Events of the past couple of months which have left death and destruction across the world have also left humanity perplexed that the ugly incidents may have provoked nature’s fury in a manner that is uncontrollable.
From Houston in Texas in the United States of America to Mexico and Nigeria, stories of Hurricanes, earthquakes and flooding are piercing through the world like knives, leaving in their trails tales of woes. As at last Friday, Hurricane Irma had become so strong that it was showing up on seismometers used to measure earthquakes.
Irma, which is already the strongest hurricane ever recorded outside the Carribean and the Gulf of Mexico, is likely to make landfalls somewhere in Florida over the weekend. As a result, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have declared states of emergency.
These are coming on the heels of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Houston that killed scores of people and destroyed lots of properties in those areas. The world seems to be in deep turmoil emanating from the anger of nature and the obstinacy of a world that has refused to accept that change has occurred in climatic conditions, hence the need for change in lifestyle and attitude, especially to the Mother Earth.
Environmentalists are of the view that events of the recent time are as a result of the neglect of the earth by the humans. “We have not taken good care of the earth which has been so kind to us that it has given us everything that we need to survive in it”, says Desmond Majekodunmi, a conservationist.
Though Nigeria has had its share of these disasters as seen in the June 8, 2017 high magnitude flooding that happened in the Lekki and a few other areas of Lagos; Minna in Niger State; Makurdi in Benue State and lately Kogi State, people still believe that the country has been lucky as these incidents are not of the magnitude of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the rampaging Irma in Mexico.
But the country should not spread itself thin by over-stretching this so-called luck on its side. Lives have been lost while homes, factories and farmlands have been submerged by floods, creating social dislocations, economic misfortune, widows, orphans and refugees whose lots and lives will never be the same again.
The whole world is now jittery as no one knows where it is going to happen next. The questions agitating the mind of environmentalists and other concerned citizens are ‘how prepared is Nigeria for the unforeseen?’ ‘Who is saying something and who is listening?’ In Nigeria, government appears to be more comfortable with spending money on relief materials than taking preventive actions.
Environmentalists, meteorologists, sundry individuals and institutions have, at various times, warned of some of these disasters and the need to avert them, but nobody seemed to listen. But there are always hues and cries when one happens like the Lagos incident which looked as though the end had come.
Nobody, especially government, appears to be thinking of the economic impact of family dislocations and the opportunity cost of spending money on feeding, clothing and building materials for people who have been made refugees in their own country by acts that are clearly avoidable.
By the last count, the number of Nigerians counted as internally displaced persons has been put at four million. It could be more than that because there are so many incidents, asides disasters, that displace people from their homes on daily basis in Nigeria such as insurgency, herdsmen attack, kidnapping, armed robbery, etc which have been on the rise since the beginning of the new political dispensation called ‘change’ in the country.
What Nigeria needs today is to build resilience to guard against possible occurrence of the terrifying disasters sweeping across the globe. In the low-lying and coastal regions in the country, time is now to start reviewing the environmental impact of on-going major projects such as land reclamation for building new communities.
Tayo Odunsi, CEO, Northcourt Real Estate, blames what has happened so far on faulty planning and disobedience to urban planning regulations, saying it is time for the government and builders to return to the drawing board. He believes that big disasters usually leave towns with serious impact on their real estate value.
“Lagos being a coastal region should ordinarily have bigger drainages and dams such that when the water level rises, they will begin to pump water into the lagoon and ocean. That is the kind of thing they have in Amsterdam, Russia and Vienna where they have manual pumps. Lagos should have these facilities”, he advises. Another approach to solving this problem, he adds, is urban regeneration and remodeling of the flood prone areas.
With the hindsight of the destruction and colossal losses caused by the recent flooding that brought Lagos down on its knees, the residents of the city are now looking beyond the chilling impact to the possible causes and solutions to that disaster which has become a yearly incident.
Apparently blaming the flooding incidents on sand-filling and land reclamation from the lagoons, and the distortion of the original regional drainage master plan of the city, the residents under the aegis of Concerned Citizens of Lekki Peninsula, Ikoyi and Victoria Island- a coalition of estates in the Lekki-Epe axis-are canvassing a stop and review of the environmental impact assessments (EIAs) of those projects.
Due largely to its small land mass, growing population and fast paced urbanisation, Lagos has become one huge and perpetual construction site and the situation is such that the city is built-up, leading to scarcity of land and the resort to sand-filling of Lagoons and even the ocean to increase supply.
Lagos is a coastal and low-lying city where seasonal flooding is expected, but human activities such as the distortion of the natural balance of the ecosystem and indiscriminate waste disposal have made its case worse. The July 8 flooding in the city was the worst of its kind as many homes, mostly in the expensive areas of the city, were totally submerged.
The coalition is therefore, calling on the state government to ensure immediate removal of all obstructions to the natural watercourse in the area and uphold the sanctity of the Lekki Regional Master plan. “A number of issues have been identified as remote causes of the flood. One is the distortion of the Lekki drainage regional master plan caused by the indiscriminate sand filling of natural water ways, and the illegal construction of structures on drainages and canals that obstruct the flow of water so that flood water has nowhere to go.
“Another is the inability of the critical ministries- environment, waterfront, land and Physical Planning to work together which has resulted in infringement and breach of environmental laws by the ministries themselves and poor enforcement of environmental laws, building regulations and town planning guidelines”, said Olusegun Ladega, a representative of the coalition.
Ladega implored the Lagos state government to resolve these issues as they were not result of indiscriminate dumping of refuse and climate change. He proposed immediate actions needed to abate the flooding. “As tax-paying citizens of Lagos state, we ask the Lagos state government to stop all sand filling activities across the state until the Environmental Impact Assessments reports are made available.
Continuing, he said: “An emergency plan should be put in place that will address the persistent flooding and attend to residents affected by flooding. Adequate measures must be put in place to inform the public of the emergency plan that will inform the public of the dangers, a plan for the rescue of anyone affected, and relocation of those whose properties are affected in case of another flood.”