Sunday Magazine

Rainy season: Lagosians panic over flood

 

•Our children don’t go to schools during rainy season-Orile residents

•NIMET: Flash flood to occur in several states

•‘Refuse dumps, collectors, our problems’

•Govt must act fast, says alarmed residents

 

The rains are here again and very early too. The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) season’s prediction for 2021 shows that there will be flash floods in some parts of the country, especially Lagos, owing to its topography which is below the sea level. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports

 

 

Despite the strides achieved by Lagos State Government in area of waste management and flood control, certain uncivilised attitudes of some Lagosians, government agencies and waste management agents may worsen the situation of flooding in the state, if no effort is made to ensure that people comply with the right practices and shun activities that would destroy the environment.

 

As the rain returns early this year, it calls for caution and enthronement of acceptable waste management practices to ensure that the predicted flood disaster in Lagos and other parts of the country is nipped in the bud.

 

Among the attitudes to be thrown off board by Nigerians in this rainy season, include dumping of waste in the drainages or situating the waste dumps near the drains or on top of the slabs covering the drainage as well as filling the drains with sand, gravels or logs to gain right of way.

 

Environmentalists said that these practices and many others must be checked by the residents, government agents and waste managers, if the entire community and residents of Lagos would live in peace when the rain returns fully.

 

Recently, the season climate prediction by NiMet for 2021 showed that there would be flash floods in some parts of the country, as well as a severe dry spell in most parts of the north.

 

The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, said the normal to above normal rainfall pattern in the country will lead to the possibility of isolated flash floods due to increasing high-intensity rainfall at the peak of the season, especially in areas that are naturally prone to flooding, Lagos inclusive.

 

Of course, the Lagos topography, which is said to be below the sea level, plays a pivotal role in making the state susceptible to flooding and any form of blockage in the water channels will spell doom of the environment with residents will be at the receiving end.

 

Sequel to this, an environmental activist, author and Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action, Nnimmo Bassey, said it’s unfortunate that every year, the rain and flood come; yet the people are not prepared for them. Bassey, who is also an architect and poet, said the lessons of flooding in a city like Lagos are not retained, saying that Lagos experiences should be taken by other areas in the country.

 

 

“It’s unfortunate that the Lagos is still experiencing flooding every year despite the warnings. The topography of Lagos is a factor here. Lagos should have a comprehensive method of controlling flooding and not a quick fix. It should be like a 10-year master plan to control flooding in the city,” he advised.

 

Bassey, who insisted that placing a refuse dump close to or on top of a slab covering a canal is like inviting a disaster, urged the state to stop the reclamation of land as it reduces the surface areas that would absorb the water, hence leading to more flooding.

 

He said: “Placing a dump close to a canal is like inviting a disaster as the solid waste will find their ways into the water and become poisonous to the water and lives in the water.

 

Lagos should know how not to place their dumps close to the gutters because it means negotiating with disaster. “I will end by saying that Lagos should try and ban the single used plastics, as these, apart from blocking the water ways, causing flooding here and there, destroy the environment and cause nuisance.

 

Everywhere you go, you see lethal waste materials. “Rains and flooding shouldn’t take Lagos State unawares. The state must clear its drainages to ensure that water flows without obstructions. Except this is done, Lagos will continue to suffer all manner of flooding.”

 

Sunday Telegraph observed that majority of the refuse dumps are located close to the drainage system and as a result, the greater part of the wastes intended to go into the dumps find their ways into the drains, causing blockage, especially when the waste managers didn’t show up on time to evacuate them.

 

At Third Avenue, Festac Town, by 31 Road Junction, a dump was seen on the slab covering the canal, and of course, majority of the debris found their ways into the canal and causing menace at the other end of the canal. It was also observed that builders, who are seeking right of way, also fill up the drainages with sand or gravel to enable them to carry their construction materials to their destination.

 

This is yet another serious insensitivity to   the environment and public infrastructure. Also, at Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Council, 41 Road, Sunday Telegraph observed that the council was among the culprits that dump sand, gravel and other building materials near the canal, using planks to cover part of the canal while stacking their materials there.

 

One of the builders, Emma Odunse, upon questioning, said there was no other place to offload their sand and gravels, saying: “Any other place will be far for us. Yes, the sand and stones are entering the gutter but we will clear it later when we have finished our work.”

 

Asked whose job it was to clear the stones and sand in the drain, he said: “The contractor will pay a labourer to do it. Clearing the gutter is not part of my job. I am a bricklayer; I set blocks and not to clean the drains.”

 

More so, like Festac and other places visited by Sunday Telegraph, it was observed along Oshodi-Mile 2 Express, between Toyota Bus-stop and Charity Bus-stop, towards Oshodi, that some underground drainages have materials like used tires, logs and all manner of disused plastics in them.

 

According to a street boy identified as Mojeed, the used tyres that were found inside the drain, towards the LAWMA office, were used for danger signs on the areas where there were open holes to en-  sure that the vehicles or pedestrians do not mistakenly enter the hole but some of them fell inside.

 

Speaking in pigin English, he said though some people will throw empty cans of bottled water or soft drinks in the open drains, he has not seen anybody from his house dump refuse inside there. “Anyway, no person dey live here shaa; na only the mechanics in their workshops dey here,” he added.

 

At the Kirikiri Canal, which runs from Apapa through Amuwo-Odofin, to other areas, there were heaps of rubbish at the banks of the canal and as the transporting barges and boats sail on the water, they move the debris to tributaries, where their negative impacts are felt most.

 

More worrisome, is that some businesses and buildings found along this coastline, empty their wastes into the canal as well as channeling their faecal waste to the canal since they do not require septic tanks and soakaway. Again, a long stretch heap of garbage was seen at Barracks Bus-stop along Orile- Badagry Expressway, where a mass of people, mainly traders, dump their waste on the slab covering the gutters and await its evacuation by the waste managers, who hardly come on the appointed days due to the perennial traffic on the axis.

 

“Before they finished the road construction, they would have used sand and other materials to fill up the drainages. The whole place is filled up. The whole of this place has been turned into a refuse dump. If you open those covers now, you will be surprised by the things you will find in them,” said Mr. Fred Igwebuike, a trader at Alaba International Market.

 

“Due to the traffic on this axis, the waste trucks (compactors) don’t usually come here on a regular basis and that is why you can see the whole place messed up,” he added.

 

Shifting the blame, a waste collector, Ibrahim Razak, said discharging of waste into drainages is never their fault, saying that in the process of evacuating the dumps, some of the garbage will fall inside the gutters.

 

He said: “I can still tell you that due to the position of the dumps, refuse are bound to enter the canals. Sometimes, in trying to evacuate the waste, some of them will enter the gutter but the scavengers are the ones doing a whole lot of damage.

 

“These people, who move around searching or sorting items from the dumps help in scattering the refuse and throwing them on the ground and when the rain comes, they will be flushed into the gutters since some of the dumps are either sitting on a covered drain or near open ones.

 

With small rain, or even wind, those ones on the ground will be washed into the canal. “I agree that it will reduce the volume of the waste that enters the gutter if the dumps are relocated but the problem is where do you place the buckets?

 

Those are the places people can easily go and dispose of their waste. But it would make a whole lot of difference if the government will instruct the waste managers to consider relocating the dumps that are close to or on top of the drains.”

 

However, Sunday Telegraph learnt that the reason for flood forecast in the country is to enable the country or the state to prepare and avert any potential danger or hardship that may arise as a result of flooding.

 

Speaking on their fear, the residents of Ojo-Afeje Crescent and Araromi Streets in Orile-Iganmu Area of Lagos State, said their greatest fear is the rain, especially the July rains, saying it brings hardship to them.

 

According to the residents, who said their greatest fear is the sound of the rain, said during flooding, their children used to skip schools and hardly come down from their high beds to flee from drowning in the flood.

 

A resident, Mr. Chima Nwannekpe, made a six-foot bed in his house, where his children stay any time there was downpour, saying that his children can be on that bed for days before they will come down, depending on the intensity of the flood. Nwannekpe, who seems not to have any serious source of maintenance has been living in the place for the past 17 years due to lack of funds to relocate to a better area.

 

He said that life has not been easy for the residents of the area. Also, at House 9, Joy Ugwu from Ebonyi State, said residents of the Crescent have their beds lifted to prevent flood from touching them while sleeping or getting anybody drowned at night. She said that it’s dangerous for them to sleep on the floor.

 

“We place our beds on top of logs or empty drums of water and put steps that would help us to climb up and down. Our foams are not kept on the floor. We don’t keep anything on the floor, including our foodstuffs and cooked foods. If not, when it rains at night or when we are not at home, the food is gone,” she said.

 

She noted that when there is heavy rain, they usually scurry in search of a safe place until the flood dries up, saying that their children would not go to school; they only feel at home in the dry season when everywhere is dry.

 

The streets are located opposite Doyin, the road that leads to Bode Thomas in Surulere. The community is on the left side of Mile 2-Orile Road, coming from Mile 2. The area faces a situation one may refer to as ‘double tragedy’ in the sense that the duo are covered by heap of refuse, which scavengers feast on, on a regular basis.

 

The Chairman of the community, Mr. Ademola Akin, wants the government to drain the canal and drive the scavengers living in the dump across the road, whose activities, he said, were responsible for the blockage of the canal in the area, and leading to flooding.

 

According to him, the area where they have turned into a waste recycling centre used to be a deep canal of about eight feet deep but has been filled up and causing flooding here and there in the community. A landlord and father of four said: “Flood enters my house too whenever it rains.

 

We need the government to come in and do something. I used to take my four children and wife to my site at Obadore when it rains heavily. They can stay there for two or three days depending on how heavy the rain is.”

 

 

He said they used to make a wooden bridge to get over to the main road but with the dirt inside the drainage, they now place planks on top of the refuse and walk on the planks. “The major area of concern here is roads and to get the gutter.

 

If you go through that ‘Bola People’ area, it’s another world of its own. They live in those kiosks. Last year, the government came and drained the gutter but nothing has happened again,” he added.

 

At Old Ojo Road, by Masalasi, Bashida Musa is scared of lightning and thunder, which reminds her of the situation she was going to face for the rest of the day, praying that the rain doesn’t come heavily. She is usually not herself when she hears the sound of the rain, especially when she is not at home, having the feeling that the flood may wreak havoc in her home.

 

“If I’m far from home and I heard the sound of rain, I would not be comfortable anymore for the fear of flooding and damage it might cause to my house. My greatest fear now is seven days rain. Thinking about it is a serious cause of unhappiness for me.”

 

For Mr. Moses Peters, steps are placed on pebbles on the ground to enable him to navigate into his compound which is usually flooded when it rained heavily.

 

When contacted on the possibility of relocating the Dino bins sited close to drainages in the state and what happens to the debris that enters the gutters during waste evacuation and other activities inimical to standard practices, the Public Relations Officer, Lagos State Waste Management Authority, Mr. Aromire Hakeem, said LAWMA has dumpsites in places likes of Olusosu, where they deposit waste collected.

 

He said: “What we have are dumpsites where the wastes carted by the P S P operators in large volumes and tonnes are deposited, like the one in Olusosun at Ojota. “But talking about Dino bins that are located in some areas for easy disposal of wastes, the Authority will look into your suggestion and see its possibilities and workability.

 

Thank you very much for your time and efforts. “As for the cleaning of gutters and canals, it’s the work of the Lagos State Ministry of Environment. It’s not our area of competence to comment on it, though they have been cleaning the drainages in the state,” he added.

 

However, all efforts made to get the Director, Public Affairs of the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Kunle Adesina, failed as several calls put across to him weren’t successful.

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