Most Lagos residents who fret and moan over flooding often display unfitting attitude and behaviour to climate change
The months of May to October of every year are usually heavy and testy times for Lagos residents because of heavy rainfall. When the heavy rains coincide with the high tides, the resultant flooding usually cripples social and economic activity not just for the state alone but the country because of the place of Lagos as the commercial nerve centre of the entire nation.
The rains that the month has recorded thus far has shown that nothing has changed: the flooding and its attendant disruption of social and economic activities still persist, making the residents wonder whether there would ever be a solution.
During the rains commuters and car owners alike usually stay in traffic for hours on end with some arriving home late into the wee hours of the morning when most of those who work in far distances from their abode should be preparing for the day’s work. Part of the problem, it appears from everyday reality, is the continued clogging of the drainage channels by domestic waste and the blocking of some channels by buildings.
Additionally, the reverse gradients in most channels have been found to be sources of flooding because, as shown by academic research, “tidal waves flow back into the channels through excessive flooding”. Climate change has compounded matters for the aquatic state.
Curiously, most Lagos residents who fret and moan over flooding often display unfitting attitude and behaviour to climate change. Most still litter the canals that channel water to the lagoon despite repeated and sustained awareness campaign, and at times personal enlightenment tour of flood-prone areas by officials of the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment.
Perhaps the sanctions are inadequate or have been haphazardly applied to ensure conformity. At any rate, the authorities themselves have not helped matters. Many of the canals are exposed and unfenced, particularly those very close to residences such as the Oko-oba canal by the abattoir, which used to serve as dumpsites for butchers until recently, and those at Pipeline, Fagba in Agege, and the one running from Ikeja through Capitol road areas of the state, which are still clogged by silt.
There is no gainsaying that Lagos is a coastal state with a similar topography to most coastal regions in the world. As such it will always be impacted by the consequences of climate change in the area of rising sea levels, tidal surges, water logging of soils, erosion and the health problems and diseases that come with it in the flooded areas.
What is true for Lagos is also true to some extent to coastal states like Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Kogi and Rivers, which experienced heavy flooding in 2012 that rendered many of their citizens homeless and grounded economic activities in the affected areas, thus prompting the Federal Government through the Dangote Committee it set up to offer some financial and moral succour.
While former Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State took some commendable proactive and remedial measures through the beautification programmes and climate change awareness campaign at the grassroots, many of the aforementioned states are yet to take clear-cut actions such tree planting, efficient waste disposal regime, construction of roads with low gradient to prevent water clogging, continuous awareness campaigns and environmental education to modify behavior on waste disposal practices and climate change education generally.
For Lagos, however, the new Akinwunmi Ambode administration that assumed office on May 29 needs to go some steps further than its predecessor for obvious reasons. This is so because of the alarming rate at which the population of the state is increasing, which impacts on the environment. With the official census figure of 9 million, or 16million according to the state, with a further projected increase to 25million this year at an annual rate of four per cent, drastic action has to be taken beyond the current approach.
The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in a 2012 study of the State’s city renewal plan faulted the plan for not addressing the basic problems of climatic change that affects Lagos because of its coastal nature subject to the threat of climatic change because of rising sea level and storm activities. It therefore suggested two ways out of the problem, which the government, if it had not already adopted, may have to rework into the otherwise purposeful “City Model Plans”.
Contending that the government’s plan to reclaim the lowlands and swamps of Badagry, Apapa and Lekki for the new urban development would be dangerous to the safety and health of future residents, the world body urged the government to do three things immediately: Ring the areas marked for development with an array of barriers; build a high sea wall along Badagry and Lekki coastlines; and across the mouth of the Lagoons together with a variety of dykes to prevent continuous erosion in places like the Lekki Peninsular.
In the long term, it suggested a regional plan that can make Ogun and Lagos residents coexist since their boundaries have almost been blurred by commercial and residential activities. This joint effort would lead to the expansion of the population and accompanying amenities and facilities into such neighbouring towns as Abeokuta, Sagamu and Ijebu-Ode.
Against the background of an economic integration plan for Southwest States which governors of the zone adopted some years ago in Ibadan, the UNIDO research and suggestion would score a bullseye. Fortunately, the same party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) runs the governments of Ogun and Lagos States which gives the two states the opportunity to kick-start the region’s plan.