With the rapid increase in population and urbanization, the generation of waste in Nigeria has increased with Lemna Community in Calabar Municipality, Cross River State, Nigeria at the receiving end.

Solid waste dumps have been a huge problem in developing countries generating negative environmental impacts, ranging from improper solid waste dumping to hazardous health implications.

Houses quite close to dumpsite
Houses quite close to dumpsite

Environmentalists observe the Lemna Community is faced with various environmental hazards associated with the waste dump sites including surface and groundwater contamination, air pollution, the release of greenhouse gases, loss of vegetation, soil contamination, and bird-hit amongst others.

The Site

The dumpsite is the largest in Calabar, the chief city in Cross River State, Nigeria, and has existed for over three decades. The metropolis harbours a population of about 372,000

Dumpsite becoming a source of livelihood?
Dumpsite becoming a source of livelihood?

It is the major waste disposal site in the region and a repository for several kinds of unsorted industrial and household wastes including plastic products, oil, electronic gadgets, paints, batteries, and tires. The waste is said to be from different areas in and around the city of Calabar.

Powerless House of Assembly?

However, the Cross River State House of Assembly had in 2014 approved a new dumpsite at Awi Gmelina Plantation in Akamkpa Local Government Area, LGA, of the state following several complaints from residents around the area. But it is unbelievable that 8 years after the approval of a new site, the dumpsite at Lemna still remains, leaving many people pondering because the approval has not taken effect yet.

Chief Richard Bisong Otu, Chairman Lemna Community, Calabar

Thampers Media’s investigations found that some community stakeholders are hellbent on frustrating the move to relocate the site despite the ills associated with it. Residents around the dumpsite claim there is a general atmosphere of fear to speak with journalists about the site.

According to the Chairman of the Community, Chief Richard Bisong Otu, his community has made efforts of their own to relocate the dumpsite, as he debunked the rumours that community leaders are benefiting from the site.

 “We have written letters to the Governor of Cross River State, His Excellency Governor Ben Ayade, the Commissioner of Environment Hon. Mfon Bassey and other stakeholders in Cross River State to see that the dumpsite is relocated, but all we get are promises without actions.

Cross River State House of Assembly is powerless to ensure the relocation of dumpsite? Photo: Daily Post
Cross River State House of Assembly is powerless to ensure the relocation of dumpsite? Photo: Daily Post

“Stakeholders of the community have also consulted an environmentalist who has advised that in due course our boreholes will not be safe for drinking anymore, as we have been experiencing a lot of illnesses ranging from typhoid to skin irritation,” he bemoaned.

Thampers Media made futile efforts to reach out to the Deputy Speaker of the Cross River State House of Assembly Rt Hon Joseph Bassey to find out what was stalling the relocation of the Lemna dumpsite to the Akamkpa LGA.

Neither our calls were not picked up nor our messages were responded to. On October 22, 2022, we were reliably informed that the Cross River House of Assembly summoned the State Commission for Environment to explain some issues bothering waste management in the Calabar metropolis although it remained unclear whether the relocation Lemna dumpsite would be on the agenda.

Houses quite close to dumpsite threatens the health of the population.

Health Hazard 

A medical practitioner with Luciama Memorial Hospital Lemna, Calabar, Dr. Matthew Etika said the dumpsite is also seemingly responsible for the increasing number of typhoid and malaria cases recorded in the local hospital.

“Regular illnesses treated in our facility are malaria and typhoid, obviously because of the environment which is prone to habouring mosquitos as well as the contaminated water consumed within the community by residents. I strongly recommend that the site be relocated, else in the future, there might be worse diseases recorded in the community,” warned Dr. Matthew Etika.  

Dr. Matthew Etika, Luciama Memorial Hospital Lemna.

A resident of the community, Prince Alobi, while lamenting the government’s neglect to relocate the dumpsite, also spoke about the discomfort associated with it.

“It is disturbing that Government has refused to relocate this dump site despite approval from the State House of Assembly. This has affected businesses negatively because of the bad odour generated from the site.

Most of the time during the rainy season, this dumpsite overflows, washing refuse into the houses of residents. I am calling on all international organizations that advocate for healthy living to come to our aid before we perish,” he lamented.

Trucks like this are on the site on a daily basis.
Trucks like this are on the site on a daily basis.

A hair stylist who identified herself as Miss Comfort also expressed her dissatisfaction with the deplorable condition of the dumpsite. “We are surviving by the grace of God. Sometimes corpses and proceeds from sewage tanks are deposited here. I have treated myself severally from infections, like skin irritation and typhoid, but I now do everything possible to protect myself,” she said.

A Source of Cash; At What Cost?

Despite the negative health implications of dumpsites to humans, plants, and the environment, it apparently still has some benefits for some locals. The Lemna dumpsite seems to generate huge sums of revenue. Residents of the community make good cash from companies that buy recyclable materials due to their value.

Kingsley, searching for his daily bread.

A man who identified himself as Mr. Kingsley who picks up plastic waste from the site did not hesitate to share with Thampers Media how profitable the business is to him.

“Once the waste disposal trucks deposit the waste, I dive in like someone very hungry waiting to consume a plate of food all in search of plastic waste. I make a lot of money depending on the quantity of plastic waste I gather. These plastics are sold based on how much they weigh. I won’t tell you how much I make but trust me I make a good amount of money,” he narrated.

According to Mr. Kingsley, the search for plastic waste is not for the fainthearted considering the kind of environment you work in.

More Trucks heading to dumpsite.

“We make some reasonable proceeds from selling recyclable waste from the dumpsite, but there are a lot of risks associated with the hunt for the plastics as we are exposed to a lot of hazards within the site. I have on several occasions been treated for skin infections, typhoid, and malaria. At some point I almost lost my life but as the adage goes, ‘No pain, no gain,’” he told Thampers Media.

A street kid, Alihu Musa, who also scavenges for plastics gave an account of his experiences, stating that the hunt helps him make ends meet.

Plastics can be recycled and the environment preserved.

“I search for plastics and metals for my boss. I spend almost the whole day on this dumpsite searching for useful waste products. It’s not the best of jobs but I have money from it to feed myself. I’m not the only one here as you can see, we are over 30 here. The hustle is real,” he stated

The Lemna Dumpsite is a blessing in disguise for some, but to many, the risk of having the dumpsite located in the community is not commensurate with the gains.

The local government has spoken severally about generating power from the dump site, but many think it is a brilliant idea for the wrong location.

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