Fasawe: Lagos State Will Reduce Burning of Fossil Fuel

Fasawe: Lagos State Will Reduce Burning of Fossil Fuel

The General Manager, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), Dr. Adedolapo Fasawe, speaks about the commitment of Lagos State government to promote Clean Air initiative, Trash for Cash, and Switch to Gas initiative, among other plans. Ugo Aliogo brings the excerpts.

What is the latest development about the Eko for Clean Air, Trash for Cash and of course, the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu switch to gas initiative. Can you shed light on these three innovative projects?

At the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), we focus on the three P’s: the People the Planets, and Profitability, and I’m adding another S which stands for Sustainability. Whatever we are doing, we try to examine if it is good for the people. If it is good for the planet in terms of global warming, climate change, pollution, degradation, and if it is profitable. We do this because we can spend a billion of dollars to clean the Atlantic Ocean when people are hungry. So, all those three P’s must be met before we proceed.
So, I will start with a call for clean air. Lots of people are ignorant of the fact that air pollution causes death and the health impacts of air pollution is not known. But for most people out there, they are ignorant. A study done by World Bank in 2020, in Lagos, shows that 65 percent of deaths were premature and it was caused by air pollution. From that 65 percent almost 70 were children below the age of five, and it goes without saying that you strap your child on the back, and you are frying beans cake (Akara) or selling commodities.

There is something called particulate matter in the air. Our lungs can only filter oxygen, and our lungs is made for oxygen clean air. When there is air pollution, then we are troubling the lungs. So Eko for Clean air in that case considered the a call for clean air for the people.
Now the planet itself. When we look at the issues of global warming and climate change, it comes back to affect us, it comes back to hunt us. With global warming you will see that at sometimes we have incredibly hot temperature, for instance in dry season, it starts raining, while in rainy season, it becomes hot. When all of that start to happen, there is flood, and the planet is complaining, when we throw plastics into the drainage and our drainage channels are blocked, and it goes back into the water. It will come back to us. That is for the planet. In terms of air, the air is life not only for human beings, also for life underwater. There is a particular sustainable development goal, I think it is goal 17 that focuses on life underwater. So Eko for clean air is touching on all of that.

Talking about profitability, the single thing we want to achieve is reducing or stopping the burning of fossil fuel, such as cooking with firewood, and burning your waste. It is illegal in Lagos State to burn your wastes. It is illegal there is a fine for it. There is even imprisonment time for it. So how do we now start to let people know all these things I have spoken about? We need advocacy, education, and information. But the most important part is communication. I realized that mostly in government we talk at people, we don’t get feedback. So, with Eko for clean air, we want to get feedback. Right now, we are doing a study on knowledge, attitudes and practices of a certain area of Eti-osa in collaboration with a donor to the agency, IHS towers, and what we discovered is that it calls for urgent intervention and Eko for clean air is about educating people, finding problems and mitigating those problems.

There is the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA), and Ministry of Environment. But we all have one goal which is to keep and sustain the environment. But what LASEPA is doing is called trash for cash. Now, back to the people, and my three Ps. We want people to start understanding that there is nothing called waste. Some of these wastes is somebody’s raw material. I was at a factory in Denmark where they use urine to manufacture beer and when you think about it, it seems disgusting. But urine really comes from our human body. They just remove the excess then use the water, and some of human wastes to make beer.
On the other side, faecal waste is very good for fertilizer, and improving your soil quality. That is just a basic understanding of the fact that somebody’s waste is somebody else’s raw materials. Now considering plastics, I would like to state here that things that are valuable you don’t see them littering the street. Why do we see plastic bottles all the time littering our sea shores. Lagos is a coastal city. So, whenever there is rain, the rain water brings out all the assaults and pollution and leave it there, just walk across the shores from Eko Atlantic all the way to Oniru, and Ajah anytime it rains, there is a plastic trail all over.

There are a few recyclers around. Thankfully, Lagos State Waste Management Agency has a registry and they are getting more people coming up every day recycling plastics, so this cash for trash is a joint initiative, and we are mapping out areas where it will be expedient for recyclers to have their base for example markets, food courts, and areas with many restaurants let us have recyclers. So, they are not clustered in one place and the end point of cash for trash is what will mop up the current plastics on the streets of Lagos. And the sustainability plan is people will continue to scavenge for plastic, for trash for cash.

Recently, the Nigeria Bottling Company (NBC) donated 200 multiple-use bottles as part of efforts to tackle plastic pollution. What is the plan of the agency to effectively utilize these 200 multiple-use bottles to tackle plastic pollution in all the LGAs?

Okay, before Coca Cola donated 200 bottles, we had made about 1000 bottles for all our staff. And if you look around this agency, there are water dispensers all around because pet bottles and single use plastics are banned. Coca Cola has supported us we with those flasks and more than that they have also supported us in ensuring that we get bottled drinks in our canteen. So, they sell liquid content only. We recycle the bottles and that is what I am doing to ensure that it goes around.

What about partnering with stakeholders?

The stakeholders really will be the bottling, manufacturing companies such as, Feabhra and LASEPA. I have many touchpoints. As a matter of fact, we were expecting funding from feabhra to help with our advocacy on proper disposal of the products. Feabhra is made up of a lot of all the bottling companies Coca Cola, Nestle, and Heineken all of them as long as you do plastics. Last thing I know. They come together, put money together and join the state government in fighting pollution.

There is something called extended producers’ responsibility. The stakeholders, they have a responsibility to ensure that their products do not cause pollution and menace. If you look at a bottle of Coke or Nestle water closely at the back. There is a small dustbin that says depose of this responsibly. So, we are going to talk more about extended producers’ responsibility. They also have a role to play in helping us tackle plastic pollution. Also, the consumer (you and I) everyone that drinks out of a plastic bottle, there is opportunity for recycling, and reuse. Also, we want people to reduce the amount of plastics they use, because it’s not biodegradable. Every single plastic that was ever manufactured is still somewhere in the air and that is not benefitting the ozone layer for those that burn and melted or is under the water.

