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TACKLING THE WASTEWATER MENACE
Wastewater should be treated and properly channelled
The increasing volumes of wastewater that pour daily from Nigerian homes into open drains or into roads are making people sick and causing avoidable deaths from dysentery, diarrhea, and cholera, particularly among infants. Ordinarily, wastewater should systematically be channeled into safe treatment plants. But many of the sewage treatment plants built by federal and state governments have either broken down or are ill-maintained, creating so much discomfort and illness in many residential estates across the country.
In many of the residential areas in major cities, the stench from the human/faecal waste in the mix of brown water envelopes the air, cutting off the oxygen, causing respiratory problems and lung diseases. To worsen matters, federal and most state governments do not seem to care much about the need to maintain the wastewater treatment plants they installed at strategic locations. For instance, Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, and a few other states and the FCT have a mix of state-own and federal government-built wastewater/effluent treatment plants and they all have a common challenge in the lack of maintenance.
Lagos State, which has a huge population that is concentrated on a small piece of land, hemmed between the Atlantic Ocean and a Lagoon, is the worst hit because the air in most places stinks like it is from a sewer. Residents still practice open defecation and use pit latrines on the outskirts and in other areas within the inner city where they channel their faecal waste into open drains. Meanwhile, in many of the residential areas in the state, drinking water pipes are channeled through open drainages that are clogged with fecal waste, and laced with other sewage.
More disturbing is that even when faecal waste is evacuated from septic tank/soakaway pit systems in homes, as it should be done, some unscrupulous vendors discharge them surreptitiously in either open drains or into the Lagos Lagoon at night. The wastewater hardly gets to the central sewage treatment plants built by the government in Abesan, Oke-Afa, Amuwo-Odofin and Iponri Low-Cost Housing Estates, as well as the Secretariat, Alausa. These central sewage plants are being managed by the Lagos State Wastewater Management Office (LSWMO). Unfortunately, this agency does not have enough capacity to treat the wastewater it estimates at 2.21 million cubic metres generated daily by millions of people. The sewage includes faecal waste from toilets, bathrooms, urinals, kitchens, among others.
About two weeks ago, there were reports that residents of Abesan Low-Cost Housing Estate, Ipaja, in the Mosan-Okunola Local Council Development Area, of Lagos State, have for months been inundated by strong stench from the wastewater treatment plant in their community that has not been in operation or maintained in years. The strong smell has lingered for so long that residents are almost forgetting it exists. Meanwhile, officials in the facility still accept wastewater from vendors who are apparently unmindful of the fact that the facility is out of operation.
The situation is not different in many of the states across the country and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja where challenges include absence of domestic sewage management regulation/policies and treatment plants as well as inadequate staffing. It is not enough to have waste management agencies for the sewage disposal, as many states do, what is important is to build the requisite capacity for executing their mandate.
As things stand, the federal government and authorities in the 36 states must rise to the challenge of getting these wastewater treatment facilities to work better. Discharging raw waste into rivers and drains that seep down to the aquifer from which most homes draw their drinking water through wells is dangerous to the health of our country.