There is a growing awareness and awakening brewing in the consciousness of Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State with regards to the disposal of waste and refuse in his state especially in the commercial city of Onitsha. A while ago Governor Obi during his visit to Onitsha to inspect the drainage system promised to work with the legislature to enact laws for the regulation and disposal of trash and solid waste. The governor observed that occupants and inhabitants of Onitsha continue to dump trash into the gutters after the trash were removed.

Governor Peter Obi from his perspective was disappointed with the people that were dumping trash into the drainage system and therefore believed that making laws will solve the problem. Obi failed to understand that the people do not have a place to safely dispose the generated trash therefore they resorted to littering and dumping wastes at the most convenient place which happened to be the storm water conveyance and gutters. To make laws is a good thing but it should be the secondary development; for efficient and concerted collection and disposal of refuse should precede enacting of laws and regulations.

To achieve a neat ambience with the ditches and gutters free of littering and debris, a comprehensive solid waste collection and disposal must be in place. The total and elaborate collection, disposal and the importantly recycling must be efficiently planned and implemented. The collection and disposal of solid waste is not a reluctant and once in a while venture. It is a continuous process that involves the citizenry participation and administration supervision. One cannot expect the people to store garbage in their houses when there is no provision of disposal public trash containers and dumpsters for them to dispose the accumulated refuse.

The governor appears to be in a hurry to fix a problem that cannot be solved with laws without first of all doing the right thing by setting up a modern infrastructure and technical-know-how to combat the problem of littering and trash disposal. The primary action needed to be taken by the governor is to make sure that trashes are collect frequently at a stipulated interval with greatest priority to environmentally safe disposal of the waste.

"Trash receptacles will be strategically placed to ensure that the public is given ample opportunity to dispose of litter. Messages will be stenciled on the trash barrels to enlighten the public on how to properly dispose of litter. This will help to ensure that trash is removed before runoff; wind or birds move it to the drainage channel. Trash containers are to be emptied at a minimum of once a week. All collected trash and debris will to be hauled to an approved landfill by licensed solid waste disposal vehicles. Vehicles used to haul the debris shall have a sealed bottom to prevent leaks or seepage, and the trash materials shall be covered while the load is in transit. All personnel will be instructed the correct procedure for trash disposal."

Onitsha for a start must have a modern landfill and storage area that will consist of a major recycling process and procedure to minimize the quantity of waste to be stored subsequently in a landfill. A well managed landfill will guarantee that citizens of Onitsha in particular and Anambra State in general will not dump their waste in the drainage conveyance and gutters. A functioning landfill is needed in Onitsha in order to curtail littering, if not closed the chapter of debris and refuse exposure to storm water and storm drains. Awareness and education must be apparent as the building blocks of safe environment and efficient solid waste disposal in Anambra State and Nigeria. The citizens must understand the significance of clean environment, which is to enhance the health well being of the people and to eliminate both air and water borne diseases.

Governor Obi and Anambra State legislators can enact all the environmental laws they desire but without infrastructures, best management practice and environmental awareness the laws will not make any difference.

Emeka Chiakwelu is the Principal Policy Strategist at Afripol. [email protected]

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