Climate change: A national and regional perspective
If we look critically, the only trend notable remains the amount of precipitation — changing rainfall patterns which lead to more intense and frequent floods (This depends on duration, intensity, frequency and fluctuation of rainfall). Another attributable trend is the global rise in temperature which leads to sea-level rise. However, we can attribute certain aspect of the trends around us to anthropogenic alterations and activities e.g.: Urbanization, water engineering, improper waste disposal, unauthorized construction on waterways, uncoordinated town planning/outlook.
Chiefly among is the poor drainage system, many roads in or major cities lacked the right drainage capacity which results in overflow. Their carrying capacity is not enough for the amount of water that flows through them (due to increased rainfall pattern) thus leading to flash floods.
Hence, we see water, trying to find a path for itself and it MUST. In some part of Nigeria, the drainage channels remain waterlogged (rain or shine). That tells a story of our “collective negligence” — the consequence we grapple with. Perhaps, an overhaul of the existing drainage system will be in order.
Oftentimes, these consequences are AVOIDABLE. Why? We build on flood plains, or drainage channels, failure to enforce existing laws or lack of capacity to enforce the laws thereof. Growing inequalities & impunity are the major causes. If you agree with me that they are avoidable, there are several elements of the published Paris Agreement which identifies the place of Adaptation and mitigation planning for countries that signed — we must stick to these plans. The Sendai Frameworkfor Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 outlines seven clear targets and four priorities for action to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risks. This calls for behavioral change on the part of government and citizens to ensure there is no compromise to saving lives and reduce risks.
To avoid these consequences, we must assemble interdisciplinary studies and data capturing on climate risks with regards to the slow onset of disasters like drought and flood which can lead to permanent or irreversible displacement. It’s time to have a National Environmental Toolkit that will be attached to our Economic Recovery & Growth Plan (ERGP), e.g. recent Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) due to COVID-19. The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) has the statutory mandate to issue yearly forecasts for flood management in Nigeria. How it carries out its function with others I may not know but one thing I want to know is — these reports must be available & accessible.
In advancing holistic national plans in the wake of many realities, we must rethink the acts that establish our agencies with clarity of purpose, have deliberate proactive measures and not reactive responses to hazards. We have Federal Ministry of Environment (FMEnv), National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), National Metrological Service for Nigeria (NiMET), Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), Federal Ministry of Water Resources to work with all research-based institutions including National Orientation Agency (NOA) to develop a National Climate Change Adaptation Plans for each of the 774 LGAs — in a bottom-up approach.
Quite frankly, it is obvious we are paying for our cost of inactions that has now been exacerbated by Climate Change through extreme weather. We are aware of the warnings but we choose to be nonchalant about the inherent risks. We relied so much on reactive strategy than being proactive. We tend to be “politically correct” with issues like this than being granular and scientific.
Our decision makers know- It seems not, because, most national infrastructure and development plans and economic summits do not mainstream environmental issues as a top priority — it should be. The signs are all over. There is no national research wallet seeking to unravel the outcomes of impending flood risks rather, we have orchestrated national responses. Can we begin to call our universities up to provide research into understanding these causes? When there was soil creep in Ekiti in 2017, my opinion was published in The Guardian, Tribune and The Nation, I received calls from Ekiti, a researcher called but there was no funding to continue into it.
We cannot escape from our shadows — we know. In Ikere Ekiti, a community bridge in Ajolagun area collapsed OCT 2019, that bridge is yet to be fixed to date. I mentioned this because that is my community — it affects everyone. Does the government need any further warning in this regard?
1) Governments will need to prioritize policy coherence, overcome inter-agency silos and align existing rules and regulations towards achieving the goals that are interlinked across ministries — a national tool kit accessible on a click.
2) Government should stick to the Paris Agreement National Determined Contribution (NDCs) and Sendai Framework to establish Disaster Risk Governance.
3) Establish diverse tailored, innovative and adaptiveapproaches to solving problems, using science to support decision-making and develop early-warning systems that can pick up and authenticate weak signals.
4) Our national, state and local policy and budget planning must be transparent and rigorous to encourage citizen participation to capture history & native intelligence for flood signals.
5) Governments should incorporate targets and indicators like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into national plans and budgets, formulate policies and programmes to achieve them, and create tracking system as well as systems for monitoring and evaluation.
6) The government must now build the capacity of regulators on technical know-how to be able to keep up with scientific advances, create sharing platform that is accessible to all – a transition to the digital ecosystem.
7) The government should mainstream risk reduction into existing urban planning, management and practices, conduct periodic urban risk assessments and understand who the most vulnerable communities and individuals are and what drives their vulnerability. For development to be sustainable, it must become resilient to the increasingly complex risks (and wicked problems) the world is facing today to which Nigeria has no immunity.
Olorunfemi is principal consultant, Enviromax Global Resources Limited, Climate Reality Leader and member of the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Pollution Mitigation, wrote from Ibadan.