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Enforcing environmental laws to minimize flooding

Torrential rains in Lagos and its environs and in other parts of the country have, once more, exposed the failure of urban and regional planning tenets in our country. In Lagos residents of highbrow Lekki, Ajah, Victoria Island and Ikoyi were the worst-hit this time . Human and vehicular movements were hampered, and some residents were forced to vacate their homes.  Much damage was done to the environment and property.

The same problem occurred in most parts of the country during the same period, The Federal Executive Council, FEC, has approved  N16 billion relief fund for 16 States, including Lagos, affected by the flooding. Apart from Adamawa, Sokoto, Plateau and Benue States in the North, others are states in the South East, South-South and South West.

The topography of Lagos is peculiar. It is a coastal state, many parts of which are below the sea level. This poses an enormous drainage challenge to the state. Lately, the volume of rain being experienced in Lagos has caused flash flooding in some areas. The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMet) had earlier warned of “extended rains of three to eight days for areas in and around Adamawa, Ogun, Edo, Niger Delta and low- lying areas such as Lagos.”

Efforts of the Lagos State Government and critical stakeholders in minimising the impact of the heavy downpours are not felt due to citizens’ unwholesome habits that promote flooding. Activities of illegal waste collectors who indiscriminately dump refuse in canals and other drainage channels are among the contributing factors to flooding in the state.

Residential buildings and other structures are built on drainages and other water outlets in most of the highbrow areas, and the relevant authorities are aware of this.

Governments must summon the political will to take necessary corrective measures against violators of building and town planning regulations. It is not enough for the Governments to issue reactive advisories to citizens to relocate from flood-prone areas during heavy rains without making arrangements to provide them temporary shelters as done in developed countries. We urge the state government to consider its plan to build flood retention ponds a matter of priority. It will help to ameliorate the problem.

The government must demonstrate zero tolerance to the abuse of environmental regulations and town master plans. Year-round monitoring by officials for compliance and punishment of violators are the only ways to keep the drains free for wastewater to move freely. The time has come to end the fire brigade approach to environmental issues, especially in our larger urban centres.

Beyond tackling the current challenges of flooding in Lagos and other parts of the country, it is important to also work towards protecting the  coastal areas from rising sea levels which they face   as a result of climate change. We should not wait until that doomsday is upon us.


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