What are the challenges you have faced in your effort to promote a
cleaner and environmentally friendly Lagos, and what measure have you put in place to mitigate such challenges?

The truth as we all know is that change is very difficult. But I will take you on a journey back on to history. There was a time in this country, we didn’t have traffic light, let alone obeying traffic lights, and when they even brought it people were not obeying it. At a time in this country, nobody wore seatbelts. There was a lot of education, advocacy and enforcement by Federal Road Corp (FRSC), which meant that the issue was taken seriously. Now it is a rule that when you enter your car, you insert your seatbelt. So, we have met a lot of resistance along the way. But with time people started to understand that it is for their own good.
The challenges I have had is that for example, we caught someone selling a white tortoise, which is almost extinct especially in the United Kingdom and other developed countries. Ideally, if you catch such creature, what is expected of you is to throw them back into the ocean. The individual who caught the white Tortoise didn’t understand he had committed any offense. That is also due to challenge of lack of knowledge. People are not aware of the penalty. People think global warming and climate change are so futuristic or a white man’s business. No, it is not. We are suffering from it whenever there are flash floods. So, when we educate the people, the resistance starts to dwindle. But, yes, we have faced a lot of challenges, but it is due to lack of awareness and that is why advocacy is the key policy of this agency.

Are Lagosians environmentally-friendly?

I would say Yes that Lagosians are environmentally friendly especially for those who know. When Lagos becomes better than many cities in Nigeria, you would not see like trash or human or animal remains on the streets of Lagos as it used to be in the past anymore.
Lagos is doing its best and in the current administration, the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu actually picked out environment as an important pillar. He put health and environment together. Without a good environment, there would not be good healthcare delivery. And that to me shows political will, a vision and a mission. So, yes, Lagos is doing well in terms of keeping the environment protected.

In December 2021 LASEPA, in collaboration with National Agency For Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) neutralised and destroyed 260,000 litres of codeine-containing syrup. Beyond these destructions, what are the results of the several campaigns?
First of all, LASEPA has an agency which protects the environment and everything within the environment. I spoke about life on the water. There is a process called effluent treatment and we have a laboratory. The codeine-containing syrup was not destroyed so that nobody will take it or abuse it. It was destroyed because if you discharge it into our water bodies, it can harm the fishes and unbalance the ecosystem. So, at our effluent treatment plant, we neutralize and then release the chemicals to go. As for what we are doing it is called the menace, and it is the responsibility of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control, (NAFDAC), the Ministry of Health, the Nigeria Police Force, and The Nigeria Army, to work on drug abuse.

There is so much correlation between environment and drug abuse. But the most we can do is ensure that toxic and dangerous chemicals that have been seized from those that are abused them are not indiscriminately or non-environmentally friendly, disposed of because such activities release dangerous chemicals into the air. However, that is not being practiced anymore. So that is why NAFDAC would bring the codeine containing syrup here for us to neutralize it with the effluent treatment machine, and they pay for it. Then we neutralize it, make it as good as water and then it discharges into the system.

Your agency recently took noise pollution campaign to schools and the event was held simultaneously in 20 Local Government Areas in the state. What was the outcome of the campaign?

Well, there was a study that showed that children who learn in a noisy area tend to have lower IQ and poor grades, than children who learn in a quiet area. So, the essence of that campaign was to help both the students and teachers understand the danger of noise pollution.

We wanted them to carry the message home to their parents and avoid noise pollution. During one of our advocacy campaigns, one of our advocates showed us a particular lady named Ronke, an event planner who went deaf because of prolonged noise pollution.
The Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency recently partnered with the World Bank, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and Lagos Computerised Vehicle Inspection Service to tackle vehicular emissions in the state. Can you share the progress report?
In 2011, we had an air quality management, which is a World Bank executed projects, whereby we just wanted to get baseline data of air quality in Lagos State and we measured the data, then we correlated it to the health impacts, and realized that the more polluted an area is, the more people living in that area, visit the hospital for treatment of various diseases. That is what we did with World Bank. What we now need to do is move a step further, preventing that pollution and teach these people that if they are exposed to pollution, this is what they would get. We are also looking at a system whereby we would be able to give real time online data on what the air in Lagos State looks like.

The manufacturing sector is one of the sectors your agency works with. How far have you fared in the issue of regulation and control of players in this sector. So, ensure that the activities do not affect the environment in which they operates. What minimum standard to the agency sets for these players in line with proper handling of hazardous chemicals?
We regulate Manufacturers Association (MAN). The association has been cooperative with us because we have our sets guidelines depending on what you are manufacturing. Also, we give directives to MAN to ensure that their trade effluence (waste) is not indiscriminately poured into the water. So, we ensure that those that deal with liquids and solids, for example, have an effluent treatment plant. We embark on monitoring to ensure that players in the sector meet minimum standards or bear the brunt of the law for non-compliance.

We seal down the factories that didn’t comply. We get them to repair or purchase or even relocate totally from that spot, if they cannot find a solution to the pollution they are causing, but largely MAN has been cooperative in paying of statutory taxes about development charges. They are probably the biggest association that supports the government’s in paying environmental development charges and in terms of them complying with the set down rules and regulation, we deal mostly not with industries directly, we deal with MAN itself, and MAN disseminates information downwards. For the recalcitrant offenders, we have been known to seal down factories for months, we have relocated some and we were still in court with a couple of others. So, it is mixed blessings some how.

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