To curtail the raging floods
The recent assurance given by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, to stem the raging tide of the flushing floods is as timely as it is imperative. The crux of the matter is that finding sustainable solutions to this critical issue goes beyond any blame game. The government cannot mitigate the scourge of floods alone, not just here in Nigeria but elsewhere in the world. Not only is it expensive but preventive rather than curative mechanisms would always save the day.
A more pro-active approach that is all-encompassing would therefore, no doubt save the residents of the state, especially those living in Lekki and the Victoria Island (VI) the trauma of having to lose their valued property worth millions of Naira, or even precious, irreplaceable lives to the natural challenge.
The first step is to collaborate with Nigerian Meteorological Agency, NIMET and heed its early warnings, more so for Lagos that is a coastal state. For instance, the agency has linked the increase in the volume of rainfall to the global climate change. The views of experts, especially that of environmental impact analysts is equally important, as the President of the Nigerian Institute of Town Planners (NITP), Mr. Remi Makinde has traced the flood, particularly in Lagos to the non-adherence to the Master Plan of the fast expanding city. According to him, huge funds must be made available for the drainages to be fully dredged.
Similarly, other experts such as Professors David Aradeon, Margaret Okorodudu, Lanre Fagbohun and Mr. Ako Amadi of the Community Conservation and Development Initiatives (CCDI) have harped on the increasing need for the state government to take a critical look at the Master Plan of the Eko Atlantic City. The challenge is the reduced offshore sand deposit in Lagos caused by the construction of ports in both Lome and Cotonou. This means that close monitoring of block and sand digging should be carried out so as not to deplete available sand and cause a swell in the tidal waves that could aggravate an already bad situation.
It is heart-warming therefore, that the state government has decided to re-engineer drainage systems, enforce Physical Planning Laws as well as step up campaign against dumping of refuse into canals. The governor emphasized these while speaking at a sensitization workshop on water management and environmental control held recently at Ikeja. This is a prelude to a Water Technology and Environmental Control (WATEC) exhibition holding in Israel later in the year.
The role of the mass media in assisting to drive home the salient message that environmental issues are the concern of all cannot be underestimated. For instance, it would recalled that yours truly felt so concerned about the fury of the flood that Lagos witnessed six years ago that my opinion essay of July 20, 2011 in Independent Newspaper was titled: “Let us take environmental issues more seriously.” One had canvassed then that a holistic Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) be carried out across the country. Such would provide a clear picture of our geological environment. Measures should be taken to project the likely sociological and economic challenges and mechanisms put in place to curtail the effects on the citizens.
Questions were raised on: “How do we dispose of our household and industrial wastes? What should be done to reduce the effects of climate change on hapless Nigerians? How equipped is the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in terms of manpower, equipment and training to assuage the pains of the victims?”
Suggestions were also made on the need for our experts in the related field to conduct more researches on our peculiar environment and their recommendations acted upon with the desired dispatch. More health workers should be trained specifically to handle cases of shock, cholera, diarrhea all arising from flood disasters. More of our students should be trained on environmental sciences and jobs created for them by government.
And narrowing it down to Lagos State, one had urged the Federal Government to make more funds available to it, to construct storm channels and drain the water from the Atlantic Ocean side of Eti-Osa into the Lagoon across the expressway. One had also canvassed for massive public awareness on environmental issues in schools, churches, mosques, market places with such translated into our local languages.
Subsequently, on May 22, 2013 one was compelled to publish another essay in the same paper with the title: “Just before the floods.” That was inspired by the more damaging effects of the flood caused by the opening of the dams in Cameroun that swept across several states in Nigeria. NIMET had predicted that there would be more torrential rainfall that year but the warning was not taken seriously until the havoc had been wreaked. One had also highlighted the needed synergy between the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources, Agriculture and Rural Development as well as that of Science and Technology. Perhaps, if my humble suggestions had been taken more seriously we would not be where we are this day. May be the loss of property and lives in Niger state caused by the recent floods could have been less in magnitude.
For now, the good people of Lagos State and indeed Nigerians have to understand that sanitation should not be a weekly but a daily exercise. That the indiscriminate dumping of wastes in gutters and drainages is a crime not just against the state but their wellbeing. Equally significant is for the real estate miscreants, who have had a hand in the building of houses or sundry structures in areas not included in the Master Plan to be ready for the bulldozers. These would demolish their dream castles to sandy waste.
From the global perspective, there were Early Warning Conferences in 1998, 2003 and 2006 to analyze and examine methods on reducing the effects of natural disasters. In fact, the World Conference on Disaster reduction in Kobe and later Bonn, Germany made some progress. But whether we like it or not we live in an era of freaky weather conditions characterized by intense heat waves, increasing drought, expanding desertification, thawing of ice blocks, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis with their telling effects on mankind. Food insecurity and escalating food prices are some of the resultant effects.
The way forward is for collaborative efforts between government agencies and the people. As Ambode rightly noted the best “intention would be to explore a wide array of technological advancements and possibilities to ensure best solutions.” Are you ready to play your part?
Baje, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Lagos.