Published On: Thu, Jul 30th, 2015

Olusosun: Beyond a dumpsite

Toyin komolafe
What will welcome anyone to the Olusosun-Ojota environ of Lagos State is the offensive stench that permeates the air; the dumpsite has become a terrible sight for already sore eyes.
Sitting on a massive 100-acre landfill, the site which has been rated as the largest in Africa and one of the largest in the world receives up to 10,000 tons of refuse daily. It has also been revealed that waste from something close to 500 container ships is diverted to the site on a daily basis.
However, a visit to the landfill reveals that it is not just a dumpsite; it is a beehive of economic activities. For many who transact business at the site, the garbage dump is the place that guarantees their daily livelihood. The government-owned refuse bunker is now controlled by illegal scavengers who have formed a straggly association that has become a platform for thousands of people to earn a living.
As simple as scavenging may appear, in Olusosun, a newcomer cannot gain access to waste from the site, without showing loyalty in cash, kind and any other means to the dynasties that reign and rule over the site. These dynasties have formed small territories, with shanty houses built from rust-coated aluminum sheets, wood and other waste materials gotten from the site.
One of such people is “Mallam” who has his manufacturing company right at the site. A passer-by or casual onlooker wouldn’t guess the task he was up when he rolls a tyre down the dirt camp. The larger percentage of the resources used to produce the knives he sells comes from the compost heap.
  He skillfully tears a tire into smooth tiny pieces which he wraps around metal and attaches the rubber into the ferrous piece with tiny nails.
He is not the only person who runs this type of business from Olusosun dirt yard. Hundreds, if not thousands of scavengers rely on Olusosun for their daily manna. Two women were also seen in search of items, especially those they could sell directly. Although, they didn’t disclose their names, they said they had come to pick used clothes immediately the trucks offload the wastes. A further chat with them revealed that they had informants who tell them about the kind of wastes on ground, some people on the site even have them sorted, only for them to pick up the ones they need.
It would amaze one that the wastes gotten aren’t only to be recycled as one would have thought; a thorough investigation reveals that there are wastes which are directly resold back into the market to the detriment to buyers. Such are used clothing items and newspapers, the newspapers are sold to roadside food vendors who use it to wrap roasted corn, yam amongst others to unsuspecting customers.
Beyond the dumpsite, beyond the financial gratification, these people that make money from the dump yard rarely pause to think of the environmental and health implications of their dwellings and trade.  Unfortunately most of those who scavenge at the site are uneducated or only modestly schooled and tend to be oblivious of the series of health hazards that they subject themselves to by their activities; a large number of them live lives of supposedly ‘blissful’ ignorance.
The environmental impact of siting such a dump in the heart of a city has far reaching negative consequences. Established literature indicates that water borne diseases such as typhoid, dysentery, fatigue and cholera are amongst the ailments mostly suffered by inhabitants within the vicinity of the dumpsite. According to a report by the Indian Journal of Innovations and Development, groundwater quality was investigated around the dumpsite, by collecting nineteen representative water samples from sixteen wells and three boreholes, The result obtained reveals pollution of groundwater in the area.
Nnimmo Bassey, one of Africa’s leading advocates and campaigners for environment and board chairman Friends of the Earth Nigeria reveals
that  “leachates in the groundwater is bound to occur in such environ. What we have in our cities are not dumpsites, they are just holes where
refuse are dumped.
“A dumpsite has to be properly engineered and constructed with waterproof linen. These dumpsites constitute a serious threat to our groundwater. Dumpsites are very heavy polluting sources to the groundwater, soil and air.”

Uloma Okoro, an environmental advocate said scavengers shouldn’t even be allowed on the site, as Government owned agencies should be fully in charge of such activities.
“To the best of my knowledge the activities of the scavengers are illegal, and it needs to be curtailed. You don’t even know where they are taking the wastes gotten from the site to, they don’t even know the conditions of the items. The fact that they don’t even use protective poses a big threat to their health.
“LAWMA, the agency in charge of waste has more work to be done in this regard,” she said.
Dr Odubanjo, a public health expert also shares the same view “When wastes degrade, gasses are emitted, as a result of bacteria that are degenerating which emit heat and this in turn produce offensive odour”
Studies have also revealed that about 20% of scavengers who work on the site have hepatitis B. Dr Odubanjo also confirms this. “People excrete viruses and theses scavengers are exposed to it. They are exposed to several harmful stuffs including blood products, and medical wastes. Something can prick them and they wouldn’t even know what it is, and where it is coming from,” he said.
He added that the health hazard isn’t limited to the scavengers who have direct activities on the site alone, but they could also be carriers of diseases which they could spread to others in their environment.
“Some of the scavengers can contact diseases and transmit it to people living in the environment. Those living in the environment inhale these gases and because the odour is offensive, many of them are left with no option but to close their windows cutting off ventilation which in turn endangers their lives. Don’t even forget that some of these scavengers in crowded rooms, making it easy for them to spread diseases.”
It was therefore recommended that the Lagos State Government of Nigeria should urgently provide an alternative source of water supply towards meeting the immediate water needs of inhabitants of the area, while adopting a pragmatic approach to remediate the problem. This will go a long way in reducing the prevalence of waterborne diseases around Olusosun dumpsite
For residents of that axis, Olusosun has become a necessary evil that they have to live with, as they cannot move their offices from the place. Officials of LAGBUS who share the same fence as Olusosun have been forced to live with the smell.

Olusosun, a place where government intended to keep dirt away from the streets and people has become a menace. With urbanisation and the fast pace of development in the state, Olusosun which was once at the outskirt of Lagos skirt has gradually moved its way into heart of Lagos, this shows that the site has long outlived its purpose.
Odubanjo advised the state government to explore other alternatives to disposing waste, for instance incinerating the wastes.
“There should be more awareness as regards wastes disposal and on how people can recycle wastes. If you check some containers, you will see that some can be recycled.
“These wastes can be used for more beneficial purposes. Government should think beyond waste, they should think energy. ”

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