April 20, 2024

Unilagsun

Serving the university community

Onike-Iwaya residents lament illegal waste disposal in Lagoon Canals

By Abiola Ogunleye, Moyosore Oluwa, Marvis Ucheoma, Oladapo Soladoye, Ololade Yussuf, Nkem Obiegbu, Olayemi Arekemase, Jude Adiefe, Olumide Oloruntoba and Temilade Jacob

Residents of Onike-Iwaya and its environs have lamented the illegal waste disposal methods that have plagued the Lagoon Canals that run through their area.

They decried this after interviews with UNILAGSun about the waste disposal methods of residents along the canal and the effects on the environment.

The dirty canal waters next to the big trees behind UNILAG ISL

The Lagos state environmental sanitation law has made it illegal for anybody to dump indiscriminately any domestic, industrial or commercial waste along highways, roads, channels, gorges and vacant land. However, there still seems to be an uprising and continual trend of waste disposal leading to an increase in cases of  Cholera, Dysentery and flooding in many parts of the state.

This report covers the stories of the residents and business owners around the canal and their experience with illegal waste disposal and its effect on their daily lives.

Residents lament: the canal is always full”

Describing the situation as a tough and unpleasant one, a group of women who live on Abule-Oja Street lamented the effects of the dirty waters on their health and child hygiene. 

One of them, Mariam, said, “The canal is always full. It crosses over the pavement, and this area is always flooded when it rains. Secondly, it isn’t evacuated properly. It should be evacuated and dumped in the sea so the water won’t disturb us anymore. But that isn’t done so whenever it rains, it is always full.

It enters into all the houses in this area. Even the houses further along the road, it enters there. Even after 3 hours of rainfall, it is still flooded. It gets to everywhere in this area.

The flooding that results from poor waste disposal methods into the canal has even led some residents like Sade and Mariam to vacate their homes during the rainy season. Sade narrated the coping strategy during the last June rains, 

‘When it rains heavily, some people vacate their homes. Some leave for a week without returning home. The water enters here. We are used to it. Some people pour out water from their houses through the window. People are still packing out water from their rooms in a week. The beds and foams of those people are soaked that they can’t use them. A lot of things are being thrown away when the rain falls.”

Dense vegetation behind UNILAG ISL with refuse-filled floor 

In addition, the dirty canal waters coupled with the vegetation surrounding the back fence of the International School, UNILAG have created a breeding ground for mosquitoes in the area. 

“See this bad tree at the back of UNILAG, mosquitoes bite us because of it and those mosquitoes are too much. if you come to this place after seven in the night you can’t stand like this. Everybody leaves this place because the mosquitoes cover them up.

The Onike-Iwaya landlord association have also tried to mitigate the effects of the canal by constructing a pavement to draw back the waters in the case of flooding.

The Onike culvert solution by the landlord association to reduce flooding 

Speaking with some men in the area, they said, “we are trying to have a solution to that side. The culvert that we moulded there is so that the water won’t enter the street. The culvert would block it so that water won’t enter into the street. It would go straight down. And once the canal has come down, the water will also go down too.

Mariam however added that it was not a lasting solution for heavy rains. “Yes, they did a gutter in the canal side. But if the water has reached the top of the gutter, water comes into the street.”

Flooded gutters from the canal; aftermath of a previous day’s drizzle

Business owners lament: “…Many Nigerians are not law-abiding”

For business owners situated next to the Canal like Christiana who sells turkey and spaghetti next to the university’s second gate and Hammed (real name withheld), a lottery agent behind the Mountain of Fire and Miracles International headquarters, the residents play a contributing part to the stagnant state of the canal.

The Iwaya canal view from inside UNILAG’s second gate

Christiana revealed that residents were prone to dumping their waste into the canal whenever it rained. ” I have noticed that when it rains, people that live around pour their refuse into the canal.”

Some people defecate in the canal and it isn’t good for my type of business as I am a food seller.” She added, decrying the negative health hazards the dirty canal poses for her business.

Hammed shared that although he wasn’t a resident, the dirty canal affects his shop which is located about 10 metres from the canal. “I don’t stay around but I do business here and I am coping. However, when it rains heavily, the water in the canal doesn’t flow freely and it floods my shop area.”

