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Posted on August 5th, 2014

Our Changing Landscape – Olushosun Landfill, Lagos, Nigeria

In this monthly feature, we span the globe to examine Our Changing Landscape with time series of medium resolution RapidEye satellite imagery. The RapidEye archive dates back to late 2008 and already contains more than 5 billion square kilometers of data. This month, we look at changes in one of the world’s largest trash dumps in Lagos, Nigeria: Olushosun Landfill.

The RapidEye Constellation

RapidEye is a constellation of five 5-meter medium resolution satellites each offering five spectral bands of information. The RapidEye constellation offers daily revisits to every location on the planet with a huge footprint that is 77-km wide. The data is priced competitively with a starting cost of $1.28 per square kilometer for all five spectral bands – academics do receive discounts. RapidEye adds a fifth band, the red edge, to the ‘traditional’ multispectral set of blue, green, red and near-infrared (NIR). The additional spectral data in the red edge band allows users to extract more useful land ‘information’ than can be from traditional 4-band imagery sources. When RapidEye imagery is ordered as a Level 3A Orthorectified product, images from multiple dates are extremely well registered, making it the ideal data source for Our Changing Landscape.

Olushosun Landfill, Lagos, Nigeria

Click on the image above to see an animation of 5-meter natural color imagery collected over Olushosun Landfill, Lagos Nigeria on November 29, 2009, December 30, 2010, January 13, 2012, January 3, 2013 and January 25, 2014. While several of these images are a bit hazy, you can clearly see significant changes in the landfill over the 5 years depicted here. In particular, you can see new buildings surrounding Olushosun as well as areas that were once grass covered with trash now. (Images Courtesy: RapidEye)

Here in the United States, waste disposal (typically) occurs at highly regulated and often hidden locations on the outskirts of our major cities and towns. In many parts of the Developing World, this is not the case. Take for example the largest trash dump in Sub-Saharan Africa, Olushosun Landfill in Lagos, Nigeria. Olushosun is an open landfill meaning that trash is literally piled up in the open air with little rhyme or reason to how it is ultimately disposed of. The 42 hectare site has a 35 year life span and receives about 50% of the waste generated by Lagos each day. On average, 1.1 million metric tons of waste are dumped at Olushosun each year or about 8,000 to 11,000 metric tons per day. The site also receives electronic waste from 500 container ships per day. The Nigerian government has estimated the waste stream at Olushosun is comprised of four main categories: vegetation (59% of the total), paper products (17%), plastics (12%) and metals (8%). At one time, Olushosun was located on the outskirts of Lagos, but with its booming population, adding an estimated 300,000 residents per year, the landfill is now surrounded by residential and commercial properties.

One of the more iconic images that many of our readers may have seen are of shanty towns setup around many of the Developing World’s open landfills. Olushosun Landfill has a shanty town that houses about 1,000 residents and has been featured in many publications and documentaries, including those of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and The Atlantic. The shanty town around Olushosun has shops, restaurants, bars, cinemas, a mosque and barbers. Of its 1,000 residents, approximately 500 of them spend every workday shifting through rubble in the trash dump, looking for recyclable materials which can be sold. These workers scavenge an estimated 300 metric tons of waste by hand each day. And as you can imagine, this dirty work is not without its health risks as workers are afflicted by a variety of diseases, including malaria from mosquito bites, respiratory infections and aliments from inhaling the toxic fumes of burning waste and all kinds of skin irritations.

If you would like to find out more about using RapidEye for your academic studies, engineering projects or any landscape analysis, let us know at or (303) 993-3863.

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