25 January 2012

Nigeria: Raging Controversy Over City in Atlantic Ocean

Mr. Azuka Ezemakam lived in Alpha Beach Estate in the highbrow Lekki Peninsula area of Lagos until June last year, when coastal erosion in the once serene neighbourhood forced him to relocate from the estate he had lived in for eight years.

Ezemakam said he had to pack out of the estate because his life was no longer safe. His words: "I didn't pack out of Alpha Beach Estate but I was displaced from the Estate. I lived there for over eight years and had peace. But sometime in May last year, coastal erosion swept through the estate and this was happening almost on a daily basis. Water from the Ocean was just surging and taking over the estate.

"It happened at the time the first phase of Eko Atlantic City project was being commissioned. I left for my safety because the surge was too much. All the access roads to the estate have vanished; electricity poles were taken away and you must drive through people's houses to get access to your own building. It came to a point that I wasn't sure of my safety any more.

"That was when I moved out. I was afraid that one could be asleep and if the surge comes, one is gone. We lost lives in Alpha Beach because of the ocean surge; a woman actually lost her baby to the coastal flooding. As I speak, the main access route to Alpha Beach is gone. If the Lagos State continues in this mannerl,I am afraid that very soon, Lagos will be under water".

Mr. Ezemakam spoke at a one-day Roundtable on Climate Change Adaptation in Lagos: Eko Atlantic City- Dream for Few or Nightmare for Many? organised by Heinrich Boll Stiftung in Nigeria.

Mr. Gbenga Okunsanyo of the Ocean Surge Committee, Goshen Beach Estate also painted a similar picture of the plight of residents of the estate, allegedly due to the ongoing reclamation of land for the building of highbrow multi-billion dollar Eko Atlantic City.

...Ocean surge

But a climatologist, Prof. Emmanuel Oladipo stated that it would be wrong to attribute the plight of residents of both estates to the ongoing reclamation of land for the Eko Atlantic City project, because coastal erosion had started in both estates prior to the commencement of work at Eko Atlantic. He however agreed that when one area is eroded, another area is bound to benefit as sand is deposited in the new area.

Oladipo who spoke on "The Imperative for Sea Level Rise Risk Assessment for the Development of Lagos Coastline (Including the Eko Atlantic Project)" regretted that the Lagos State Government failed to carry people along before the project owned by the Chagori Group was embarked upon.

He warned against a reoccurrence of the mistakes made during the development of Victoria Island in the 1970s. According to him, VI was planned to be a highbrow residential neighbourhood and remained so until the late 1980s when commercial activities started springing up in the area."

The luxury people who bought properties in Victoria Island thought that they would enjoy is no longer there," he lamented.

On the ongoing development at Eko Atlantic, Prof. Oladipo who reiterated the cliche that water must find its level, explained that you cannot displace that quantity of water from the Bar Beach and expect it not to find another place to percolate.

Prof. Oladipo stated that Eko Atlantic and other Federal/ State projects along the Lagos coast should undertake sea-level risk assessment that will model predicted sea-level changes in a range of scenarios such astime series, incremental climate change, shear events, storm frequency and intensity. The assessment should also model the form that changes will take as well as provide an understanding of the associated impacts on existing coastal systems infrastructure and property.

Engineering approaches

He decried the use on only engineering approaches in determining the construction of Eko Atlantic City, contending that other approaches like the biological and socio-institutional approaches should have also been taken into consideration. Oladipo stated that the best adaptation measures should include a combination of responses - Integrated Coastal Zone Management, ICZM.

...Eroded Alpha Beach Estate

" ICZM considers over the long term to balance environmental, economic, social, cultural and recreational objectives, all within the limits set by natural dynamics. ICZM enables decision makers to choose between the range of options available when responding to sea-level rise, and how to prevent piece-meal reactions that compound the problem," he said.

Also speaking on "Coastal cities under climate change impacts" at the Roundtable, a frontline environmentalist, Mr. Ako Amadi stated that beach nourishment and barrier walls are only temporary measures.

He called for afforestation and reforestation and decried the cosmetic approach to tree planting in Lagos and many other Nigerian cities.

Amadi who teaches at the University of Maiduguri called for a moratorium on developments in the shorelines.

But one issue that bothered participants at the roundtable was why the developers of Eko Atlantic did the Environmental Impact Assessment, EIA for the project abroad. They also wondered why the document is being kept secret by both the Lagos state government and the South EnergyX, the South African contracting firm handling the project.

Henrich boll Stiftung's Lagos Liaison Officer, Mrs. Monika Umunna who was elated by the outcome of the roundtable, promised to get a copy of the EIA from the Federal Ministry of Environment to enable the stakeholders study the document in greater details.

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