take the state to the next level.
“Where we are going in Lagos is where there will not be dump sites any longer. For example, in Sweden today, there is no single dump site. It was zero dumpsite in Sweden, while China buys waste from other countries. Israel is also coming up with new technology in waste management and Lagos cannot be an exemption.”