Confronting climate change doom in Lagos
No doubt, temperature is rising due to man-made, anthropogenic reasons that have resulted in greenhouse gas concentration which is the bane of the increased ocean warming, continental average temperatures, temperature extremes and wind patterns.
Imagine what will happen to Lagos, which is a coastal society. More than half of the population lives and works in the coastal region and of high economic, social and environmental value to the nation. Nearly all the choicest residential properties in Lagos are located within 110 meters of soft, erodible shorelines. Exposure will increase as the population of Lagos grows.
The impacts of sea level rise will be experienced mainly through its effects on extreme sea level events such as high tides and storm surges. Rising sea levels will increase the frequency or likelihood of extreme sea level events and resultant flooding. The risks to the sea level rise are not confined to the coast itself. In many cases flooding may impact areas some distance from the sea for example along estuaries, rivers, lakes and lagoons.
In July, 2011, Lagos was engulfed by floods precipitated by torrential rainfall of about three weeks to herald the devastating effect of climate change on the city. Hence the need to take precautions even as it is being predicted that West African coastal lines would be submerged by 2099.
Lagos is very important to Nigeria, Africa and the entire world. It is one of the largest coastal megacities and the second most populous city in Africa, after Cairo. It is one of the growing cities in the world. Besides, Lagos is home to the main port of West Africa and the commercial capital of Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa. It is the last resort of the unemployed and investors of great value. The city attracts from all parts of Nigeria and African countries very large number of youths and families and the poor, seeking a better life. Ipso facto, it is said to be inhabited by about 21,000 million people and projected to be inhabited by 25,000 people by 2020.
However, it is alarming that the State of aquatic splendor is being threatened by the aquatic; with high risk of coastal and urban flooding due to climate change and sea level rise, aggravated by the lack of adequate drainage.
Studies published in 2011 found Lagos beset with severe coastal erosion problem caused by natural and anthropogenic activities which disrupts traffic, flooding of roads and property. There is now a sea level rise of 4.9 feet (1.5 meters) above normal within two days in 2006, making Lagos one of the megacities most vulnerable to sea level rise.
It is being analyzed that a permanent sea level rise of only 7.8 inches (200 millimeters) might create 740, 000 homeless people in Nigeria. 2010 Survey says 3.2 feet (1meter) sea level rise on Nigerian coast would affect about 900,000 people and 375 Square miles (973 Square Kilometers) of coastal land.
Similarly, Lagos emission levels are astronomically high at 1.44 Trigrams per year higher than Beijing, 1.23, Tokyo 0.46 Tg/year, London, 0.13Tg/year (Hopkins et al 2009.) More than 6 million vehicles are on the roads of Lagos every year in addition to fumes from millions of generators in Lagos. The air pollution has serous negative impacts on human health in Lagos. Apart from respiratory related diseases and cancer, the food chain is also polluted bringing untold diseases and contagion to the people.
In fairness to the government of Lagos State, the government feels concerned about the negative effect of climate change in the city. But, the city is endangered with the influx of estimated 3,000 migrants from the countryside to Lagos every day, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Another albatross is the low lying coastal position of the city which renders Lagos vulnerable to sea level rise, erosion, and heavy rains.
To combat climate change and particularly the sea level rise, the Lagos State Government has devised a means to erect a wall to ward off the impending sea level rise. This is EKO ATLANTIC CITY being built with a 6.5 kilometers sea barrier called the great wall of Lagos. The engineers claim the wall will withstand the worst storm imaginable in a thousand years. Precisely 250, 000 people will reside there while 150 workers will service the residents as workers. It is projected to be environmentally friendly and return the coast to its position in 1950s and 1960s.
However, the government needs to seriously consider the plight of over 70% of the city’s population living in informal or slum settlements being affected by the adverse effect of over urbanization and infrastructural deficit. There is no contention that the astronomical growing population of Lagos is having direct impact on the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of the lagoon.
At the slum of Makoko in Yaba Local Government Area of Lagos, people live on top of the lagoon with heaps of debris from the floods of Lagos.
Their houses are made of wood and covered with iron roofing sheets that can withstand the storm. In addition, they construct their own wooden bridges where they can trek home.
One way out may be from the singular work by a Nigerian-Dutch Architectural firm who responded to students who are out of school because of the deplorable condition of the slum. The firm built Maroko Floating School above the lagoon. This design has been gaining international recognition at exhibitions around the world. It can be considered as a strategy to combat climate change in Lagos as against or in addition to Eko Atlantic City sea walls.
Climate change is perhaps the greatest culprit of multifarious socio-economic and political crisis all over the world. It is responsible for the mass emission of carbon that has dehumanized human, animals and plants. It is one single so far known cause of cancer and many debilitating ailment that cut lives short. It is also a source of contagion diseases. Energy poverty remains one of the most glaring effects of climate change in Africa.
In Nigeria alone, there are over 100 million people in darkness. Rainfall has become erratic leading to low agricultural yield, and so goes global food shortage and the vicious cycle of starvation, malnutrition and death. Besides it climate change has caused hazards and disasters all over the world. Earthquakes, forest fire; many air, road and sea accidents can also be nipped on climate change…the list is endless.
How beautiful will the world be if the effect of global climate change can be reversed? That will mean less threat to those in the coaster areas due to the rising sea levels. The lifespan of humans, animals and plant will be elongated as a result of lower temperature. The world will experience less contagious diseases and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases as there will be cleaner air, water, food and built environment.
*Dr. Isaac Ayodele holds a PhD. D.sc degree in Public Health from Atlantic International University, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States. His specialization is in confronting global climate change.