The recent flooding in Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, had everyone’s tongues wagging. Everyone had something to say about it. From those who woke up to find their possessions submerged under a meter of water, to those who showed off their prowess in catching aquatic wildlife, to those who just enjoyed pointing and laughing at ‘arrogant’ Lagosians being taken down a peg or to, everyone had something to say.
Lagos is a mega-city that for the most part has the infrastructure of a much smaller city. Over the years, as more and more people migrate to the city from all over the country in search of opportunity, the existing creaking infrastructure gets more and more exposed. For instance, a lot of Lagos’ infamous traffic is caused by the fact that there are too many vehicles and not enough roads for them to ply.
In the case of the flooding, there are many issues. Lagos is below sea-level and any rise in the ocean will see a level of flooding. The dredging and land reclamation efforts for massive projects like the Eko Atlantic project have a deleterious effect on coastal communities. Dredging at Alfa Beach in 2011 made the usual rainy season ocean surges worse costing the local community there their health centre, mosque, electrical poles and the contamination of their borehole with sea water.
Climate change is another big issue. This video is scarier than most horror movies. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UC1x0It0xzo
According to the video, if emissions continue as usual over the next 40 years, leading to a 5 degrees Celsius rise in global warming, the oceans could rise 60 meters. That would leave much of Lagos underwater. However, even a small rise, 0.25 degrees would still be fairly catastrophic.
Amidst all the chatter about the flooding was the usual refrain of Nigerians when things go wrong – “it’s the government’s fault.” This is only partly true. The government has often been greedy, only seeing Naira signs instead of environmental impacts. Some houses are actually built over drainage, and the builders/owners have to have gotten planning permission for this or had someone turn a blind eye.
Speaking of drainage, the system is old and poorly maintained and is further taxed by the poor waste management habits of Lagosians. This is where we need to take responsibility. The drains and canals are filthy, choc-full of garbage. Granted, there are no receptacles or regular waste disposal services in various parts of Lagos, but on the other hand there needs to be a change in attitudes and behaviours of the people too.
We have a distrustful attitude to recycling, seeing it as some foreign thing, although this is changing. There are a few private recycling companies operating in Lagos now. They collect recyclable waste from the populace and recycle it to sell back to the manufacturers. They incentivise the population by giving them points for waste that is brought in, which the people can later redeem for various gift items.
Therein lies a problem, we need to get to the stage where we recycle because it’s good and will improve the environment, not because we can redeem enough points to get a washing machine.
We just seem to be selfish and thoughtless a lot of the time. One of our staff members reported seeing a passenger in a bus just throw his used plastic soft-drink bottle unto the bridge in traffic one day. Now mind you, there was no garbage on the bridge, or any indication that it was fine to throw your trash there. The passenger just did it because they were tired of holding unto the bottle and didn’t think twice about getting rid of it.
As has been seen, the flooding is caused by more than one or two factors, and it would be disingenuous to say that flooding will stop in Lagos if we just stop littering. However, we need all the help we can get, and every little helps. If the drains are clear, then maybe the ocean surges won’t wreak as much havoc.