Further questioning revealed that the bulk of the waste from the canal flowed from other areas of the state that the canal passed through. The canal which begins from Shomolu-Bariga passes through several other locations including Fola Agoro, Federal College of Education, Technical, Bajulaiye, Abule-Ijesha and the University of Lagos’ first and second gates.

Hammed noted that Onike-Iwaya residents were not solely responsible for the state of the canal but that it was an after-effect of waste flowing from these other areas.

“Those living around here are not responsible for polluting the canal. The refuse in the canal flows from other canals. So those that live in those other areas are the ones majorly responsible for polluting the canal. Also, even if those that stay around here dispose of refuse in this canal, it wouldn’t be as much as it currently is. It would be better if  a net can be placed over the canal to stop trash from other canals into this one.” 

The lottery agent further suggested stationing sanitary officers at various points of the canal to check illegal refuse dumping. “Someone would need to be stationed here to punish people that dispose of refuse in the canal. For now, anybody can do anything at any time. If someone wants to dispose of refuse in the canal I personally can’t tell them not to because it is not my father’s land. There’s only little I can do and I can only protect my shop area.”

The LAWMA truck after picking up waste in Iwaya 1

Reporters sighted a LAWMA truck leaving the area after picking up waste but could not get a chance to interview the LAWMA officials. 

Christiana also pleaded with the Lagos State waste disposal trucks to be more frequent in the area as this will discourage indiscriminate dumping.

She added that residents and business owners around the canal always partook of the weekly Thursday environmental sanitation exercise imposed by the state government but noted sadly that even though there are laws guiding waste disposal in Nigeria, “Nigeria is too bad and many Nigerians are not law-abiding. “

Who takes the blame?

While they agree that illegal dumping of refuse contributes to the state of the canal, residents claim that the canal is small and needs to be widened to accommodate the waters that have expanded over the years.

“They should help us pack this canal as it is not deep enough. The other side of the canal where there is no water is blocked. There is no water there again, it is only sand you are seeing. They said when they (the government) enter, they will pack this canal, but we have not seen them. 

“It is not dirty oh, water flows in. Even water from Bariga and Shomolu flows down here. It is not the dirt that blocks the water. The water flows away likewise the dirt, but the canal (is) full. Sand has filled up the canal which is why the water overflows. Assuming it is very deep, it won’t be overflowing quickly.”Mr Tobi, one of the residents explained.

The women also pleaded with the university authorities to reduce the foliage in the hopes that it will mitigate the mosquitoes caused by the canal. “These trees are too much, they should have mercy on us and help us cut down these trees.”

A landlord in the area, Mr. Kazeem (not real name) described the topography of the land as marshy and responsible for the stagnant waters. He also added that contributing waste from other canals did not help matters.

“This place you are standing is a lagoon area. Whenever rain falls it is a lagoon. This place from inception its foundation sand. It is a sandy land. The solution to that, I don’t know. Maybe the canal will be dug deeper because the canal and the gutter are at the same level and with that, there is nothing that can be done, it will keep flooding houses. “

They however maintained strongly that they did not contribute waste to the canal. Mr Tobi, a landlord in the area insisted, saying, “We don’t pour dirt here. It is not pouring of dirt that causes water flows into the house. The water including Somolu and Bariga water passes through the ditch created in the canal is much and that water passes this channel into the lagoon.

Regular household activities going on around the canal

“If the canal water is filled up to the gutter level, the water overflows into the street and the canal is not deep. We don’t pour dirt into the canal, we give refuse to LAWMA. They collect money monthly from us. We don’t know those that dump their refuse in the canal. The ways water flows into here is plenty. Whenever it rains you will see different types of disposable plates.”

The Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) is the body in charge of the collection, transportation and disposal of local and industrial waste as well as the provision of alternative environmentally friendly means of waste disposal.

Furthermore, the residents pleaded with members of the press and the mass media to intensify efforts to enlighten the general public about the existence of the laws regarding waste disposal and the negative resultant effects on the environment.

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