Lagos, Nigeria’s economic powerhouse boasts numerous successes in providing public services that set a standard for the nation.
However, the state is falling behind when it comes to the critical issue of drainage maintenance.
The reasons behind this issue appear to be twofold: a lack of public awareness among Lagosians and a concerning absence of a proactive maintenance culture within the government.
Littering, particularly in the streets and drainage systems, is a pervasive problem in Lagos, transcending class and education distinctions.
Persistent Littering and Ineffective Drainage Management
To compound the issue, drainage maintenance stands out as an area where the state government appears to be least effective.
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While other government agencies, such as the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), have made notable strides in their respective domains, drainage management remains a persistent challenge.
These agencies have been successful in managing traffic and handling garbage, but when it comes to drainage, there is a noticeable shortfall in effectiveness.
The History of LAWMA’s evolution
The history of LAWMA’s evolution illustrates the agency’s diverse responsibilities.
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Established in 1977 as the Lagos State Refuse Disposal Board (LSRDB) during the preparations for the Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ’77), it was evident that the two local government councils at the time could not manage the waste generated by the booming economy and the influx of people into the capital city.
Over time, its role expanded to include industrial-commercial waste collection, drain clearing, and disposal of derelict vehicles.
However, despite its extensive mandate, LAWMA’s performance in drainage management within Lagos leaves much to be desired.
The city’s drainages remain clogged with plastic waste and mud, reflecting a lack of consciousness among LAWMA staff to keep them clean.
Ironically, there have been instances where LAWMA personnel have been seen sweeping sand into the drainage system, exacerbating the problem.
Consequences and Solutions
In the past, efforts were made to address this issue through initiatives like the Lagos Drain Ducks, aimed at year-round drainage clearing and maintenance.
Yet, drainage systems continue to be plagued by mud and plastic waste. When authorities do attempt to clear the drains, the mud and debris are often piled up on roads for weeks or even months, eventually finding their way back into the drainage system due to a lack of proper disposal mechanisms.
The consequences of this poor drainage maintenance extend far beyond cosmetics. During the rainy season, Lagos frequently grapples with severe flooding, causing streets to resemble rivers and resulting in inundated homes and disrupted daily life.
In addition to the inconvenience, such flooding inflicts substantial economic losses as businesses are forced to close, and infrastructure sustains damage.
Furthermore, stagnant water in poorly maintained drainages becomes a breeding ground for diseases, particularly mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria.
The absence of adequate waste management and drainage maintenance also contributes to the spread of waterborne diseases, disproportionately affecting vulnerable communities.
The economic repercussions are profound. Frequent flooding disrupts transportation networks, leading to delays in the movement of goods and people.
Small businesses, often located in flood-prone areas, suffer losses, while farmers experience crop damage.
The long-term economic impact is significant, eroding investor confidence and hampering sustainable economic growth.
The infrastructure also bears the brunt of this neglect. Drainage systems, roads, bridges, and buildings all suffer as the constant exposure to water weakens their foundations, necessitating costly repairs and maintenance. Inefficient drainage systems contribute to erosion, further compromising infrastructure.
Beyond the urban environment, the consequences extend to the natural world.
Pollution from untreated wastewater and garbage harms aquatic ecosystems and marine life, endangering the biodiversity of Lagos’ coastal areas.
Addressing the poor drainage maintenance issue is not just a matter of aesthetics but one of public health, economic sustainability, and environmental stewardship.
The way forward
To tackle this problem, a few crucial steps are required.
Firstly, the focus should be on improving the management of the existing drainage systems. Clearing Lagos’ gutters and maintaining a smooth water passage should be a priority.
A dedicated agency similar to LAWMA but specifically tasked with drainage clearing and maintenance should be established.
This agency should be well-equipped to ensure that cleared debris is properly evacuated, preventing it from re-entering the drainage system.
Additionally, the government should consider tapping into the vast pool of unemployed young people to bolster manpower for drainage maintenance.
This initiative not only addresses youth unemployment but also ensures a cleaner and more sustainable Lagos.
Furthermore, engaging local communities in drainage maintenance, including waste removal and regular cleaning, fosters a sense of ownership and reduces the burden on municipal authorities.
The poor maintenance of drainages in Lagos poses a significant threat to the city’s well-being and economic growth.
Both the government and citizens must recognize the urgency of this issue and work collaboratively to implement effective solutions.
Only by addressing the root causes and adopting a comprehensive approach can Lagos hope to mitigate the risks posed by its neglected drainage systems and build a more resilient and livable city.