Syndicate content

Africa climate change

Of Human Waste and Water: Cleaning up Lagos City

Olatunbosun Obayomi's picture

In 2007, for the first time in human history, 50 percent of the global population lived in urban areas. The United Nations predicts that this figure will rise to 69 percent by 2050. A significant part of this urbanization is taking place in developing countries as a result of natural growth within cities and large numbers of rural–urban migrants in search of jobs and opportunities. Rapid urban growth tends to overwhelm developing cities, where there is already a struggle to develop infrastructure.

I have lived in Lagos, Nigeria all my life. Lagos city is the economic capital of Nigeria with the country's higest population density at 4,193 people per square kilometer. The U.N. estimates that the population of my city will hit 16 million by 2015 making it the worlds 11th largest urban system.

A combination of official neglect, corruption, extreme poverty coupled with rapid, largely uncontrolled, population growth has led to the decay of Lagos’ existing city infrastructure, which determines how livable a city is. Specifically, the human waste (sewage), water and sanitaion systems are largely inadequate. The infrastructure is poorly organized and not controlled. It is common to see drinking water pipes pass through open drainage systems. At times, these systems receive human waste as a result of locals opening their septic tanks into them or the tanks leaking. The city does not treat all of the human waste generated by millions of individuals every day. This waste is emptied directly into the Lagos lagoon. The urban poor are affected the most. Because the drinkable water infrastructure is so poor, many Lagosians depend on satchet water, local water vendors, private boreholes or expensive water filtaration units for their the daily domestic and sanitation needs.