12 February 2013

Nigeria: Flooding - No Cause for Alarm, We Are Prepared - LASG

The floods which ravaged many parts of Nigeria last year are still very fresh in the memories of many . Virtually every state in the country had one tale or the other to tell about the rampaging floods which destroyed farmlands and rendered millions of people homeless in places like Kano, Jigawa, Cross River, Taraba, Adamawa, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Imo, Niger and Anambra states.

Lagos was lucky because the impact of the floods was not intense. But from the first rain this year in nation's commercial capital coupled with climate statistics, experts posit that that heavy rains would be experienced leading to more intense flooding in the city this year. Many Lagosians have already begun to develop grey hairs as they anticipate the consequences the imminent flooding will cause.

To such skeptics, the Lagos State Government says there is no cause for alarm as it is fully prepared for the rainy season this year. Allaying their fears at the weekend during the inspection of drainage projects in Shomolu in Kosofe Local Government Area, the commissioner for Environment, Mr. Tunji Bello said the government will put everything in place to prevent flooding before the commencement of rains.

Bello who said he embarked upon the inspection of drainage projects across the state to enable residents see what the government is doing in terms of drainage construction, cleaning and clearance, added that some of the projects started last year have been completed while the ones commenced this year are ongoing and nearing completion, preparatory to the coming rainy season.

The commissioner who said there was no flooding in Lagos last year despite of the heavy rains, attributed it to adequate preparation by the government. "I am not saying that there will not be flooding, but because we are prepared for it, the consequence will be minimal. The most important thing is that we are prepared for it. If rain falls continuously for three or four days, there is no how there will not be flooding, but the intensity of the flood will not be there because of our preparation towards it. We were able to cope last year. We hope to cope better this year", he stated.

An environmentalist, Mr. Leslie Adogame however believes there is more to be done by the state government to avert what happened last year in many parts of the country. Adogame who is , Executive Director, Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development, said Lagos State government and other disaster prone states should step up their flood disaster action/management plans.

"This requires a rapid appraisal and mapping of the flood prone areas with local stakeholders and NGOs. A community based pro-active effort is needed to dismantle structures identified to be blocking water channels and hence appropriate relocation of vulnerable people before the damage is done. The present efforts of the Ogun and Oyo state governments should be emulated by the Lagos state government, since it is cheaper to prevent than to cure on a long term. Beyond physical infrastructure, medical facilities need to be up graded speedily to withstand the likely upsurge of associated health related cases known with the season.

"We need to look at alternatives by focusing on minimising the damage rather than the occurrence. There is a need to identify ways of living and working in flood prone areas, while protecting high value assets. People living in flood prone areas should be helped to be 'flood ready'. Reassessing design and development regulations must be part of the solution. We must immediately look at ways to redevelop our cities smarter, greener and more resilient to the impacts of extreme weather events such as this", Adogame said.

Referring to last year flood disasters across the country, the SRADev boss said "it appears that we have not yet learnt any lesson from it going by our level of preparation. It was estimated that no less than 300,000 hectares of farmlands and agricultural produce worth billions of Naira were lost to severe flooding as no less than 400 communities were completely submerged under water across Nigeria. The floods began in early July and reportedly killed 137 people and displaced over 120,000 people so far. These are obvious combination of global climate change and natural cycle of things as well.

"From the first heavy rains this year and climate statistics, it is likely that heavy and more intense flooding is imminent and Lagos case might be worse for it when it happens this time. The environmental impact of flooding can be quite wide-ranging and ravaging. the food crises and the anticipated "deepening of poverty" which may result from this, my greatest concerns are the immediate environmental implication which in most cases is a combination of all impacts of excessive flooding.

Deeper additional gullies would be created, large number of people would become "environmental refugees" a situation which would further worsen disease and epidemic situation around the city with increase in malaria cases. Generally displaced people especially children and women are going to be worst hit due to exposure to harsh environmental conditions like intense heat, contaminated water, foods and others" he noted.

Drainage projects visited by Bello and his team included Anipole/Damilola Ajayi collector drain in Ifako Gbagada, Down stream Gbagada/Bariga drainage channel along Apapa/Oworonsshoki Expressway and Ofo/Layi Otegbade collector drain as well as Alhaji Sherif/Bolaji Omupo/Ajisegbede collector drain in Shomolu.

At Anipole/Damilola Ajayi collector drain, Bello who said the contract was awarded this year, said it would be completed between May and June this year. He said illegal structures on drainage alignment must be pulled down for the construction to be possible. The collector drain is expected to de-flood Solaru, Esterport, Adekunle Osomo, Lateef Alli, Anipole, Damilola Ajayi streets and its environs.

At the down stream Gbagada/Bariga drainage channel, the commissioner said the job has been completed. According to him, it only needs regular cleaning. Explaining that the project was informed by the 2011 rains which caused severe flooding in Lagos metropolis, the commissioner said there is no fear about the rainy season in 2013 because the down stream is ready while efforts are on to facilitate the completion of the up stream drains.

At Shomolu, Bello said the 500-metre collector drain will de-flood Pedro and Akpata areas of Shomolu.

High points

From the first heavy rains this year and climate statistics, it is likely that heavy and more intense flooding is imminent and Lagos case might be worse for it

*There will be flooding, but because we are prepared for it, the consequence will be minimal

*Some of the drainage projects started last year have been completed while the ones commenced this year are ongoing and nearing completion

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