Dr Babatunde Adejare is the Lagos State Commissioner for Environment. He speaks with DOYIN ADEOYE on the ministry’s ongoing projects and waste management activities in the densely populated state, among other issues.
You said recently that the governor has ordered that all markets should be fenced to curb the menace constituted by street trading. It has been about three months now and work has not really commenced on that. What is the situation now?
This is not something that can be done at once, because first, we must have the buy-in of those in the market and we are trying to do that. This is because this government is basically people inclusive. And besides, the fencing, we are also going to ensure that the markets are better organised, where all the stalls will be categorised according to what they sell.
We don’t want traders on our roads anymore as some of them are losing their lives prematurely because vehicles can run into them. But that can be averted once they are in the market. So we are going to see that local governments encourage the market to be well organised.
Many parts of the state are flood prone. What is the ministry doing about this?
This is a coastal state and we are very conscious of that. So every year, we are prepared for any eventuality that may arise from the fact that we are a coastal area. We have over 200 primary canals in the state, while there are hundreds of thousands of secondary and tertiary canals. So these canals help to take water from all our settlements into the lagoon. So what we do each time is to have a pre-rainy season rehabilitation of those canals as we have strategically mapped them out.
Also, we do a post-rain approach, which we are starting any moment from now. We also do a lot of advocacy, telling people to stop dumping refuse into the canals, and we also advise them to move away from wetlands when the rain is getting too much.
We also painfully take away all structures that are in the right of way of our canals. We have zero tolerance for that because most of these structures don’t have approved plan and they often affect our access to the canals.
You recently expressed dissatisfaction over the state of sanitation in Agiliti area. What is your next line of action on this?
As regards Agiliti, we have awarded the project and work has started. Our plan is to open up the canal again, because the reason flood will continue to occur in such areas because the canal has been blocked by the people. So His Excellency has given us the permission to award that contract and they are working.
But the most interesting part of that is that we are reforming the management of solid waste in Lagos. And that reformation will allow us to have a better way of collecting, dumping and sorting the waste. We are going to have better sanitary landfill sites; we are going to sell the waste to countries that burn it to get power. We are also going to go into agreement with companies that can burn waste to generate power ourselves. So there won’t be a chance for the misuse that is happening now.
As part of this reformation, we will ensure that there are lot of refuse skips all over the state and they will all be tracked. We are also going to employ over 25,000 sweepers that will sweep on daily basis most part of Lagos, if not all. These sweepers will be working within their ward of residence so that whatever they earn, which will be above the minimum wage of this country, will be sufficient for them. Many of these changes should start beginning from the first quarter of next year.
With many industries and cars around, how is the state keying into the global focus of cutting down gas emissions?
We are going to do a lot about the monitoring aspect of it, as a company has already been given the permission to bring in equipment to measure the emission rates of vehicles. So there will be regular testing of vehicles at the ministry of transportation to measure the emission rate. If a car’s rate is observed to be higher than normal, then the owner will be asked to fix whatever is necessary in the car. And if it is unfixable, then the car can’t be used.
And most importantly, we have planted several millions of trees in the state, which is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to mitigate against climate change effects. Trees help to take away carbon from the atmosphere while they give oxygen. So we need more of it around and that is why the state has adopted the tree planting approach. We have planted about seven million trees, and we will be planting about one million annually.
There have been a lot of complains as regards Private Sector Partnership (PSP) in terms of waste collection. Like I said, we are reforming solid waste management in the state. And with that, the present PSP will be diverted to another aspect of waste collection, which will be in commercial areas, public institutions, market, schools and the likes. So we are offering opportunity to some big time players in the field to go after the domestic waste collection. So it won’t just be about collecting waste, but also about managing solid waste in totality. There will be new compartments around such that over the next two to three years, there will be about 3,000 compartments on our roads.
So they won’t just dump these refuse at landfill sites, but will also take them to material recovery facilities where they will be sorted for recycling, and then sold to companies that will use them to manufacture other things. From there, some will also be taken to places where they will be burned to generate electricity, and the remaining part of it will then go to engineered sanitary landfill sites.
So waste will now be managed holistically in the state.
Former governor, Babatunde Fashola, during his administration said that the next step for the state is to generate electricity from waste. How close is the state to achieving this?
I can assure you that we are very close. Let us keep our fingers crossed as we are seriously working towards ensuring that.