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Poor drainage worsening condition of Lagos’ roads

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Canal in Matori, Ladipo market, Lagos<br />

With a population of over 22.5 million according to the Lagos State Bureau of Statistics (LBS) and a growth rate of 3.2 per cent yearly, Lagos is experiencing rapid urbanisation, and a dramatic infrastructural boom. Conversely, it is struggling to manage its liquid waste, sewage, and flooding challenges due to lack of, or a poorly working drainage system, bad designs, and pilfering of manhole covers.

Poorly designed and badly maintained drainage, and waste management systems have had dire consequences on roads in the state, including compounding the already chaotic traffic situation, reducing the lifespan of cars, and fast-forwarding infrastructure decay.

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From Lagos Island to the mainland, the absence of a good drainage system is evident in the many roads that have been washed away, and the craters left behind, as is the case in many other parts of the country.

An investigation has revealed that bad drains have had dire economic effects on the state, including the destruction of critical infrastructure like electricity, telecommunication facilities, contribute immensely to health and sanitation challenges, as well as the loss of productive hours, among others.

According to records, the state government spent N42,166, 606, 124.11 in 2015; N26,543,145, 091.70 in 2016, and N41, 862,145,056.52 in 2017 on road maintenance. Also, about N55, 347, 247, 209.47, and N34, 854, 263, 377.23 respectively were spent between 2018, and 2019 on road maintenance.

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However, stakeholders are of the view that these amounts could have been reduced to the barest minimum if the drainage network were properly constructed.

According to experts, a sustainable drainage network must be covered, with maximum vents to allow for effective draining of the excess water, and restrict debris from falling into and blocking the drain. Standard drainage systems manage the water quantity to avoid flooding, control water pollution, and amenity issues in the environment.

They further maintain that sustainable drainage must be of paramount concern when designing any projects like roads, buildings, and estates, city layouts, airports, and others, as a means to protect the projects from flooding and its consequences.

But the heaps of waste materials that clog drainage channels across the state, especially during and after heavy downpours, clearly suggest that there is a need for active participation of the citizenry in keeping the drains free of debris.

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Commenting on the development, the Managing Director, Nigerian Foundries Limited, Mr. Vassilly Barberopoluos, said drains must also have resistance to the weight of vehicular traffic, stressing that all form of warping, breakages, bouncing, and rocking of drain covers should be avoided.

“In many developed parts of the world, when an expansion is carried out in the cities, the first thing that is expanded is the drainage system. Water and electricity come next before roads and houses,” he said.

He observed that unfortunately in Nigeria, houses come first, then the roads and thereafter the drainage.

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“When the reverse is the case, as has often been, what happens next is that the roads get made, then the drains are made, and they are covered with concrete slabs. All the dirt and rubbish in the community fall into the drains because of the poor quality job done, and when there is a serious rainfall, the water does not go and before long the concrete works are compromised. We must recall that not long ago, a concrete slab gave way under the weight of a truck at the Iyana Ipaja area of the state. Of course, this led to serious accidents hence heavy economic losses,” he explained.

To solve the problem of flooding in the state, he said, the best option is to reconstruct the drains completely with appropriate cover, even as he maintained that doing so would cost the government more money.

While some believe that the state government has not shown sufficient commitment towards putting in place, a lasting solution to the menace, Barberopoluos begs to differ.

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He said: “For Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu to have appointed a special adviser on drainage services means he recognises the problem and the importance of addressing it. But the question is, what is the background of the officer, and how much does he know about drainage and roads. The other problem is that when you talk about drainage and cleaning of drainage, you are referring to the Ministry of Environment, but when it comes to the actual construction of the drainage and the roads, the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure is responsible. It then means that if you do not change or reconstruct the drainage, you will be constantly cleaning and spending more money, whereas if you start reconstructing the drains in line with global standards, you will not have to spend more money to clean/evacuate the blocked drain to avert flooding.”

Manholes help in the control of erosion in most city centres across the world, especially during torrential rainfall. But the spate of manhole cover theft in the state is another factor that poses a serious hazard to pedestrians and motorists. Averagely, in most cities of the world, about 20 people die yearly from falling into improperly maintained manholes.

According to Cable News Network (CNN), in China with more than 600,000 manholes, a staggering 240, 000 manholes and drain covers were stolen in 2004, while the malaise is gradually gaining ground in Nigeria.

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Two people arrested in the Amuwo Odofin area of the state for allegedly stealing three manhole covers are some of the latest to be apprehended for committing the crime.

But for Barberopoluos, the solution to the incessant manhole theft lies in developing a customised lock and key model that would prevent access by unauthorised persons, including thieves.

Buttressing this point, a director of Vita Construction, Mr. Panikos Markantonis, said the locking mechanism makes the cover very difficult to remove, damage and vandalism.

Commenting on the construction of facilities to tackle flooding in Lagos and other major cities, Markantonis said: “Lagos is a difficult terrain because the land is undulating and to have a good drain network is almost impossible because of the slopes. The islands and parts of the mainland have very low elevation from the sea level. So, to make a good drain network, you need to consider pumping stations to drain water properly.”

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For the Executive Director, Interstate Architects, Mr. Olusola Adesina, constant campaigns and education of the general public on the need to stop the dumping of waste into the drains is important to solve the problem of slow-moving water in cities.

“A good drainage system should naturally prevent the entering of debris, waste and plastic materials into the gutter, so that, water flows effortlessly because once the drains are clogged up with dirt, it becomes a problem, as roads would become flooded, and ultimately lead to the damage of major infrastructure, including roads, vehicles, and others.

“The model to adopt, as a way out, is reputable designs for drain infrastructure as the era of concrete slab drains is fast becoming over,” he said.

For Kunle Adesina, Director of Public Affairs, Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, the state government has embarked on a comprehensive cleaning and de-silting of drainage in the state and this will be a continuous exercise.

“We are also enlightening members of the public, especially those living in low line areas/flood-prone locations to vacate such areas for now, since Lagos is a coastal city, and there is no way there won’t be a flash flood,” he said.

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