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Land scarcity, other factors driving interest in water-logged areas

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Swampy land in Lagos

As scarcity of land in urban centres continues to increase, swampy locations are becoming the delight of property developers. But experts advise that soil investigation should be carried out before development.

When Dr. Mike Okonkwo, the Presiding Bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) sited the expansive church in the swampy land in Anthony Village, not many saw the attraction, but now the property has become the cynosure of all eyes.

Buying plots of land on water-logged locations or swampy areas is becoming a new trend among would-be homeowners and the wealthy.

Asides those who deliberately choose land to build for social/economic reasons, especially for status conferral, others are lured into such places with low prices.

Building in such areas also has its price. A lots of developers avoid constructing on swampy land because of the high cost of sand-filling. It poses serious challenge to property developers while others enjoy such locations.

For instance, in Ikoyi, Northern Foreshore, Banana Island, Parkview, Osborne Phase I/II, Chevron drive, Lekki and Ajah areas of Lagos, were swamps before it was turned into massive residential neighborhood.

Owing landed property in the location is seen as a status symbol, nearness to the economic nerve centre and among other benefits.

Investigations show that per square-metre of land in such location could be as high as N400, 000 per square-metre and N150 million for 1,000square metre.

A Property owner in Lekki area, Mr. Adebayo Emmanuel told The Guardian that his decision to buy property in the area is to enable him relate with people he considered as his class, reduce the stress of getting to work and for security reasons.

“Land is not really available in places like Lagos where you have more water, than land. This makes people to sand-fill. People are even ready to go into the Atlantic. That is why you see that in a reclaimed city, per square-metre could be sold for as much as $2,500 while rent in some of the locations could be as high as $80,000per year”, he said.

A visit to Iyana-Oworo, Iwaya, Gbagada, Omi-iya-alaro, Ojodu Abiodun/Berger and Arowojobe among others revealed that many of the properties, which are constructed in swampy locations, are already collapsing.

Some are tinted or even sunk to the soil. One of the property owners in Iwaya, Yaba, Mr. Debo Idowu, lamented that at the period when he bought his piece of land; there were no sign that it was waterlogged land, but come to that reality some years after building his family house on the land.

According to him, he was forced to sell out the property and relocate because he couldn’t meet up with the financial requirement to reconstruct the building with a well-fortified foundation based on engineers’ advice.

Speaking on the development, a past president of the Nigerian Institution of Structural Engineers, NIStructE, Mr. Kunle Adebajo stressed that it is important for every property owners to first determine the type of land, which they want to build on through soil investigation before the design of structures.

He observed that swampy land usually have low strength materials which is the height of problem while building on swampy land.

According to him, the only person that could interpret result of soil test and recommend appropriate design to be deplored is a qualified structural engineer.

“If you go to a place like Iwaya, Yaba, you see buildings that are tinted or even sunk to the soil.

There, you would see that what was meant to be a two-storey has become a bungalow because one part of the building has gone down. Depending on the swamp, sometimes, it may continue to go down indefinitely”.

On the right way to build on swampy land, he recommends, appropriate foundation, which will require piles that could carry the load of the building down to sand level.

Sometimes, he noted that a raffle foundation would be needed to distribute the load and for the building not to suffer from differential settlement which often, is the cause of tinting in buildings.

Adebajo said building on swamp is much expensive anywhere in the world stating that the biggest cost is on the foundation, “Developers must ensure that structures on the land is commensurate with the cost of the foundation to realise the investment like building a sky scraper.

“Once the building tints, it could lead to cracking and eventual collapse of building. People should not gamble when building on a swampy land because building is an investment on human life. Lost of lives and property are difficult to gain back. The advantage of reclaimed land in highbrow areas is that you spend more in developing and you must build structure on it that could generate the investment”.

According to him, owners of buildings that are already tinted/sunk should seek the advice of qualified engineers, as there are solutions like under-pinning, which could help arrest the differential settlement that must have taken place on the building.

Corroborating him, another engineer, Dr. Adeleke Akintilo said building in swampy area requires a well-prepared design, which must include soil investigation test that must be done by a specialist. He said the exercise would help to identify structural properties of the soil.

The investigation, he noted would also aid in determining the type of building structure that the soil could carry.

Akintilo declared that even in piling process, the right direction must be toward the sandy formation of the soil to avert failure in piling/tinting of building in the future.

Contributing, the second Vice President, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB) Mr. Kunle Awobodu said the scarcity of land in most developed areas especially highbrow area has left people without other choice than to buy swamp lands.

According to him the economic advantage of locations like Iyaoworo, Ogudu and others has also increase the choice of such locations. He said despite spending huge resources on foundation works in the locations, the value that would come out of investments in the locations would be greater than the investment.

He however, warned that the risks are enormous in terms of getting the foundation right, flooding that could affect the structure especially the block walls and the painting as well as the entire building.

In addition, he stated that bad roads, lack of good water and other infrastructural challenges could affect people living in swampy locations.

Awobodu canvassed special approvals from building regulatory agencies before construction in swampy locations to avert structural crisis.

The former Chairman, Apapa Branch of Nigerian Society of Engineers, Dr. Ombugadu Garba maintained that when building in swampy location, there must be adequate measure put in place to ensure that that issue of flooding wouldn’t affect the building.

He also emphasized on proper channelization of water, and sand filling and foundations that are rock solid.

Garba said the risk involve in building in such locations is that buildings are prone to collapse if adequate measures are not put in place.

“There must be drainage control system, the quality of materials to be used for the building is very important, proper design, improve quality of human resources must be deplored. The quality of materials to be used in swampy land and that of dry land can’t be the same.

Also, proper guide must be put in place to ensure that materials are not manage but well used to get the desired result. Enough financial resources must therefore be made available for the project. Standard must not be compromised at any stage”.

According to him, government must formulate regulations that would guide people who build in swampy area. He said there must be a design that would be approved by the government to curtail any eventuality especially the loss of lives and property.

“People building in the location may not necessarily need special approval but due to lackadaisical attitude of some people, they may need special approvals for projects.

Somebody can make mistakes when it comes to building on dry land but in swampy areas, the effect of mistakes is usually very devastating because the probability of building collapse is more.

Experts such as engineer, builders and other professionals must be up and doing, educate their members regularly to mitigate the rate of collapse of buildings/ infrastructure.


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