Solomon Elusoji and Ugo Aliogo who visited a beach along Lagos Island on World Environment Day, write about how everyone can contribute to the planet’s survival
 
On World Environment Day, this June, about five hundred children left their various classrooms and gathered at Kids Beach Garden, a sustainable beach in Lagos Island. Together, they planted 201 trees, cleaned up the shoreline and played a variety of games.
“We wanted them to connect with nature,” the Founder of Kids Beach Garden, Ms. Doyinsola Ogunye told THISDAY. “When the children gathered and were planting their trees, it was so memorable because that’s the connection I would always love to see.”
Doyinsola is a fervent environmentalist. She started Kids Beach Garden after realising kids were losing touch with nature. “I grew up going to Bar Beach,” she said, “but I realised that in Lagos, today, there are not so many places that children can actually play and have a good time; so many houses don’t even have a potted plant and children are very dissociated from nature; that saddened me. So I decided to reach out to people who could help me do something about that. I wrote to Paragon Holdings; they own the real estate and they gave me a license to start my nature activities.”
Ever since starting the Kids Beach Garden, she has come across more evidence to back her theory that more needs to be done to teach children about their environment. “There was a time a child came here and she saw a cow and she was crying. Some children are even scared of grasshoppers and dragonflies.”
In 2015, she started Kids Beach Garden, teaching school children the art of beach cleaning, planting coconut trees, and lecturing them on environmental issues like coastal erosion. “The best thing is to catch them in their formative years, so that they understand these things and pass it on to generations unborn,” she said.
The World Environment Day event was one of the Kids Beach Garden’s activities with school children and it was supported by Visionscape, an environmental utility company. “Funding has been a challenge, but more importantly, it is the fact that a lot of people do not understand the reason why we should actually do these things, they don’t understand that without nature we are nothing,” Doyinsola, a lawyer who was called to the bar in 2012, said.
Connecting with nature
For those who pay attention to reports from the scientific world, it is no more news that planet earth is sinking into oblivion, constantly clubbed in the face by the devious actions of carbon emitting, wasteful homo-sapiens. Recently, the United States pulled out of the Paris Agreement, a deal that was famously declared as the contract that was going to save the homo species from extinction by reducing the rate of carbon emissions and pursuing a greener climate.
In 1974, the United Nations, aware of the need to protect and improve on the environment, designated June 5 as World Environment Day. According to the diplomatic body’s website, “the celebration of this day provides us with an opportunity to broaden the basis for an enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals, enterprises and communities in preserving and enhancing the environment.”
Each World Environment Day is organised around a theme that focuses attention on a particularly pressing environmental concern. The theme for 2017 was ‘Connecting People to Nature’ and it “urges us to get outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and to think about how we are part of nature and how intimately we depend on it. It challenges us to find fun and exciting ways to experience and cherish this vital relationship.”
Although the host country for the World Environment Day, this year, was Canada, the celebration was marked across the world, including in Nigeria.
“The state of the environment is determined by the choices we make, which will make a significant difference if we all did something, and the World Environment Day is geared towards bringing these issues to the fore,” the Chief Executive Officer of Visionscape, John Irvine, said. “Developing countries seem to be waking up to environmental issues and climate change, and it is time to put Nigeria on the map as we push towards greener societies.”
Visionscape, which partnered with Kids Beach Gardens to mark the World Environment Day on Lagos Island, is one of few agile companies attempting to maximise mankind’s ability to safeguard the environment from industrial hazard, through the promotion of turnkey solutions in areas of sanitation, energy and wastewater treatment. The company is especially focused on implementing an “integrated waste management system that maximises the unique opportunity of generating sustainable and renewable energy resources, while making a positive impact that is beneficial to our customers, the communities we serve, and the environment.” Recently, Visionscape signed an agreement with the Lagos State Government, the administrator of one of the most populated cities in the world, to help manage its waste.
The cleaner Lagos initiative
Lagos is one of 26 megacities in the world. Largely due to a population surge caused by mass immigration and rising per capita income, the amount of waste generated in the city grows exponentially. While exact figures are unavailable, the current level of waste is colossal. With a population of about 22 million, vigorous levels of economic activities and consumption, it is estimated that approximately 13,000 tons of waste is generated daily.
Until recently, the state did not have a sustainable waste management plan. But the present administration is attempting to change the state’s notorious waste problem.
 
