Anambra waste: Menace or money-maker?

As a growing child, most Nigerians speculated on the ways to turn trees to cash. We all dreamt that the big mango tree behind our building somehow shed naira notes instead of dried leaves. But obviously, one cannot turn trees to cash because trees are trees.  This same mentality was how we all looked at waste. When a product becomes waste, it is supposed to stay as it is – waste!

But, countries like China have crushed this mentality by turning waste to income booster. This is what should be done to the waste challenge in Anambra. Data from the Clean-up Nigeria initiative and United Nations Environment Programme in 2021, classified Anambra State as the 4th dirtiest State in Nigeria after Abia, Lagos, and Kogi states.

Considering the increasing awareness and advocacy for sustainable practices towards the environment, one can understand and maybe appreciate the focus of the Charles Soludo administration on environmental issues.

However, can we say the state government has done enough in mitigating the growing waste crisis? Can the government convert the 4th dirtiest state in Nigeria to a clean, green and sustainable state?

Will Anambra State be the next China and convert the problem into an opportunity? These are questions the state government will have to consider especially as this administration marks one year in office.

The imagination, they say, is derived from flashes of reality. Even with my eyes closed and my imagination on overdrive, I can never picture Anambra State as a clean state. The filth of the streets is too entrenched in my memory, thinking otherwise is like an unrealistic dream.

Through various reports, the world is paying attention to waste flashpoints in places such as Onitsha and Nnewi. But, the state’s capital is doing just as badly with waste management. In Ifite Awka, the residential area mostly populated with students from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, it is almost impossible to take a stroll without looking over one’s shoulders every two seconds. Since you are sharing the sidewalk with the incinerators and its overflowing waste, you have to be careful so that vehicles don’t kill you. The gutters are no longer used for the free water passage but for subsidiary incinerators. It is not known to Ndi Anambra that pouring waste into the gutters does not solve the problem. Rather, like an unwanted house rat that is not checked, it breeds more.

The waste management efforts of the state are poor. There is a laissez-faire attitude of Ndi Anambra to their environment. Indiscriminate dumping of refuse, public urination, burning of waste, and unconcern for the sanitation of the environment is a norm in the state. Crippled with the unawareness and irresponsibility of the people towards the environment and the non-payment of sanitation levies, one begins to wonder how the state is expected to implement waste management operations.

Fortunately, it seems that the state governor is not unaware of the problem. He made adequate reference to it in his manifesto. Lack of jobs, annual flooding, low fiscal capacity, increasing waste generation, and poor waste management were cited.

Since his inauguration, the state has had an intervention led by the deputy governor into the waste crisis. Also, recently, the state’s Executive Council inaugurated a committee on waste management. From that committee, a report was generated disclosing the state’s plans for waste management.

Although these plans are still just on paper, it is a step in the right direction. In this era, waste in a state is synonymous with untapped gold. It is just like having money under one’s bed that one cannot use because one does not have access. An example of potential income generation in the sector is the waste-to-energy conversion. This is the use of waste via tactics such as incineration, pyrolysis, gasification, etc, to generate energy. This particular strategy is receiving the world’s attention due to the increase in climate change awareness.

At the moment, the world is focusing on sustainable practices especially as it concerns the environment and the production of energy. Whether this is spurred by guilt from developed countries or genuine concern for the environment or warnings of global warming, Anambra State can leverage the current trend.

With intentional efforts, the state can benefit from numerous funding from private partners, development financial institutions, INGOs, and relevant funding bodies from the UN, AU, and even Nigeria environment intervention funds.

Waste to energy generation is not the only Gross Domestic Product booster in this case. Recycling plants, composting facilities, and landfill captures are also effective in this scenario. In Japan, recycling plants alone generate about one per cent of the country’s GDP. Since the state already generates tons of waste, it can also put it to proper use.

Change, they say, begins from the mindset. Thus, by educating the people of Anambra State, through awareness campaigns and programmes, about 50 per cent of the waste problems in the state will also be solved. Investing in waste management start-ups is also an effective way of doing this. This will create job opportunities for the youth while ensuring a return on investment from both private and government bodies.

  • Dumebi Ezekeke is a student at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Anambra State

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