Enugu city dwellers are so dirty ‘can barely breathe’
Enugu State was once one of the neatest in Nigeria, but increased migration to the state and poor state government planning have left it with a huge headache of waste disposal that is both an aesthetic nuisance and a continuing source of health hazards, writes JOSEPH ADEIYEwho spent a week in the state.
A pleasant trip to the metropolis of Enugu is bound to be abruptly interrupted by overturned bags of rubbish. The dirty problem of sanitation has remained with a state that was once considered one of the neatest in Nigeria.
In fact, Enugu was neat until mismanagement spoiled many of its corners. Now the Enugu people, including a tribe that considers filth abominable, have had to complain endlessly about poor waste management.
‘ENUGU SO DIRTY WE CAN BARELY BREATHE’
We would be confronted with the sacrilege of hygiene on many occasions. No matter where you went, you were greeted by the smells of spoiled food and fruit seeping from earthen boxes.
“Enugu is so dirty you can barely breathe” Amazing-Grace Ajayi once complained in a Facebook post in March.
A number of areas in Enugu have exhibited sickening horrors. Public spaces have become rubbish. The streets were often dominated by dumpsters overflowing with rubbish, with small pieces of paper and plastic tossed onto the road by the afternoon wind. Apart from the state house and some government offices, the bins were insufficient for the abundance of rubbish dumped at various locations around Enugu.
Benjamin Emefili, a resident, told FIJ that Enugu has seen significant population growth over the past few years. He thinks that the increase in the number of inhabitants has also increased the waste by a few metric tons.
“More people have come to live in Enugu in the last five years or so,” he said. “Suddenly the waste got too big and we started seeing litter everywhere. I don’t know why the waste management agency didn’t do anything to fix the mess, though. It’s getting dirtier and dirtier for almost five years now.
In 2017, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, state governor, sworn to make ‘drastic changes’ if the Enugu State Waste Management Agency (ESWAMA) fails to stem the increasing dirt on Enugu’s roads. It has also set up a working group to assist ESWAMA in its functions.
Five years later, Enugu remains as dirty as ever. Trucks are struggling to cope with the daily load of waste they have to gobble up. Messy heaps keep reappearing along major roads every waking day.
KEEP ENUGU CLEAN AND EARN ₦50 MILLION
Enugu was so dirty in 2019 that famed artist Ruggedman backed an organized promotion for environmental sanitation. Fifty million naira was up for grabs as the people of Enugu were encouraged to keep their surroundings clean.
“You should all get involved. Tell your neighbor to say his until everyone is involved. @MrEnebechi is not the government, it does not own Enugu State, it is just a private citizen who wants you and me to stay healthy by keeping our environments clean,” Ruggedman tweeted.
Dozens of videos and images have appeared for the Enugu Trash Challenge. Garbage wasn’t too hard to find in Enugu. The people of Enugu tried to keep their town clean; the problem is its elimination.
Disposal of solid waste has had a negative impact on health in particular. The New Artisan Market tragedy of 2021 is proof of that.
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INSIDE THE DIRTY NEW ARTISAN MARKET
Lack of sanitation is estimated to cause 432,000 deaths from diarrhea each year. In 2021, around 20 Enugu residents joined the statistics of sanitation-related deaths.
Emmanuel Ikechukwu Obi, Enugu State Health Commissioner, confirmed an outbreak of cholera in the New Artisan Livestock Market on July 17, 2021. The cholera outbreak has claimed at least 14 lives and infected more than 20 other people.
At the New Artisan Cattle Market, a dirty canal large enough to be mistaken for a creek stretched under an overhead bridge and flowed past the market. The cattle stood on the hill on the other side of the market. Just down the slope of the hill on which the cows, goats and rams were herded was this filthy canal. The canal carried garbage, solid waste and poop through its characteristic brown waters.
From the vantage point of the cattle hill, three men were visible: one was washing skin while the other two appeared to be rinsing rags in the same channel. They were actually using the canal as a stream!
THIS DIRTY WATER FOR BATHING, WASHING!
“We have no other water to use,” Sanni Umar told IFJ.
The canal that looks like a small river alongside the market is surrounded by enough rubbish for a landfill. It was a dump.
“We sell here at the New Artisan Market. People use this water for bathing and bathing. Some people also come to collect water for building constructions,” he said.
“We have to give water in sachets to drink; some people buy for these tankers in buckets for N50. People were sick last year; it’s because the whole place is dirty. There is no drilling in this market. There is no water; it is this dirty water that we use. If you want to drink water, you have to pay for it.
A few traders admitted they were on their own. There was no governmental or authoritarian intervention in sight.
Those who desperately needed water gauged the dirty water from the stream for their personal use. No one would dare to consume this water, but laundry and washing are chores the canal is sometimes used for.
KEEP GARBAGE INSIDE AND OUT OF SIGHT
The recurring theme of piles of trash springing up on street corners highlights the very obvious challenge of dumping trash. There are fewer dumpsters and trash cans on the streets than necessary. ESWAMA shall keep rubbish properly stored in dumpsters pending the time it awaits disposal. More bins, dumpsters and bins are urgently needed around Enugu to keep rubbish out of sight.
Researchers Bernard Okpe and Chika Ogbuthe have suggested that Enugu should address waste management by recycling and reusing waste.
They acknowledged ESWAMA’s ineffective approaches and recommended the mobilization of more manpower for the agency.
“Funding and providing the necessary waste management tools and equipment will go a long way in getting dirt off the streets,” they said in their 2016 publication for the IMT International Journal of the Arts and Sciences (IJOTAS ).
“The government must publicize its strict environmental policies and punish violators after providing the necessary public waste disposal facilities.”
When the IFJ contacted ESWAMA for comment on the state’s dirtiness levels, it did not respond to repeated email messages and direct messages on social media. His most recent Facebook post was in December 2018 (the only post in 2018), proving that communication is not the agency’s forte.
This survey has been published with development support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA)