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Lagos… where residents live in dread of flooding

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Residents and environmental enthusiasts have raised the alarm over palpable danger the perennial flooding in Lagos pose to dwellers and businesses in the city. One of them, Chairman of Karamey Industrial City along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Mr. Mofid Karameh while lamenting the massive havoc done to investments by the Lagos flood, which has assumed a deadly dimension this year, urged government to act or risk huge disaster.

Karameh, who is also the Chairman of Mikano International Ltd, added: “Come and see many companies, many warehouses and multi-billion dollars sunk into those investments which employ between 400, 000 to 500,000 workers. Today, the water is above everywhere. Nobody can go there to work anymore. The flood is destroying everything there. More than 1,500 of my staff live in that area. I have given loans to more than 300 staff to relocate to other areas this year alone. That is just for one company. Imagine what other companies are passing through”.

So far, 30 people have died this year as a result of the flood in Lagos State alone. According to news report, the casualties last year were 50 and the year before, it was 30 people that succumbed to the devastating flood. Commenting on the flood menace, an environmental activist, Dr. Newton Jibunoh, said until they find out the channelisation plan of Lagos, done in the 60s and 70s, and begin to address the issue, Lagos would continue to be flooded.

A study, however, suggests that the problem can be solved if canals could be opened up at some strategic spots to help the exit of Lagos lagoon, the ‘major cause’ of the problem, into the sea and reduce the level of its boisterous waters. Jibunoh, however, explained during an interview that the channelisation plan was put in place mainly to take care of excess water either from rain or from the sea but was jettisoned by subsequent administrations in the state.

According to him, “The issue of flooding in Lagos, being a coastal island-coastal city, when Lagos was planned in the 60s and 70s, there was sufficient channelisation of Lagos. I am shocked to find out that most of the people in power subsequently did not take the channelisation into consideration. If you go round the whole of Lagos, even way down to Ikorodu and Eko Atlantic, you would see whole channels that were created in different places. And that was put in place mainly to take care of excess water, either from rain or from the sea any time there was a storm. They were known as primary and secondary canals all over Lagos. A lot of them have been built on. So you see a canal, you don’t know where the canal is going to empty into. And until they find out the plan and begin to address the issue, Lagos would continue to be flooded. And, in fact, Lagos would eventually be submerged if all those things were not taken care of. That is one.

“Two, then you go back to nature. Nature gave us what is known as flood plain. Flood plains are the places where the rainwater settles when it is more than usual as it is happening now. The rainwater finds a way of going into the flood plain. And the flood plains are not meant to be built on, even, sometimes, when you go for two, three years without flooding. It is usually there on the map in the Ministry of Survey, showing where all the flood plains are in Lagos State. I used to go to that ministry in the 70s and 80s. So they have to look at those plans. I am not sure they have those plans any more!

“Number three is the wetland. There are places also known as the wetlands. They are like sisters to flood plains. All the shrimps, crayfish and crabs that we eat, they all reside in the wetlands. You don’t catch them in the sea. And it is in those wetlands that marine life exists. And that marine life, apart from we eating them, sometimes, they play a major role in the preservation of the ecosystem. Nigerians don’t even know where our wetlands are anymore. Go to Ghana; go to Rwanda; go to Kenya, flood plains are there; the wetlands are there! Nobody must go there; nobody must build on them; nobody must do anything to them because they are provided by nature to take care of excess water; excess rain.

“See, this whole thing of one government coming in, and not wanting to care about what the previous government did or what the plans are… I have even sent my write-up to the nation that if care is not taken, our newest city in this country, Abuja, will become a slum in the next 20 years because they are now beginning to ignore the master plan that was made available in which everything was well articulated. The same thing will happen to Eko Atlantic if care is not taken. It has been very well articulated. There are canals- primary and secondary-it has been well designed. And maybe in another 10 years, a governor would come, not finding a plot to allocate to their friends; they would start blocking the canals. The fact that you are building new thing doesn’t mean you should ignore the old ones. New ones should go over the old ones.”

The geographical study of the lagoon trail shows that many outlets can be created to route the lagoon into the sea and consequently reduce its water level, which causes the flood.The study sighted by The Guardian proposed the opening of canals in Ojo Area, Agaga in Badagry area, other ones near the end of Snake Island and in Lekki respectively to make the water exit into the ocean.

Commenting on the report, Karameh said: “Channelling the waters into the ocean may cost government next to nothing. Just two bulldozers can do it in two days, maybe N400million to N500million to drain the swamp there and put concrete slabs by the sides and the water level will stop going up. And the flooding will cease, Lagos would get relief. It is just like putting gutter besides your house. Imagine we got land; then we still have water. Instead of the water flooding the whole area, you make a gutter for it. When you have a house, you make a gutter; you don’t allow the water to go all over the house. It is still the same. Take the swamp as a house, make gutter for the water. When you want the water to burst, make a hole for it.”

Expressing fears, like Jibunoh, that Lagos might eventually b e submerged by flood one day, the Mikano boss said:“Unfortunately many people living in Lagos do not feel the problem. But automatically, Lagos is sinking with this water. If we don’t take care of this water, we are already living on it, tomorrow, everybody would sink. The water level now is above two metres. Next year, it would be four metres and by that time, we cannot do anything to it. Look at Lagos-Ibadan Expressway; you will see that almost all the houses beside the highway [already submerged] and people are dying in the flood. Last year, 50 people died the year before, 30 people died. This year, 30 people have died so far. You know, most of the victims don’t know how to swim. They built their houses along the Lagos Ibadan Expressway. When the water came, it rose to about three metres above the sea level. About 50,000 to 60,000 residents there are now without homes. It is unfortunate that we have a country, and the country is now sinking. When you wake up and the water level is above all Lagos State, then it would be too late.”

Comparing Nigeria’s coastal line with its western neigbours, Karameh explained with graphical display:“This is our Lagos. This is where we have the dam that everybody is complaining about. The dam here is big. All the adjoining areas are swamp. The dam is opened from time to time. We have more than one dam. But if you look at all these areas, you will see that there are no houses because all the area is a swamp area. So all the rains gather here and they gather in another area. All the water from this area has to come to the ocean.

“Let’s start from Cotonou, Benin Republic, they have their own opening to the ocean. They close it. Before, we had 730 metres coastline, now it is 170 metres. The case of Cotonou is not our case. The land of Cotonou is better than our land because they don’t have swamp area.

According the founder, Lagos State Urban Forest and Animal Shelter Initiative (LUFASI), Mr. Desmond Majekodunmi, “It is our disdain for God’s wonderful creation, which according to scripture he ‘saw to be very good’, that has brought us to this very dangerous juncture. Anthropogenic climate change is increasing rainfall and raising water levels, whilst poorly managed sand filling of wetlands without effective mimicry of their natural water absorption and drainage services is greatly exacerbating the problem of flooding. We need to urgently reverse our tracks, believing we can operate apart from nature. We are a part of nature! We must work harmoniously with her like all other life forms have done from time immemorial.”

“Practical manifestations of this would be by developing far more green spaces/urban forest parks, preserving stretches of mangrove swamp, protecting river banks/beach shoreline and particularly urgently and aggressively joining the global fight against the massive pollution of the atmosphere that is causing the climate change, before the flooding becomes irreversible and unstoppable”.


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