By Oluyinka Onigbinde
Investigations by Shipping Position Daily have revealed that despite a whopping provision of N714 million allocated over two years for the clearance of water hyacinth, Lagos waters are still clogged by water hyacinth
Checks by our correspondent revealed that the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) budget for 2023 earmarked N280 million for the mechanical and manual removal of water hyacinth, floating debris, and waste across the six geopolitical zones. This substantial allocation followed a previous N434 million in 2022.
Findings by our correspondent revealed that the gravity of the water hyacinth problem reached a critical point along the Ikorodu water corridor, prompting NIWA to implement drastic measures as boat operations to the Ikorodu ferry terminal have been abruptly suspended following a boat mishap that would have claimed lives of passengers on a LAGFERRY boat fully loaded with passengers after it got stuck by water hyacinth for hours.
To prevent further mishaps, both NIWA and the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) ordered the closure of their operations at the Ikorodu jetty; this is even as our correspondent observed that some other jetties in Lagos may be forced to close down following the rapid growth of water hyacinth across the state’s waterways.
Our correspondent, who visited some ferry terminals recently, noted that boat operators in these areas struggle to navigate their route owing to the heavy presence of water hyacinth everywhere. Specifically, our correspondent observed that both Marina and Apapa jetties have a heavy presence of water hyacinth across the waterways; this is even as boat users have urged both the Federal and state governments to come to their aid to avoid boat mishaps that may be caused as a result of the water hyacinth.
In response to the stoppage of usage of Ikorodu terminal, registered boat operators are now compelled to relocate their activities to Majidun until a safe channel is identified and approved by NIWA.
This move, however, comes at a considerable cost, with the Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON) Ikorodu chairman Olusoji Majofodun revealing daily losses of about N2.3 million due to the disruption at the Ikorodu facilities.
In a chat with our correspondent, the Chairman ATBOWATON Ikorodu chapter said: “For a while now, the water hyacinth has been a hazard for us every year, particularly from July; we normally see it then getting to September and October, we experience total blockage to the entrance of the Ikorodu Ferry terminal, and we find it very difficult to navigate either going or coming. Sometimes some of the boats will spend over an hour just trying to navigate the water hyacinth, and this is something that happens every year. We expect that by now they would have found a means of eradicating this water hyacinth. The one that came this year came in a large quantity and made access to the terminal very difficult”.
“Another challenge is that where we are supposed to use 50 liters of fuel for transportation, we spend double navigating through the water hyacinth. The water hyacinth also causes overheating of our engine and sometimes totally blocks the engine and damages it”, he lamented.
Acknowledging the challenges posed by the water hyacinth influx, LASWA, in a press statement issued over the weekend, said it has taken decisive action to minimize the impact on commuters.
LASWA said it has opened the Ibeshe Jetty and Majidun landing as alternative routes for ferry transportation, explaining that the persistent aquatic plant has significantly impeded seamless navigation of ferries along specific routes, affecting the efficiency and reliability of water transportation in the region.
Mr. Oluwadamilola Emmanuel, the General Manager of LASWA, while emphasizing the authority’s commitment to the safety and efficiency of water transportation in Lagos State, said LASWA is actively addressing the root causes of the water hyacinth influx, collaborating with relevant environmental agencies for long-term solutions.
Despite the substantial budgetary allocations, the persistent water hyacinth challenge raises concerns about the effective utilization of funds and the need for a more comprehensive and sustainable approach to address this ecological hindrance on Lagos waters.
Commuters and stakeholders, lament that there is nothing to show for the annual budgetary allocation to the state and Federal agencies in charge of waterways transportation.
Efforts made to get the reaction of the NIWA Area Manager Lagos Engr. Sarat Braimah proved abortive as calls made to her telephone were not responded to as at press time.