Lagos Flooding: Working now to avert tomorrow’s danger

There have been several predictions of the possibility of many coastal cities across the country, including Lagos State, being submerged in water in the very near future if adequate measures are not put in place. ADEYINKA ADENIJI takes a look at the danger that awaits Lagos State if efforts are not intensified to mitigate the danger ahead and what is being done in that direction

Flooding in Nigeria, as a topic can never be said to be “over-flogged” – the journalistic parlance for exaggerated reportage of a topic that portrays the public commentator as being obsessed with the sensation and not the expected public utility of a particular topic or news item – due singly to the naturally devastating impacts it imprints on man and the ecosystem.

Generally, man in his bid to solve his basic problem of shelter, or maximise the environment for his comfort, when not regulated or in the face of outright incapacitation to adequately respond to changes, and the inherent, yet avoidable disasters there from, becomes a breeder of self-ruination, as he is always subjected to the outcomes of his life-soothing engagements. One of such avoidable disasters is flooding. A phenomenon marked by overrunning of natural spaces by water. Ocean surges and excessive rainfall are two major causes of the destructive spate of flooding, especially in Lagos State.

Causes of Lagos flooding

Unarguably, in the face of governmentinspired modernisation, the Nigerian commercial capital has also witnessed a dimension of flooding peculiar only to coastal cities and other neighborhoods of similar aquatic splendor. Lagos is an urbanised coastal city where the Land Use (LU) and Land Cover (LC) decimation typically creates a larger proportion of impenetrable surface for rainwater.

Just as alterations to landscape, as a result of urbanisation affects the frequency of flooding and its severe consequences. Instructively, in urban centers, where a larger potion is developed with structures whether residential or other civil developments, overflowing waters beyond the capacity of existing drainages and canals resulting in flooding and the larger portion of impenetrable surfaces hinder the absorbent of rain water.

The Lagos landscape over the years, having witnessed aggressive environmental modernization, particularly, and of late, around its coastal edges has attracted widespread interest in the need for improvement in flood disaster mitigation infrastructures. The state government under Governor Babajide Sanwoolu and other environmental stakeholders in Lagos has at various times expressed concern about the dimension of flooding across the state and particularly the Lekki axis.

Lekki residents, experts proffer possible solution

Recently at a stakeholders meeting at the behest of the state’s Physical Planning and Urban Development Ministry, for the review of the Lekki Master Plan developed by the state government, the president of Lekki Estates Residents and Stakeholders Association, Olorogun Emadoye, besought the state government to adopt physical and urban planning measures to tackle environmental challenges in Lekki and the entire state.

Emadoye lamented the inadequacy of flood mitigation infrastructure. In his keynote address at the meeting which had government functionaries, traditional rulers and other stakeholders in attendance, Olorogun Emadoye said, “the Lekki community does not have adequate infrastructure to accommodate the rising number of businesses, residents, and properties in the axis.” An urban development lecturer at the Bells University, Dr Gbenga Ogunkan, when engaged by New Telegraph, also concurs with Emmadoye, saying that Lagos flooding is usually of multi-faceted dimension.

He equally cited the effect of climate change, massive urbanisation and inadequate infrastructure to match the environmental modernisation- induced flooding as a major cause for the millions of dollars and unquantifiable value of human lives lost to subsuming rainwater and ocean surges yearly. Further buttressing Emmadoye’s position, Dr Ogunkan noted that infrastructural shortage leads to flooding, adding that climate change, coupled with the historical topography of Lagos; comprising the mainland and strings of Islands, Marshes and Mangroves as other factors occasioning the wailing that has trailed almost every slightly prolonged rainfall in the state.

According to the university teacher, “there is no single cause to the flooding disaster in Lagos, it is a culmination of multiple factors,” explaining that the torrential nature of rains leading to the incessant effect of flooding is a manifestation of the impact of climate change. “One important factor is the consequences of climate-change-induced short-duration high-intensity or long-duration-low-intensity rainfall.” The nature of rains determines the magnitude of floods and their resultant negative impacts. Excessive rainfalls leading to massive flooding in general cases overwhelmed existing flood management and control infrastructures and thus results in the overflowing of naturally dry surfaces, causing damage to farmlands, walkways, roads, and buildings and killing many.

The effects of climate change and global warming on flooding are categorised as natural, though traceable to man’s corruption of his environment. Human activities like the burning of fossil or carbon emission, which produces heat-trapping gases dangerous to the environment, have continued to cause climate change.

This, experts say, affects the pattern and volume of rain, which ultimately determines the flood. Climate change, according to the university don, “leads to heavy precipitation, a condition he described as “instances during which the amount of rain or snow experienced in a location substantially exceeds what is normal”. This he said “in turn affects the size and frequency of flooding” Instructively, ocean surges, both natural and man-induced, are one of the most prominent factors giving rise to incidences of flooding in Lagos.

