The battle to save our drainages and make our environment habitable is an ongoing one as far as the Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment, Dr. Babatunde Adejare, is concerned. He is willing to fight with the last drop of his blood to make this dream a reality.  The energy he exudes when on the field with his team during the monthly environmental sanitation days is infectious. His dream is, “Our drainages must flow freely to avoid flooding.”

One out of the many problems bugging our environment and calling for urgent attention is the drainage system. Taking a cursory look at drainages all across Lagos communities, ‘unhealthy’ is the word to tag it. This ranges from the canals to the gutters, amongst others.

Moreover, the importance of drainage systems in our society cannot be overemphasized. In fact, they serve as key auxiliaries in controlling one of nature’s great elements – water.  Water in itself could come in two forms- either controlled or uncontrolled.  The controlled is the deliberate release of liquid by man into the drainages, while the uncontrolled has its source from nature with no input of man; example includes the rain. The drainage system definitely can’t elude this. Truth is drainages serve the society and its inhabitants by controlling the level of water that the overall environment is exposed to. And like the saying goes, “controlled power is valuable.”

Why has flood remained a major environmental concern during the rainy season? The simple answer is poor drainage system. The government has tried her best in ensuring good drainage constructions in many communities. Meanwhile, it seems that there is a misunderstanding in the proper use of drainages by the populace.

Drainages should be a channel for the inflow and outflow of water. Sadly, our drainages have been transformed into dumping grounds for sewages, trash cans, pet bottles, tetra packs, wrappers, and other disposables. In fact, it has become a norm for the people who are not enlightened and aware of the adverse consequences. In some canals in Lagos for instance, you would weep at the sight of what you see.

A vivid example of drainage misuse is one canal at Ikotun Area of Lagos. Residents of the area are often seen throwing refuse of all sorts into it, disrupting the free flow. Among those who throw refuse into the canal are school students and road-side traders, to mention a few. They do this undeterred, unhindered and unquestioned.

One would recall November 7, 2015, when Adejare led a team in coalition with West Africa Energy to tidy up that particular canal in Ikotun. This was done to show the importance of a clean environment. And even till date, Adejare still emphasizes the need to maintain clean and free-flowing drainages devoid of debris.

However, the vultures have gathered again on the carcass as the canal has returned to its previous unhealthy state. This reveals the need for more public advocacy.

Again, what is most puzzling is the nonchalance of residents in the drainage’s vicinity as many overlook the harmful effect of such unclean sight to their health. Many traders sell their wares under such conditions with excuse of eking a living. They perhaps don’t know the adverse effect of unhealthy drainages.

According to a Safety expert, Mr. Dapo Omolade, the role of the government in ensuring the decency of drainages is limited. He said the public also had a role to play.

“No matter how much the government spends maintaining drainage, it will continue to get dirtier. So the thing is that Nigerians need a reorientation. You and I are the ones dumping those things there so you and I must come to a level when we actually create the change for ourselves. If we don’t throw it there, it will not get there by itself. So it’s not a case of asking the government to clean it, it’s a case of asking you and I not to throw it there. We are going through a system where a lot of things have not been given priority. As it were we have become a little bit lawless. And because we are now lawless, you do what you think is right, except you are caught. So everybody does whatever they want. So we have to go back to a point when everybody will start rethinking and say what we can do to get things better and that’s when we can change the situation,” Omolade said.

Moreover, there is a consideration that if there is a change in the kind of drainages that government contractors are constructing, it could serve a good purpose in ensuring its cleanliness. Some construction companies are fond of abandoning their jobs half-way, or doing imperfect work during construction. Some who are contracted to construct roads, do so and don’t care about the kind of drainages they construct. Though there are few changes on their part, there seem to be no standard for construction companies in Nigeria. Some constructed roads are left with open drainages; while some others are constructed closed- a wavering standard for road construction.

Well, for open drainages which are uncovered channels, there is usually no restriction to the way the public dispose rubbish into it. When this becomes incessant, it can lead to blockage and cause flood or overflow when rain falls, unlike closed drainages that only give room to the passage of water.

In his view, Omolade, who is also an environmentalist, said, “For operational health waste, if you have drainages that are open, micro-bacteria breed in that region. So any time they are open without any control, and we are close to it, we come down with sickness and some of those sicknesses don’t occur immediately. One does not even know that it has been imposed on them and by the time it sticks it becomes too late for him to come back to life. We are all culprits of this environmental hazard. If it is not managed, one can eventually become a victim without knowing.

“Basically, it’s both individual and corporate responsibility. The construction company doing the road job has a responsibility on their part – what we call corporate social responsibility. Those companies need to do the right which is – you are doing the road, you must manage the construction part; if you open the drainages, you must close them up to make sure nothing goes in there. Nobody forces them because they are not been monitored. Let the government regulate,” he added.

A construction expert and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Kevron Consulting Limited, Mr. Kayode Fowode, who is well abreast of safety issues as regards construction in the country, specifically Lagos, said that there was need for a more standard regulations and increase in the level of awareness of the public.

He said, “I think construction safety is not well regulated at the moment. The regulators need to do more. Most construction companies work the way they want and not the way the regulator wants it. So I think we need more regulations tailored towards them.

“The level of awareness also needs to increase. We also need more experts to also advise the construction companies on what they need to do.

“For example, most construction companies are only regulated when they start work on their drains or roads; but the effect of their construction activities also needs to be taken into consideration before the construction, while the construction is going on and even after completion.

“There is still need for more awareness on the issue of disposing things in the canal, more regulations and more penalty funds. Environmental agencies and officials also need to show more presence. We need more enlightenment through the media. The public should know that safety goes beyond their immediate home. Safety also falls into the environment where they find themselves.”

As Nigeria is not out of the race yet in safety consciousness, all hope is not lost for our drainage system. Hopefully, we will see changes coming from the government, safety agencies and most especially the public.