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Africa's most populous city fights floods and stays on the map

Africa’s most populous city fights floods and stays on the map

Photo: Residents walk along a flooded street in Aporu, Lagos, after heavy rain on July 6, 2020 / Getty Images

Cars and homes are inundated, commuters are knee-deep by buses in floods, and owners are calculating the cost of destroyed property.

Welcome to Lagos during the rainy season.

The people of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, are used to the annual floods that sweep through the port city from March to November. But in mid-July, the main commercial area of ​​Lagos Island was hit by one of the worst floods in years.

“It was very bad and unusual,” said Islibor Oselonman, 32. CNN.

“I left the house…I didn’t know it was raining so much…There was a lot of traffic coming my way because of the flood. The further we went, the higher the water. And the water kept rising. Osilunamin, who runs a media company in Lagos, on the mainland, recalls “It even covered my bumper…so there was water flowing inside my car.”

Pictures and videos posted on social media showed dozens of vehicles submerged in water after heavy rain. Floods are crippling economic activity, at an estimated cost of $4 billion annually.

Scientific projections suggest that Lagos, home to more than 24 million people, a low-lying city on Nigeria’s Atlantic coast, may become uninhabitable by the end of this century as sea levels rise due to climate change.

The problem is exacerbated by “improper drainage systems, poor maintenance and uncontrolled urban growth,” among others, according to a study by the Institute of Development Studies.

The Nigerian Hydrological Agency, NIHSA, has forecast more catastrophic flooding in September, usually the height of the rainy season.

coastal erosion

Lagos is built partly on the mainland and on a chain of islands.

It combats coastal erosion that makes the city vulnerable to flooding, which Nigerian ecologist Sifunmi Adepot says is attributable to global warming and “human-caused actions over a prolonged period”.

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Environmental experts have said that construction sand mining is a major contributor to coastal erosion in Lagos.

Manzo Ezekiel, a spokesperson for the Nigeria Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), told CNN that the Victoria Island river bank in Lagos “has already been swept away by the current…particularly in Lagos District VI”. There is a river bank dredging problem. “The rising waters are eating away at the ground,” Ezekiel added.

On Victoria Island, a wealthy neighborhood of Lagos – a brand new coastal city dubbed ‘Eco Atlantic’ – is being built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean and will be protected from rising waters by an 8-kilometre concrete wall. developers say.

While the ambitious project could contribute to reducing housing shortages in other parts of the city, Ezequiel fears that “reclamation of land from the sea will put pressure on other coastal areas.”

Other critics have argued that adjacent areas not protected by the wall would be vulnerable to tidal waves. CNN has contacted Echo Atlantic for comment.

Coastal cities are at risk of inundation

A study found that low-lying coastal cities in some parts of the world could be permanently submerged by 2100. The study, published by the Central Climate Research Group, said the affected areas could sink below the high tide line if sea levels continue to rise.

“As a result of human-caused pollution that traps heat, rising sea levels within three decades could lead to more chronic flooding than the land currently inhabited by 300 million people,” the study said. “By 2100, areas now inhabited by 200 million people could fall permanently below the high tide line,” he added.

Global sea levels are expected to rise by more than two meters by the end of this century.

This leaves Lagos, which experts say sits less than two meters above sea level, in a precarious state as the Nigerian coastline is low. In a 2012 study, the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom found that a sea level rise of just 3 to 9 feet (about 1 to 3 metres) “would have a catastrophic impact on human activities” in Nigeria’s coastal environments.

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Adebote told CNN that Lagos’ fate “will depend on how we prioritize this scientific prediction and the corresponding actions we take in response.” “It is only a matter of time before nature recedes and this could be a disaster,” he added.

Deadly floods in Nigeria

Chronic floods in Nigeria’s coastal areas have killed many people and displaced many. According to NEMA data, more than two million people were directly affected by floods in 2020.

At least 69 people lost their lives in flood disasters last year. In 2019, more than 200,000 people were affected by floods, and 158 people were killed.

“Every year we see floods in Nigeria,” Ezekiel told CNN. “It’s a problem caused by climate change and we’re living with it.”

In addition to Lagos’ vulnerability to climate change, poor drainage systems and clogged street gutters in large areas of the city are believed to have increased flood challenges.

“As much as climate change plays a role in sea level rise, what you can see in this video is mostly a problem with the drainage system,” tweeted a social media user who was reacting to a video about recent flooding in the lakes.

However, with increased flooding in some areas, lower-income neighborhoods built in reclaimed wetlands have to contend with buildings that are inundated.

Keep Lagos on the map

Adebote told CNN that in order for Lagos to remain afloat in the face of flooding and rising sea levels, it must adapt to climate change.

“We need to take a look at our infrastructure – drainage systems, waste management facilities, residential structures… How resilient and adaptable are these infrastructures in the face of environmental pressures and when they are placed alongside our growing population?” He said.

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Since then, authorities in Lagos have begun cleaning the state’s water canals to alleviate chronic flooding.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari also expressed his country’s readiness to partner with global allies in the fight against climate change.

We look forward to working with the president [Joe] Biden and/or Vice President [Kamala] Harris. “We have great hope and great optimism to strengthen the existing friendly relations and work together to combat global terrorism, climate change and poverty and improve economic relations and trade,” Bukhari wrote in a January tweet.

But Adebote points out that the government’s responses to climate action have been “too weak”.

“There is much more to be done, and consistent and deliberate action will be taken by Nigeria’s various stakeholders to take appropriate climate action, particularly in adapting to the impacts that are already threatening our livelihoods,” he added.

An environmental activist, Olumide Idowu, asked government officials to partner with the private sector to raise funds to solve problems.

“The government should seek partnerships with the private sector so that they can do climate finance to solve the flood problems,” Idowu told CNN.

Nigeria’s economy has struggled in recent years, which has reduced funding for climate change and other vital sectors. However, officials remain committed to accelerating the country’s response to climate change.

Last month, Nigeria’s Ministry of Environment announced presidential approval of a renewed National Climate Change Policy, aimed at addressing “most, if not all, of the challenges posed by climate change and climate fragility in the country”. The ministry spokesman wrote in the British newspaper The Guardian. Twitter share.

(Translated text. I read here The original is in English.)