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Towards a flood-free Lagos

VERY soon, the rains will start pouring down. In Lagos, the rainy season is dreaded. Being an island surrounded by various bodies of water  from the Lagos lagoon to different beaches scattered around the state, Lagos’ peculiar geographical status has far reaching flooding implications on the metropolis. Its topography which makes it essentially a low lying terrain up to 0.4 percent below the sea level is another critical issue. Naturally, this brings about a huge flooding challenge.

However, in as much as flooding is a natural phenomenon, some human activities aggravate it. The common practice of building houses near rivers and other bodies of water (i.e., within natural floodplains) has contributed to the disastrous consequences of floods. In Lagos State, the building of houses near rivers and beaches is fast becoming a fad among the elite. These edifices usually come in the way of free flow of water bodies whenever there are heavy downpours. These houses often come with poor drainage channels connecting them to the bigger canals and water channels. It is a wonder why the appropriate authorities  allow this in the first place.

Similarly, poor and indiscriminate waste disposal is a major cause of flooding in the State. It is common sight to see people empty huge sacks of wastes in the drainage whenever it rains. And when such people are accosted, the rain will flush them off is the usually thoughtless response. In addition, commuters in both private and commercial vehicles  litter the streets as they journey to their various destinations. This garbage end up in gutters and other drainage channels  Furthermore, despite the designation of the last Saturday of every month as the general environmental sanitation day in the State, some residents still defy this directive by not utilising this period appropriately.

And to make matters worse, some cart pushers, illegal waste agent patronised by some residents, dump the refuse they have been paid to dispose off in canals and large drainage channels. This act often results in blockage of free flow of waste water, resulting in flooding whenever it rains, irrespective of the magnitude. This is often rampant in markets and other commercial centres. If only the perpetrators of these acts are aware of the consequences of their action!

Often times, the effects of flooding on the affected residents are unquantifiable and devastating. The menace of flooding has rendered many people homeless, while not a few landlords have been stripped of their only investments. Invariably, this has contributed immensely to the upsurge in the level of social problems in the society. There is an increase in the army of the homeless, which has resulted in overcrowding in houses, all in attempts to play good neighbours and take these people in.

Also, it is not uncommon to see some senior citizens begging for alms to keep body and soul together, when their only investments have been destroyed by flooding. Infrastructures such as roads are not spared as a result of this menace of flooding. Many roads have been destroyed and the affected communities cut off from the rest of the state. This has affected economic, academic and social activities in these communities.

It is, therefore, important that both state and local government authorities continually enlighten the people about the enormity of the dangers posed by flooding and the need for them to stop every human induced action that results into flooding. The management of the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA, especially, should step up efforts to extend their services to the nooks and crannies of the state. This way, no one would have any rationale to engage in environmentally unfriendly activities.

As we prepare for the rainy season, all hands must be on deck to ensure that all human induced actions that promote flooding are discontinued.

Consequently, NGOs, Community Development Associations, the media, members of the Civil Society and all well meaning individuals and groups in the state should endorse attitudinal change towards the environment.

The struggle between man and nature has always been a protracted one. But it is certain that nature cannot conquer the resolve of a determined and united people whenever man decides to subdue nature and enforce dominion over the earth.  All we need to do is to appreciate the value of preparedness and prevention of disaster rather than wait for the problem before taking action. While it is possible to blame government for poor health facilities, pitiable educational condition and weak infrastructure, tackling natural occurrences such as climate change challenge and flooding should be a collective responsibility that  involves every segment of the society.

Mr. Adenike Ademola, an environmental protection campaigner, wrote from Lagos


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