“As much progress as we have made in Lagos State in the areas of economic development, security, improved infrastructure and other achievements, many will agree that we are lagging in one area and that is environmental pollution and cleanliness,” the state governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, said recently. “We must acknowledge the environmental degradation that plagues the state and the urgent need for a world class comprehensive waste management system that addresses this crucial quality of life issue.”
The governor went on to launch the Cleaner Lagos Initiative (CLI), a move which he described as “a holistic approach to address the inefficiencies in our current system and identify, develop and implement concepts and solutions that address the challenges we face with unsafe sources of water, food and energy, climate change, air pollution, improper waste management practices, and our debilitating utilities infrastructure.”
Under the CLI, according to Ambode, the commercial sector will be serviced by licensed waste management operators while an environmental consortium will provide waste collection, processing and disposal services for residential properties through a long-term concession. Over the concession period, the consortium will be deploying a large multidimensional fleet of over 20 landfill and transfer loading station management vehicles, 590 new rear-end loader compactors, 140 Operational vehicles and close to 900,000 new bins to all be electronically tracked and monitored by a new government unit, Public Utilities Monitoring Assurance Unit (PUMAU), which is under the Ministry of Environment.
The consortium will also be expected to run a 24-hour operation at the transfer loading stations and the landfills which will undoubtedly address many of the operational challenges previously experienced.
The environmental consortium selected by the Lagos State Government was Visionscape, after they reached an agreement earlier in the year.
Speaking at the World Environment Day event held on Lagos Island, Head, Corporate Communications, Visionscape, Motunrayo Elias, noted that the agreement, which is to last for 10 years, would see the company introduce “a complete integrated waste management system in the state.”
 “The principle of waste management in the developed world is that the least amount of waste should end up in the landfill; this means you should reuse, reduce and recycle. And that’s the sort of system we are bringing in to Lagos,” she said. “We want to open up the value chain and let people understand that there needs to be a rethinking about waste management.”
The company is also set to deploy Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology on its bins, which will be distributed across individual homes in the state.
“The RFID tech will feed us with information on the level of waste in each bins and let us know when to deploy trucks to empty them,” Elias said. “We are looking for ways to make waste management more efficient. What we have been doing for the past 18 months or so is getting to know Lagos properly.
 “I think it is safe to say we have touched all corners of Lagos now, engaging with the people and the community, knowing what people’s needs are,” she said. “We have planned our operations down to ward level, since that is the lowest level of community governance in Lagos. We have made considerations for literally every streets in Lagos; there are some streets in Lagos Island you can’t even drive a bus into, talk less of a truck; for such kinds of streets, we will make available nimble tricycles. We have mapped out black spots, places where people are fond of dumping waste; we have identified over 200 of those. In a couple of week, we will start to clean up those spots for the next three months; and then we will start to place bins in individual homes.”
Saving the world
On many levels, the partnership between the Lagos State Government and Visionscape is a valuable one. According to one interesting statistic from Worldwatch Institute, a globally focused environmental research organisation based in Washington D.C., billions of plastic bags are made each year. Of these bags, one hundred billion are thrown away, with less than one percent finding their way into a recycle bin. The end result of this is, around one billion birds and mammals dying each year by the ingestion of plastic.
So, it is high time governments across Nigeria emulate the port city and pilot initiatives that place premium on securing the integrity of the environment. This is an idea Doyinsola believes in. “My father likes to call me a Senior Advocate of Nigeria,” she said, “but I tell him I am a Senior Advocate of Nature. I always tell people that the environment will survive without human beings, but we cannot survive without the environment. So we are not doing the environment a favour by taking good care of it.”

Her evangelism for a greener world has led her to put people she knows behind prison bars, after they mutilated her plants. “Everything in nature has value and there are legal consequences for such acts, globally,” she points out, “People have to know that the environment is for all of us and everybody should come out to take care of it.”