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Concerns over reclamation, dredging in Lagos

By Victor Gbonegun
02 September 2019   |   3:15 am
Amid a growing spate of dredging and reclamation activities in several parts of Lagos State, experts have called for caution, as the enormity of such activities along the commercial capital shorelines is capable of causing havoc on buildings and infrastructure.

Sandfilling of a site in Lagos

Amid a growing spate of dredging and reclamation activities in several parts of Lagos State, experts have called for caution, as the enormity of such activities along the commercial capital shorelines is capable of causing havoc on buildings and infrastructure.

But developers and state officials assure that adequate assessments have been made and such activities will not pose any danger.

Pressed by increasing population, cities especially the coastal ones have become hotbeds for land reclamation with waterfront reclaimed areas used to accommodate the growing demand for new housing projects and as a means to allay congestion.

For instance in Lagos, with a population of about 21 million, housing the residents has become a challenge, as available land space remained inadequate. Lagos is the second-largest city by population spanning over 3,474-km2 land areas but surrounded by more bodies of water.

The Guardian investigation shows that the state has been a beehive of activities for the world’s notable dredging companies. Completed and ongoing reclaimed land for housing projects in Lagos include, 10,000 residential units on Grace-field Island, which is set for 2023, the four Oceanna towers, which are designed to resemble seashells, and the five-tower Landmark Village.

Others are the controversial Nigerian Army partnership project to build the 45-hectare Apple Island in the lagoon, the 150-hectare Orange Island land reclamation project and the developments of about 17-hectare Estate, the 200-hectare Imperial International Business City and the Eko Atlantic 9sq km of reclaimed land.

Speaking with The Guardian on the dangers of such development, the director, technical programmes, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Dr. Joseph Onoja noted that land reclamation has more disadvantages than merits because by the time lands are reclaimed; it’s assumed that there would be more lands for development but the mistake is that when reclamation takes place, waters are displaced to other locations.

He expressed worries that such acts are done indiscriminately without going through a proper environmental impact assessment in most of the city centres. He further stated that there was a need to do intense involvement of all stakeholders crucial to the reclamation of an area to determine its consequences and sustainability.

Onoja said, “Usually when land is reclaimed, it’s mostly from wetland areas and sometimes the problem in the society is that we don’t know the value of wetland areas. Water would always find its level and come back to where it was pushed. A typical example is what is happening along the Lagos lagoon; when you landfill a place, the water is displaced to other areas, cover up some lower areas.

Imagine what happened in Lagos in 2017, when areas like, Lekki phase one, Victoria Island, others were inundated by water because they have been sand filled and so water finds its ways into where people are living.

“So we could look at such idea and build on it instead of a sand filling, we could build on solid pillars so that when water comes, it would still find its level although it is more expensive, it’s sustainable.”

He warned that instead of building against nature, people must learn to build with nature in mind stressing that nothing stops authorities from building on top of the water if things are to be done in the correct way.

For Dr. Nnimmo Bassey, an environmentalist, “considering the issue of climate change and the very high rate of depletion of the marine eco-system and other species, reclaiming land for human infrastructure from wetlands or the seas is very wrong.

He explained that “Land reclamation is a reckless denial of the reality of climate change and so it going to compound the problem. It is against actions that nations are carrying out to solve climate change and there is nothing smart about it.

“We are reducing the chance of people to have sufficient food, especially proteins from marine resources. It is the wrong time to think of expanding communities into the sea rather, we should be moving to higher ground.

He also stated that it is time for authorities to realise the precarious nature of Nigeria’s coastline, which is a very low line, and a lot of coastlines are actually sinking lands. Bassey said anybody who looks to the cities or the lagoon or whatever water body to build is taking a cheap solution that would have a cost implication.
In his views, a developer, Olukayode Olusanya of Oaks homes believed that when the necessary precautions are taken; there is no need to fear for such activity in the quest for housing and infrastructural developments.

“ With good plan and consideration of the environment, it is a way to go but importantly, we have to respect the ecosystem”, Olusanya stated.

Reacting to the development, the Lagos State Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Dr. Idris Salako told The Guardian that there are laws guiding reclamation activities in the state and advised developers to respect the government’s regulations.
On whether adequate assessment was made before such projects, he explained that the state government is aware of the risks of land reclamation and the impact on the environment, stressing that before any investor could embark on any significant project in the state, those involved are expected to submit Environmental Impact Assessment report to the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) and such developments must be cleared by the agency.

According to him, in as much as the government couldn’t stop investment activities within the state, intending investors must comply with the laid down laws.