The rise in water levels above the normal tidal level is equally a function of the increase in seawater, for multiple reasons including and not only to melting ice, an outcome of global warming. Another major cause of flooding, as enumerated by Ogunkan, in respect of the most populated coastal city in Africa, Lagos, is urbanisation. This accounts for the increase in population as a result of rural-urban migration, with a corresponding environmental modernisation approach that motivates civil development and accessibility to infrastructure at comparatively lower costs.

However, when not matched with sufficient disaster mitigation and management and risk reduction infrastructures, environmental modernisation becomes the most popular factor leading to the natural and/or man-induced disasters of flooding. Entailing massive housing provisions with impacts on land use and land cover, which often requires deforestation, dredging, reclamation, sand filling and other forms of man’s injustices to his environment, particularly when unregulated. In his words,”urbanization is an important factor that exacerbates flooding.” Speaking further, he said the situation becomes more complicated by the fact that several areas of the city were historically low-lying mangrove swamps and marshes, which have been reclaimed and settled, mostly by poorer communities and more recently through aggressive government initiative.

This explains the incessant flooding in Lekki. Residents’ negative attitudes toward waste disposal and municipal authorities’ failure to provide waste disposal services are also a factor. The university Don however decried the lack of proportionate mitigation infrastructure to cater to the escalation in the cases of flooding occasioned by flooding in Lagos. “Unfortunately, Nigeria’s urbanisation rate is without commensurate provision of urban infrastructure and amenities. Urbanisation means more people, more people means more housing, more roads, and more infrastructure.

Therefore, urbanisation increases the number of roads and buildings. This in turn increases the proportion of surface area where water cannot be absorbed into the ground, leading to a rapid runoff which then causes flooding during storms. In the case of Lagos, according to Dr Ogunkan, the predominantly low-lying neighborhoods of Lagos are especially vulnerable to flooding, as reclaiming land from the sea will put pressure on other coastal areas, and the situation is exacerbated by structures built on waterways, adding that, poor waste disposal practices by a bloated population as add to the challenge.

The 2012 Nationwide Flooding

Historically, the 2012 nationwide flooding, in which Lagos was expectedly the worst hit, stands out in the history of the country as the gravest in terms of mass destruction to lives and properties – owing largely to the coastal endowment of the city. The same downpour had equally ministered hunger-inspiring damages to farmlands in other non-coastal parts of the country, with its resultant negative impacts on food security and national productivity. Consequently, over $18 billion worth of properties were reported to have been lost to the disaster. Experts say it may not be dissociated with the urbanisation drive of the government in the fastest-growing coastal city in the world. Unarguably, the topographical configuration of Lagos, coupled with the urbanisation drive of successive governments, especially since the advent of the Fourth Republic has subjected the state to a horrible history of loss of lives and properties to flood disasters. Sitting less than 2 meters above sea level, Lagos in the face of the daily flow of climaterelated research outcomes, by authoritative voices in the field of atmospheric sciences, all of which validate a United Nations projection of a rise in seawater levels; it would be safe to say, therefore, that, given constantly over-stretched existing flood mitigation infrastructure, Lagos, like other coastal settlements down to the Niger Delta may be on the verge of total submergence in the not too distant future.

Recent flooding history

A more recent incidence of flooding in Lagos ending in the loss of lives and properties occurred in July 2022 after a low-intensitylong- duration rain caused a flood catastrophe. Existing canals and drainages around Agege could no longer contain the volume of overflowing rainwater – due mainly to an overwhelmed drainage system sweeping away vehicles, including SUVs around Fatoki, Agege and other parts of Lagos. The extent and dimension of the July 9, 2022, flood that ravaged Agege and other parts of Lagos did not only claim lives and properties and turned the supposedly festive Muslim Edi el Kabir into moments of mourning for some families, but it also highlighted the insufficiency in the proposed expansion of the Agege Abattoir – Oyatoki- Aboru canal.

