Ajegunle residents face health risk as water pollution rises
By Kelechukwu Iruoma
On a breezy Friday morning in Ajegunle, nestled in the outskirt of Lagos, Samuel David, 34, woke to see his plank house surrounded by unhealthy water and accompanied by a putrid smell coming from a canal.
David, a tall dark man, alongside two other men in their early 40s, were peeling skins of pineapple and pawpaw fruits, which they sell to be used to make a concoction, to cure people of various sicknesses.
David said since he had been living in Ajegunle, he had never experienced such before.
“I woke at about 6:00 am to prepare to go to my stand where I collect money from residents crossing our constructed bridge to Apapa when I saw water with refuse from the canal surround my house”, said David.
David who speaks fluent English is an unemployed graduate who collects money at the entrance of a constructed plank bridge built for residents to navigate to the other side of the canal. Near the canal are also two primary schools funded by Dream from the Slum, a Non Governmental Organization that takes out of school children back to school. The kids learn in the dirty and unhealthy environment.
Ajegunle, located in Ajeromi-Ifelodun local government area of Lagos, is one of the largest slums in Lagos. It is a neighbourhood located in the heart of Lagos, Nigeria, with an estimated population of 555,000. It is regarded as one of the notorious slums in Nigeria. Ajegunle to Lagos Islands, one of the islands in the city is about 13 km.
David said the water is polluted as a result of refuse being dumped in the canal and residents are not helping in putting a stop to the air pollution which makes residents and visitors uncomfortable. “As a result of the inability of the landlords to construct good toilets, residents use planks to construct toilets and bathrooms at the edge of the canal and faeces enters directly to the canal which exacerbates the smell,” he said.
The number of constructed plank toilets ranges from 400-500 and there is no soakaway where the faeces can be directed to. The toilet pipes of houses in the area are connected to the canal. There is a market called Tolu, near the canal. Market men and women use the canal as a dumping site. Residents wake in the morning to discover dirt in the water.
David said: “Sometimes, we use to see Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) in the area to inspect and ensure that refuse is not dumped in the canal. When LAWMA leaves, at night, they will still dump refuse at the canal.”
Some of the residents who leave close to the canal try to use canoes and rakes to bring out the refuse, but the canoes end up being seized by the refuse. “Normally we used to rake the place but with the water and refuse being together, it is not rake-able,” said Comfort Ogar, who owns one of the plank-built primary schools near the riverside.
The dirty water surrounding houses near the canal does not come often. Residents say people are blocking the water somewhere on the Island. No space for the water to move. Ogar said: “Normally, we experience it three times in a year. But between December last year and now (March), we have experienced it five times.” Many who live in the area are people of water but due to the polluted water, residents find the place uncomfortable to dwell.
Pollution from the canal kills fishes in the water
David said when he was a little child; there were fishes in the water. But now because of the dirt, chemical and industrial pollution caused by Coca-Cola Company, the water bodies have all gone. The company is located at Boundary, a suburb in Ajegunle. The waste goes directly to the canal.
“Some of our fathers who were fishermen around here then went to the extent of suing the company for destroying their business. Many of us who live here, our fathers came here as fishermen.” David said.
When the pollution started, many of the fishermen and women were driven out of business and some of them left the area to seek daily bread when they could no longer fish. The canal becomes useless. David said that many youths and children in the area fall sick due to pollution and some died in the process of struggling for survival.
Access to decent, safe water and sanitation remains a major challenge across Africa. Up to 80% of illness in developing countries is caused by poor water or sanitation. That is an astounding number that very few people appreciate.
In Nigeria alone, over 130 million people don’t have safe sanitation, resulting in the deaths of over 25,000 children annually from easily preventable causes such as diarrhoea,” says Haji Mohamed Dawjee, Programme Manager for impactAFRICA.
Lagos state population growth
Lagos state is the commercial hub of Nigeria. Nigerians believe it is a city where they can easily make ends meet; where they can be successful financially and economically. According to Nigeria Census Commission, the population of Lagos is 21 million, making it the second largest in Nigeria after Kano and the seventh largest in Africa.
Lagos is overpopulated and daily, Nigerians from different states relocate to Lagos. There is a belief about Lagos. Nigerians believe that if they go to Lagos, they must be successful; that is why those who go to Lagos go to slums like Ajegunle to dwell until they can afford to get an apartment on the island.
According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), Lagos is the fastest-growing city in the world, with a growth of 85 people per hour. Quoting a development report by the UK Guardian, WEF says in its review of 2015, the population growth of Lagos is faster than that of London and New York put together, with the two cities growing at a rate of 9 and 10 people per hour.
Earlier in 2015, London reached a record 8.6 million inhabitants, while Lagos grossed over 20 million inhabitants in the same year. Delhi, India and Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, trail directly behind Nigeria’s commercial capital, with a population growth of 79 and 74 people per hour, respectively.
The Commissioner, Lagos State Ministry of Environment, Dr. Babatunde Adejare in his reaction ordered more LAWMA officials to the area to savage the situation. He said the state government would ensure that environmental issues in Lagos state are taken care of.
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