By Jude Njoku

GOshen  and Alpha Beach Estates were developed as highbrow residential estates in the Lekki Peninsula axis of Lagos. But the once serene neighbourhoods have been hit by coastal erosion which has forced some of the residents to relocate to more secure areas.

One of such residents is Mr.Azuka Ezemakam who relocated to the mainland because of the coastal erosion that ravaged Alpha Beach Estate. Ezemakam told  a one-day Roundtable on Climate Change Adaptation in Lagos: Eko Atlantic City- Dream for Few or Nightmare for Many? organised by Heinrich Boll Stiftung in Nigeria in January, that water from the Atlantic ocean was just pushing and taking over the estate when work started on the first phase of Eko Atlantic City project.

EKO Atlantic is promoted nationally and internationally as a model Public Private Partnership between Lagos State Government and South EnergyX Nigeria Limited to protect Lagos from flooding and ocean surge, to offer new habitable space for residents and businesses and to create new employment opportunities.

It is expected that an imposing skyline of towers housing the headquarters of banks, insurance companies and hotels will remind visitors and investors of the successful development of Dubai. But does this project really provide the necessary answer to the approximately 15 million inhabitants to achieve sustainable economic growth for all under increased climate stress?

Artist’s impression of Eko Atlantic City

These issues took the front burner when environmentalists drawn from the Community Conservation and Development Initiatives, CCDI, Environmental Law Research Institute, ELRI and Heinrich Boll Stiftung, HBS as well as professionals in the field of environmental law, architecture, and urban planning, marine research and oceanography, came toge
ther to examine the “Draft Final Environmental Impact Assessment Report” submitted to the Federal Ministry of Environment by the developers of the luxury city in 2011.

The experts included Mr. Ako Amadi, of CCDI who gave a brief description of the communities threatened by coastal erosion and displacement and also spoke on Eko Atlantic City, a sustainable development project for coastal states – Best practices from other countries; Prof David Areadeon who focused on “Eko Lagos City -and the new Eko Atlantic City: A case study in development issues” and Profs Margaret Okorodudu and Lanre Fabgbohun who delivered a paper on “Eko Atlantic Environmental Impact Assessment: Legal Issues”’.

The experts were unanimous in declaring that the Eko Atlantic City project lacks transparency, participation and doesn’t always adhere to the rule of law. Said they: “The approach taken so far by the Federal Government, Lagos State Government and South EnergyX leaves room for doubt.

Current stock of offshore sand
Research, according to them has shown that the current stock of offshore sand would be inadequate for such a project. “Over the years, the offshore sand bed of  the ocean in the Lagos area has not been replenished  naturally.

This is due to factors such as the sand drifts along the West African coast where -amongst others, the port constructions at Lome and Cotonou have reduced the amount of sand deposited in the Lagos area. The sand and block digging for the projects needs to be closely monitored by the appropriate government authorities,” a facts sheet released by the experts noted.

According to them “The offshore dredging can increase the energy of the ocean waves which will be diverted to the eastern coast when hitting the new “Great Wall”

The environmentalists raised these posers: “Have the tide and wave strength undergone a long term monitoring before the commencement of the project? On which data do the foreign experts simulations rely on?

They stressed the  need for a provision that would hold the developers responsible for long term negative impacts caused by the project.

They further noted that the late submission of  the EIA  to the Federal Ministry of Environment contravened the EIA Act of 2004.  “The EIA was submitted three years after the commencement of dredging activities. This is a contravention of the EIA Act 2004, There is no evidence that the Federal Ministry of Environment approved the construction.

The Environmental Impact Assessment of 2004 provides that an EIA must be carried out before embarking upon any developmental project” they experts who stated that the EIA was only submitted in November, 2011 said..

The  stakeholders regretted that the affected communities were never involved in the project plans. Meanwhile, serious erosion is happening along the coastal areas identified as vulnerable in the draft final EIA. “The affected areas have to be protected immediately; at the same time, a consensus is needed to find alternative solutions to the proposed hard coastal structures,” they posited.

They further noted that the  sustainability concept of the developers does not seem to include core issues like renewable energy, energy efficient building, waste to energy. “It is not clear which kind of permanent jobs the project will create. Neighbouring communities will have difficulties to cope with with increased infrastructural pressure caused by the project.

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