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Sea-level rise and fear for Lagos 

By Editorial Board
17 November 2019   |   3:55 am
The growing apprehension about a possible sea level rise and how it could affect Lagos and other coastal cities in Nigeria is fast becoming a climate-change reality and its disastrous effects...


The growing apprehension about a possible sea level rise and how it could affect Lagos and other coastal cities in Nigeria is fast becoming a climate-change reality and its disastrous effects around the world. How to protect humanity is of critical importance even in global context at the moment.

The frequency of climate-related disasters has increased. More destructive hurricanes and typhoons are making landfall. Unprecedented flooding is wreaking havoc in many regions, including the high impact areas of the United States, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands. The blind forces of nature are manifesting with unrestrained ferocity.

That sea level rise could submerge Lagos and other coastal cities in Nigeria cannot be ruled out. Such highly probable scenario has strengthened the fears of climate scientists that the world may be headed for disaster of catastrophic dimension except urgent measures are taken to mitigate the impacts.

Specifically, Lagos authorities should take care of some critical urban development and planning measures including drainage channels. Floodwater harvesting should be an option. There is no time to waste any more. The authorities should think out of the box; think of the future and how to manage destructive floodwaters.

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies should be carried out based on simulated sea level to ascertain the possible impact of submergence on Lagos and other coastal communities.

Nigeria should collaborate with countries on the Atlantic coast of West Africa with the aim of finding a common ground. There should be massive investment in coastal barriers – levees and embankments — to shield inland settlements from the ocean surge.

More important, our level of indiscipline is becoming too unbearable. We need systematic development control measures to prevent indiscriminate development in coastal floodplains that block natural passage of water bearing in mind that water must find its level.

The problem is already there. Because we don’t respect nature in this clime, what is urgently required is strong environmental regulatory measures to enforce the law. People must adapt to the emerging reality. Compromising on this would be disastrous.

We must apply technology in the actions to be taken. We need a responsible government that is willing to do the needful. There should be no room for complacency or undue politicking over this very important matter that borders on survival. Government must be strong to be able to tackle this challenge.

A report by Climate Central, a scientific organisation based in New Jersey, United States, and published in the journal, Nature communications shows that half of 300 million people currently living in areas that are flooded, at least, once a year, would be submerged by high tide line by 2050.

At risk areas include large proportions of heavily populated coastal cities like Lagos, which is home to more than 18 million people and could be entirely under water in the next 30 years.

The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) had earlier raised the alarm that Lagos and other coastal cities that are less than one metre above sea level could be submerged by 2050 if the surge continues.

The NCF’s submission curiously corroborates a projection made by United Nations scientists working on climate change, who, after extensive studies, said there is the likelihood of the world’s oceans rising by one metre between 2030 and 2050.

Consequently, cities that are less than one metre above sea level are under threat of submergence. Lagos and many Nigeria’s coastal towns and cities are in this category besides our oil industry infrastructures in the Niger Delta region.

Noting that sea level rise is a looming danger, the NCF had warned that the problem should not be left for Lagos alone to carry but a national problem that should involve the Federal Government.

Unfortunately, the Federal Government is standing aloof without showing any concern for the impending disaster.  Nothing has been done to protect Lagos and the other coastal towns, including those hosting the country’s oil industry facilities, from possible destruction in the event of a violent ocean surge.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise in 2015, at a summit on Climate Change at the UN headquarters in New York, that Nigeria was committed to the adoption of a legally binding universal agreement to mitigate climate change should be matched with concrete action at home without further delay.

Otherwise, so far, there is no commitment on a critical issue as climate change when no practical steps have been taken to mitigate the impacts on vulnerable peoples and ecosystems. The situation of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, almost below sea level, exposes the city to ocean surge that sea level rise, would exacerbates.  The submergence of Victoria Island, Lekki Peninsula axis and such areas during the rainy season gives insight into the dangers we face.

Good enough, the Lagos State Government is not folding its arms over the matter. Worried by the high incidence of ocean surge on its coastline, the State Government, had reportedly earmarked N36 billion to tackle the menace. It appears not to have done more.

The earmarked funds were meant for the construction of 18 groynes (sea breakers), at intervals of 40 meters between Goshen Estate and Alpha Beach estimated to cost N2 billion.  That is a positive step in the right direction. More needs to be done.

As large swaths of coastal environment are occasionally submerged from ocean surge, the authorities should be proactive. The onus is on the Federal and Lagos State governments to ensure that more funds are made available to protect the coastal environment. The situation of Lagos almost at sea level exposes the city to submergence.

Lagos location within the marine ecosystem complex is why the authorities should be wary not to disrupt the fragile balance that could spell disaster.

In this regard, caution should be exercised in the move to develop three islands, namely: Diamond, Orange and Gracefield Phoenix islands beside the Eko Atlantic City project. Reason is that these islands will involve the reclamation of large expanse of water in the designated areas.

Proper environmental impact assessment (EIA) should be carried out to determine the degree of impact the artificial islands would have on coastal and marine ecosystem. The impacts should be ascertained beforehand to prevent disaster. There should be meticulous development control along the beaches.
Experts warn that settlements on the nation’s coastal areas risk total submergence, except pragmatic steps are taken to stem impending catastrophe. All the states bordering the Atlantic Ocean should be pro-active to avert a potential danger.

In the main, if we are caught unawares on this score, we have ourselves to blame, as we should expedite action on what the experts have revealed. There should be well-researched measures by scholars and professional environmental scientists whose efforts will complement our development control policy to protect coastal infrastructures from possible submergence.