The Lagos State Government has commenced channelisation of four commercial ferry routes out of the thirty already identified as part of activities to scale up water transportation and give a quantum leap to tourism in the State.
Speaking on Tuesday after an extensive inter-agencies inspection tour of ongoing projects in and around the State inland waterways, Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Engr Adebowale Akinsanya said the four routes currently being channelised would be followed with another two, while work on the remaining twenty-four would be implemented in phases within the next four years.
The routes are 10km Ebute Ojo to Marina, 7km Bayeku to Ajah, 16km Ijede to Marina and 6km Ijede to Badore.
All the routes are with 40metres width and minimum of four metres deep into the waters.
While noting the import of the exercise, Akinsanya said the inspection tour was essentially a follow-up to last Sunday's commissioning of three boats by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, which was part of the ground plan to escalate water transportation and explore tourism potential of the inland waterways.
He said: "Essentially, what we are seeing is the ongoing channelisation which is creating road on water. Our intention is to make any boat or ferry sail freely on our waterways so they don't run into the issue of being grounded.
"These routes being channelised are part of the thirty routes already identified by the State Government. We are laying the ground work to make things easy for the ferries to travel safely. We are doing this to demonstrate our commitment to water transportation. Through this, we want tourists who travel to our state to be safe while travelling on our waterways.
"Right now, we are embarking on four and very soon, we will start another two. So, the project is about four years programme. Aside channelisation, we also need ferries and terminals to complete the package and all those are being done as well. Some jetties numbering about 10 are under construction and more ferries are still coming which are part of the plan to fully tap into the potential of the waterways."
On illegal dredging and other unwholesome practices, the Commissioner said the State Government had already intensified enforcement of relevant laws, assuring that no stone would be left unturned in securing the waterways and also ensuring safety of lives and property.
He said: "Within the last couple of weeks, officials of the State Government have been going around the State to look at it. With the Court of Appeal judgment which upheld the powers of the State Government on inland waterways, we have taken that initiative going round.
"About two or three weeks ago, some of the people involved in illegal dredging were arrested and being prosecuted right now. So, enforcement has been an ongoing thing.
"Luckily for the State Government, we have more boats to cover more distance on the waterways. Before, we were limited but with the three boats unveiled last Sunday by Governor Ambode, we are everywhere. It's something we need to take care of and we are determined to enforce relevant laws guiding the waterways."
On his part, Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Steve Ayorinde said the inspection tour was essentially a vote of assurance on what the government is doing as far as the waterways are concerned, adding that it was also in sync with the integrated transport system of the State Government.
According to him, "We can no longer rely on roads alone and so you see what we are doing in terms of rail and also the commitment and emphasis that the Governor is putting on water transportation. The advantage of this is that it does not go alone, it drags with it tourism attractions which is why we are stopping over on this trip in Ilashe beach house.
"The sort of investment that is going on there is the type of thing that the Lagos State Government will like to encourage and to also draw them into the tax net to see how revenue can be generated to the State and then look in total at what other mechanisms they require from government," Ayorinde said.
Also speaking, Special Adviser to the Governor on Urban Development, Mrs Yetunde Onabule said aside tapping into the tourism potential of waterways, efforts were ongoing to have clean, neat and safe waterways in a sustainable manner.
"One of the things that Lagos State is trying to ensure is that as much as we are trying to key into tourism, we also want to ensure that the environment is clean, safe and functional. We are going to ensure that the environment is clean, we are going to ensure that the beach front is tidy. There is also the security on waterways as well and so there are efforts to improve the economy around the waterways.
"Most of the jetties in some of the riverine communities are in dilapidated states and the State Government is also going to assist to put then in proper shape among other initiatives to boost tourism," Onabule said.