The Venice of my Lagos
Every time I heard the word ‘Climate Change’ I regularly had flashbacks of my secondary school. I remember my social studies teacher explained how greenhouse gasses were destroying our ozone layer, creating a hotter weather within our environment. Each time she ended her speech in a terrifying manner saying “The world was coming to an end”
None of us really understood the effect of climate change at that time, but if her teaching were about the world’s end time, I just discovered some people already felt like that here in Lagos city of Nigeria.
As a little girl, I always dreamt of travelling to Venice Italy. I have seen images of the city’s beautiful clean lagoon which has maintained its splendid sight since six hundred years. I admire the charming boat rides, and imagined the clean smell of fresh air across its lagoon, attracting almost 10 million tourists per year.
Lagos is a city that never sleeps. A home for nearly 20 million people, chasing their dreams and building opportunities.
I was born and raised in the urban area of Lagos. I grew up knowing quiet and clean neighborhoods, nice and safe playgrounds, sophisticated and lovely fancy restaurants, and well structured and beautiful skyscrapers, but there is another side of Lagos people haven’t discovered.
This story doesn’t have charming boat rides, clean fresh air or a beautiful lagoon. It is a story how climate change has affected people’s lives, hopes and dreams. This is a story of how mothers struggle to cater for their families under harsh circumstances. A story of how unemployed and hard working men survive to earn daily income from natural resources from our land and seas, and a story of how waste products are as comfortable as floating pool chairs for little children when it is time for a lagoon swim.
The people of Makoko community at Ebute-Meta local government in Lagos city survive in a community of air and water pollution. As we padded through the lagoon, I pictured this could have been the Venice of my Lagos. I had compassion with the view I saw and my heart sank discovering climate change contribution to the communities’ poverty status. Having a tour around the community, I got to see their saw mill and a chance to interview one of the head workers. I got information of how the timber was gotten from nearby states such as Ogun state and Osun state as trees were cut down and transported to Lagos state. Makoko community is known for the largest saw mill in Africa, and most of the timbers are used to make furniture. I got to see and feel the bandsaw machine used in the cutting process. I was told the machine is more than 20 years and its quality has served the workers effectively.
I realized that poverty knows no climate change. It does not understand the different between protecting the environment and making daily income to survive. Women in the community survive by cooking with firewood. This act increases green house gases in the atmosphere which traps heat and causes global warming. It also results in higher global temperatures, affecting hydrological regimes and increasing climate variability. It also affects sea level rise.
Rowing through the community’s lagoon, I saw waste products floating like yellow rubber ducks in a comfortable tub. All sort of things were seen on the water surface, from plastic bags and bottles, to consumed brand packs, and even human body waste products. The lagoon smelt so bad; it was unbelievable how children had a good swim in it.
The rate of air pollution was disturbing .This can result to the slowing down of the ozone layer’s ability to rebound. Air pollution could lead to sickness in the community, meaning a change in temperature giving pests and diseases an advantage to spread to parts where they couldn’t survive before.
Looking across the lagoon, its water suffered degraded quality. Citizens of Lagos have noticed this situation and usually show signs of aloofness not realizing this could cause great harm to our ecosystem creating more heat waves and diseases such as meningitis, cataract, malaria, and yellow fever which could affect people in the community.
People of this community paddle through these tainted waters to get to the market, their homes and even schools. The massive pollution and waste generated was imaginable to live in and could led to great flooding in the nearest future if nothing is done about it.
The community depends on fishing, but seeing their livelihoods destroyed by polluted water is deeply sad. There are lots of predations of higher risk of water shortage by mid-century as a result of global warming, which could led to saltwater intrusion and harm to fisheries. There should be actions of how to improve the water quality which could help to protect the aquatic, eco system, and also flood management issues.
I got a chance to ask a little girl what she wants to become in future. She replied saying a doctor so she could treat her parents if they fell sick. Another little boy said he wants to be a fisherman like his father. I began to wonder sadly, will the lagoon be able to produce its sea life resources when he is much older by the year 2025? Known as the year of extreme risks from the impact of climate change.
My story intends to bring help and solution to these people. We need to protect what we love, and what we know. If we look and read about climate change movement, it is held by the youths across the world. The youths in Lagos state should take some time to focus less on fashion shows, music concerts, art exhibitions, movie premiers and sports, but on the environment because the city needs us.
Government and private sectors can help through funding and infrastructure development. There is a need to educate the people of these rural communities across the country. There should be an increase of public awareness, promoting researches, and the need to establish a committee in handling awareness issues related to global warming and climate change.
Energy effient stoves can be used instead of cutting down trees for firewood, which results to deforestation in areas of Ogun state and Osun state where the timbers are gotten from. The forest helps the country to absorb carbon emission and this message should be passed across.
Clean water quality can help maintain fish habitat, flood management and reduce global warming pollution. We could also have international research organizations such as ‘Friend water and HELP’. These international organizations could help solve a large piece of Makoko community’s water problem; also the clean development mechanism (CDM) project should be adapted in the Makoko community.
Government should provide recycling communities centers for waste products to prevent the increase of sewage contamination and transmission of water and air borne diseases. Also, more trees need to be planted to produce cool water ways to protect aquatic ecosystems.
Since Nigeria is the eight largest oil suppliers in the world and ninth largest deposits of gas, her economy would be highly affected by fossil energy consumption. Clean water provides a foundation towards a prosperous community. Makoko should be that community were millions of people could come and have a splendid sight tour of nature along with their cameras just like in Venice. At the end of the day, it is the human values which will save mankind.