Sesan Odukoya is the incoming National Chairman of the Nigerian Institution of Environmental Engineers (NIEE), a sub-division of the Nigerian Society of Engineers. In this interview with DAYO AYEYEMI, he speaks on how the government can partner the association in proffering practical solutions to various environmental challenges confronting Nigerian cities.
What is the Nigerian Institution of Environmental Engineers (NIEE) all about?
The association is all about bringing engineering solutions to environmental problems. At the last Annual General Meeting (AGM), we considered something which I presented about tyres littering the environment in urban centres. We see them being dumped everywhere in Lagos. These waste tyres don’t decompose and people don’t do anything with them. At the last AGM, I came up with a paper on how to resolve the issue of used tyres in Nigeria.
I talked about coming up with an engineering solution to make waste tyres go through pyrolysis; you shred them and bring out some useful resources from them. Most of the time what we call waste are resources. They are not a waste. They can be recycled. From that presentation, we learned that waste tyres can be used as floor tiles, for construction of roads and drainages because they are Polymenthene materials; they don’t decompose. They can be used to construct bridges. All we need to do is to allow them to go through processes.
Asides from waste tyres, we have issues of water pollution and air pollution, among others. Engineering solutions are about how to ensure that air quality is improved and access to potable water is guaranteed, we need to ensure the conversion of waste to wealth.
There are solutions that environmental engineers need to provide and do the needful. Right now we are talking about waste. All wastes are resources, they are not waste if we can look for engineering solutions, provide and design equipment that can be used to turn them into useful materials.
What is your plan now that you are the Chairman of the Nigerian Institution of Environmental Engineers?
One of my plans as incoming national chairman is to carry on the activities of the last regime where I was the vice chairman.
We are thinking of providing funds to start the manufacturing of prototypes of equipment to turn waste to useful resources. We can fabricate locally. We will design them and come up with something good. We are going to partner the government to provide solutions to environmental problems. We have flood problems everywhere, this can be resolved.
How do you resolve the flood problem?
As environmental engineers, we have solutions. We have discovered that when people want to do infrastructure, they don’t study the terrain. They build along the channels of flood prone areas. Lagos is a low-lying state; there are areas you cannot build. There is no way you build in some locations that you won’t expect flood to enter your house. We are ready as an institution to work with the government to illustrate these problems. The state has peculiar problems. One of them is refuse. If we can remove refuse from our drains, the flooding problem will be reduced. If we remove pet bottles in our drains, we would have solved the flooding problem in Lagos.
In the eastern part of the country, the terrain of the soil gives a room for land sliding. Once you build along the flood plain, you are impeding the flow of water, flood will happen, houses will be flooded. These are things we have seen as an institution and we are working with all stakeholders in bringing out other societies of engineers and the government in providing solutions.
Can you state one practical solution you are coming out with?
In the past, one of our members invented a sweeping machine – sweeper. We want to ensure we have local solutions that solve environmental challenges. On flooding, we want the government to work with professionals who have solutions, who are experienced in that field to proffer solutions to flood issues. If we don’t allow waste to get into our drains, we will have less flooding problems. If I know that I don’t need to throw pet bottles in the drains, that I can use it to pay for my waste, you won’t see them in the drains. Pet bottles can be used to provide soap, hankers, shoe rags, tissue papers, etc. We need to sort our waste. Government needs to work with professionals, to educate the people and bring solutions to waste problems. We are ready to work with the government to develop infrastructure to convert waste to useful materials. We have enough environmental laws in Nigeria, we only need enforcement.