By Bolaji Israel
The city of Lagos, with its ever-increasing population and bustling economic activities, faces significant environmental challenges.
With the ever-growing influx of people from all over the country into Lagos daily in search for greener pasture, coupled with the volume of businesses, manufacturing, trading activities and human movements around the state, it is understandable that its environmental challenges would be humongous and multidimensional.
Dirty markets, littered streets, blocked drainages due to indiscriminate waste disposal and plastic wastes and homeless miscreants squatting all around the state bridges, would readily have been the disgusting optics in the absence of proactive management and control.
However, the state government, particularly the current administration, is sparing no efforts in its renewed bid to safeguard the environment and ensure a clean and healthy city for residents to live and thrive.
Lagos, which has a population of over 20 million is projected to hit 32.6 million by 2050, and over 80 million by 2100, according to Global Cities Institute at the University of Toronto.
As the state evolves into a full-scale modern city befitting of its status, the government cannot afford to do less or rest on its oars. In fact, all residents and stakeholders must join hands with in the fight to maintain a conducive environment critical for sustainable living.
Just recently, in a bold move to halt further environmental violation in the area, the Lagos State Government dislodged scores of illegal squatters and miscreants residing under Ijora Bridge.
The commissioner for the Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tokunbo Wahab had reiterated that the exercise was aimed at addressing issues of gross environmental abuse, perpetrated by the illegal squatters, adding that the government would leave no stone unturned in restoring sanity to the environment across the metropolis.
At the core of the campaign for a clean and healthy environment is Lagos Waste Management Authority, LAWMA, the government agency which plays a crucial role in both the proactive and daily management of environmental issues in the state, as well as enforcements against recalcitrant violators through its enforcement team.
Earlier in January, residents woke up to the cheering news of a total ban on the usage and distribution of styrofoam packs and other single use plastics by the government.
The decision had followed the menace which the single use plastics, especially the non-biodegradable styrofoam was causing on the environment, as most drainage channels in the state are daily clogged, with a larger chunk of littering across major roads and markets attributed to same Styrofoam, despite the regular cleaning and evacuation of the drains with humongous resources.
Furthermore, Oke-Afa, Isolo and Katangua Markets, in the Abule Egba area, were also sealed in January for violating waste disposal regulations and for sundry unhygienic practices, constituting grave environmental infractions.
Wahab had charged that; “The government has not jettisoned its zero tolerance for waste and the only way for markets and traders, is to engage in decent and civilised waste disposal practices as outlined by the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) as any market or facility that runs foul will face sanctions”.
Last November, the government reopened the Mushin main market, Ojuwoye, Awolowo, Irepodun and Daleko markets in the densely populated Mushin area of the state, after the traders made amends to correct widespread environmental infractions, including indiscriminate waste dumping.
Mile 12 international, Owode Onirin and Oyingbo markets were all also not spared last October as they were all sealed but reopened only after complying with environmental standards as stipulated by the government.
Similarly, an Environmental Special Offences Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, last November handed down fines and community service penalties, to over 100 environmental offenders, found guilty of indiscriminate waste disposal, across the state.
The presiding magistrate underscored the gravity of the offences and impact on the environment, subsequently imposing a fine of ₦30,000 on each offender, with an option of six hours of community service, in designated areas like the General Hospital, Odan, and Tinubu Market in Lagos Island.
Beyond shutting markets and punishing violators, dialogue, awareness and other engagements, have also been well explored by the government and its core environmental agencies especially LAWMA.
Determined to instil a positive environmental consciousness in the younger generation, the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), last November, went on a sensitisation mission to pupils of Otto Primary School, Otto, Lagos Mainland, on proper waste management, with emphasis on recycling, as a source of personal revenue.
The Managing Director/CEO of LAWMA, Dr. Muyiwa Gbadegesin, who led the team, addressed the pupils on the importance of proper waste management, noting that the exercise was part of the Authority’s environmental sustainability initiatives, to instill responsible waste management practices in children.
He said; “I am glad to be among you all today. In LAWMA you mean so much to us and that is why we have deemed it fit to visit your school first, being the closest to us here in Otto. Diseases like malaria, diarrhoea and the like, thrive in environments that are unkempt and polluted with activities like littering, reckless waste dumping, and open defecation and so on. To avoid all of these, it behoves you to do what is right by disposing of your waste properly into the waste bins’’, he stressed.
As the 3-week moratorium before the enforcement of total ban on styrofoam packs endures, LAWMA has held a consultative meeting with the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), where it discussed ways of implementing sustainable waste management strategies, in view of the latest developments.
Addressing the stakeholders, managing director/CEO of LAWMA, Dr. Muyiwa Gbadegesin reiterated the Authority’s commitment to the Lagos State Government’s T.H.E.M.E.S Plus agenda, stressing that the state government had to ban Styrofoam to protect the environment and safeguard public health.
Gbadegesin, said the Authority would continue to place premium on establishing a cleaner and healthier environment, promising to continue to identify and address environmental challenges across the state, and to work tirelessly, to make Lagos a cleaner, more sustainable city.
On the overall, the government’s holistic approach signals a responsible, coordinated and proactive leadership in the state, helping to assure of conducive environment for all and sundry and preventing environmental disasters caused by poor hygiene and related habits.
No serious government should allow actions that can jeopardise citizens health and safety, and the state government has shown through its continued actions, that it could walk the talk and would not hesitate to take decisive measures to protect the environment and safeguard lives and properties of over 22 million residents.