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Population And Waste Infrastructure Needs



According to the World Economic Forum, in 1960, the only city in sub-Saharan Africa with a population of over 1 million people was Johannesburg; 10 years later, there were four, and by 2010 that number had sky-rocketed to 33 cities. While urbanisation is generally seen as progressive and leads to a higher standard of living, it comes with its attending challenges.

Higher purchasing powers and the social pressure to display prosperity through acquisition, are two common factors that have led to increase in consumption. Higher consumption levels in these cities have equally led to higher waste generation.

A case in point is Lagos, the commercial heartbeat of Nigeria. The state receives an inflow of 85 people per hour, according to the WEF report, and is today estimated to host over 24 million residents; over three million people more than in 2015. The population explosion quickly became apparent in the number of litter black spots, illegal dumpsites, and bad odour, as waste became a problem that the State struggled to manage.

The past administrations have tried to address the municipal problem with several forms of intervention programs and policies. In 2011, the Fashola administration upgraded the waste management agency of the State – Lagos Waste Management Agency – with the appointment of Mr. Ola Oresanya. The agency improved the regulation of waste collectors and the commissioning of three transfer loading stations (TLS) within the State. This led to visible improvements in the collection of residential waste across the State, however only effective as short-term plans, because the State required working infrastructure to manage disposal, and work towards resource recovery.

Also unaddressed was the problem of the overflowing unsanitary landfills across Lagos State. The biggest of these is the Olusosun landfill, recognised across the world as the largest landfill in Africa and one of the largest in the world. The landfill sits in the middle of the State, behind a major car park and on the airport route. The landfill has led to economic losses in tourism, and more importantly in environmental sustainability and healthcare. In March 2018, waste decomposition and the presence of hazardous materials led to a methane gas explosion that destroyed several vehicles and became a health threat to residents in the area. The incident underscored the urgency for infrastructure upgrades in the State. It also highlighted the key reason for the decisions taken by the government to introduce the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI) as a new waste management reform in the state.

The CLI is a holistic plan to address all aspects of the waste management process, from collection to disposal and resource recovery. Under the CLI, Visionscape Sanitation Solutions won the bid to develop and manage the core of the waste management infrastructure. Taking concession of an existing, but lesser used, landfill at the outskirt of the State, the company has begun the construction of the first engineered sanitary landfill in West Africa. The landfill will be situated within a larger 88-hectare Ecopark in Epe, a town in the north-western part of the state.

The construction of the landfill is in its early stage, with excavation, bioremediation, transportation and refilling of previously buried waste, currently in process. A well-equipped control centre and weighbridge has also been completed, to ensure that waste collection and disposal are monitored for data gathering and for use in future planning. The facilities within the premises will include a materials recovery facility (MRF), engineered landfill cells, wastewater and leachate treatment plants, recycling facilities, waste-to-energy plant, as well as a designed green area, and more. The engineered landfill will be the first of several to be built in different parts of the State, in order to meet the needs of the burgeoning population.

– Oyewusi wrote in from Lagos.