NIHSA annual flooding outlook

This, however, some experts say, points to a ‘flood’ year ahead, even as the Federal Minister of Water and Natural Resources, Suleiman Hussein Adamu, while unveiling the 2022 annual Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency, (NIHSA) annual flooding outlook, AFO, had predicted massive flooding in 32 states of the federation including Lagos, expectedly. The NIHSA AFO for 2022 confirms with a widely embraced forecast by Climate Central, that the effects of climate change, coupled with environmental modernization without commensurate flood mitigation measures. Climate Central, a Jersey, USA-based environmental research centre, in a 2019 publication in the journal, Nature Communication, had predicted that by 2050, sea level rise will push average annual coastal floods higher than normal. Now home to over 20 million people, Lagos residents are part of the over 300 million people projected to become inundated in less than 30 years to come. As a direct outcome of ocean surge, informed by shrinking seashores, as a result of reclamation for urbanisation, the sea level is expected to rise to about six meters above the present level. This expectedly will submerge Lagos and other coastal settlements in Nigeria lying a little below 2 meters against sea levels. Many observers, both individual and corporate, believe that the Climate Central prediction is a possibility in the face of seeming unpreparedness of some state governments and other stakeholders. In the light of this, Dr Ogunkan however posited that the precision of its anticipated fulfillment depends on the availability of resilient infrastructures, growing population and urban planning mechanisms among others. “Nobody needs to be told that the consequences of flooding disasters are not pleasant, and if the stakeholders refuse to take the bull by the horn, fulfillment of the prediction that Lagos will be submerged by 2050 is imminent. It is a possibility, but it is contingent on how we priorities this prediction and what actions we take in response. “The feasibility or otherwise of this prediction is dependent on how resilient and adaptable infrastructures such as drainage systems, waste management facilities, and housing structures are in the face of environmental priorities and our growing population. It also depends on how effective our urban planning mechanism is.” Due to its far-reaching destructionwrithing impacts on man and his environment, the onus now lies on all stakeholders to rise in mitigation, therefore, of the known inevitable and seemingly insurmountable challenge of flood disasters.

Be environment

friendly There is a need for the immediate discontinuation of every form of injustice and corruption to the environment. Injustices in the forms of alteration and hindrances to the natural course of environment and corruption there too, in the forms of pollution, contamination and depletion of nature in such a way that triggers flooding and the customary damages. The lack of adequate environmental protection legislations and the non-enforcement of existing ones has also sustained the rate of corruption and injustice to man’s ecosystem. Illicit mining, illegal dressing and unregulated reclamation must be sanctioned and justice meted out to perpetrators will serve as a detriment to future generations. Government must also step up its commitment to the provision of mitigation infrastructures. Efforts by the Lagos State government, though not a guaranteeing indication that the state may escape submergence towards the middle of the century, were however hailed by Ota-based Dr Ogunkan, who said that the state is taking steps in response to the challenge, through the institution of relevant agencies, adoption of information technology solutions, partnering environmental oriented institutions and bodies both locally and internationally and the acquisition of flood control hardware.

“There is no doubt that the Lagos State government has responded adequately to the flooding challenges. Lagos State has launched several flood prevention and relief activities, ranging from community self-help initiatives to internationally bank-funded programs.

“The Lagos State government recently introduced significant measures, including the Drain Dock and The Emergency Flood Abatement Gang (EFAG), to improve present efforts to manage flooding concerns. The ministries of Environment, Works, and Health, as well as the Lagos Metropolitan Development and Governance Project (LMDGP), have several initiatives aimed at reducing flood risk in the area, including shoreline protection, low carbon emissions, a school advocacy program, and a climate change club.” He also expressed delight at the state government’s acquisition of heavy-duty mud pumps as well as the expansion of some existing flood channels.

“The state administration has determined that a permanent solution to the flooding will include the installation of three larger 3000m cube per minute pumps, as well as the reconstruction of the drainage outlet.” According to him, “each of those pumps will require a 400KVA generator, which will be given to power each of the pumps.”

However, in corroboration of Ogunkan’s optimism on the preparedness of the Sanwoolu led administration to tackle the menace of flooding in Lagos, the governor while on inspection of some projects, which includes the laying of three high capacity pumps at Ilubirin drainage, said that the installation, when fully operational will put an end to the issue of flooding on the Island, being the state most vulnerable part. To prevent a precise manifestation of the fulfillment of the doomsday prediction that may see high-capacity coastal Nigeria of about 9 states, including Lagos swept underwater in less than 3 decades from now, Dr Ogunkan said every member of the ecosystem has a role to play. “Everybody has roles to play in addressing the problem of flood in Lagos. The government is expected to embolden physical planning and environmental agencies in the state.”

This, he said will enhance building the capacity for flood preparedness through spatial planning and land management. The government, he said, should also have the political will to implement and enforce environmental standards and laws to curtail anthropogenic activities such as indiscriminate waste disposal, construction along the flood plain, and the blockage of drainage facilities. “They should also establish an emergency control center, automated weather stations, and emergency response systems, as was done in Mumbai, India. “The residents should desist from bad waste dumping habits which blocks the drains.

The research communities should intensify research effort towards flooding, especially future occurrences and should be directed towards this crucial aspect of flood risk assessment,” he concluded. Nonetheless, effort by New Telegraph to reach officials of the Lagos State government on other efforts being implemented to forestall a repeat of the 2012 flooding proved abortive as the Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwoolu of Drainages, Engr Joe Igbokwe would not respond to his calls, neither did the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of The ministry of the Environment, Mr. Adeshina as at press time.




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