Experts say in 50 years to come, Lagos risks being washed away by tidal waves.
It is the only Nigerian costal city that might go under if nothing serious is done to stop it. Climate change and poor environmental attitude of the residents are already assisting this prediction to come true.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) had, in a study entitled "Ranking of the world’s cities most exposed to coastal flooding today and in the future", revealed that Lagos was at risk of being submerged in the next 50 years. Cotonou, Liberia and Abdijan in West Africa were in the number.
OECD said: “In the 20th century, sea level rose by an estimated 17 centimetres, but sea level rise between 1990 and 2080 ranges from 22-34 centimetres. Oceans, which have been absorbing 80% of the temperature increase attributable to global warming, are expanding as ice sheets in the North and South poles melt. These events have led to a rise in sea levels and increasing flooding in coastal cities. The projected rise in sea levels could result in catastrophic flooding of coastal cities.”
A University of Lagos don, Dr Emmanuel Enyeribe Ege, said the prediction about Lagos and other cities re-echoed in Rotterdam in June this year, at a programme entitled "Urban Development Tools and Climate Change and its implication for the world". It was organised by the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) of the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, in The Netherlands.
Dr Ege, who teaches in the Department of Geography said: “From what I observed, what they (in Europe) are doing regarding climate change and what we are doing here are poles apart. It is clear that we are too complacent with climate issues. However, I commend the Lagos State government for taking the right steps in the right direction.”
He regretted, on the other hand, that the populace is generally not aware of issues of climate change.
Now the question is, what do Nigerians need to know and do to prevent calamity from befalling Lagos?
Mr Abayomi Oyegoke, Chief Meteorologist at Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), Lagos, explained that climate change is critical in the life of Lagos: “Climate change means changes in various climatic conditions in different places around the world.
"For example, the Little Dry Season we call August Break, has been prolonged this year. It used to last for six weeks in the South west region of the country. But it has now lasted much longer. This is as a result of climate change; the phenomenon changes in weather conditions and times of their occurrence which hitherto were unknown.
“It increases the temperature of the air which causes global warming. This happens when a lot of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. It is the same carbon dioxide that plants in our environment consume. But unfortunately, we often ignorantly destroy these trees. People don’t know that trees support lives.
"Humans make use of the oxygen plants release into the atmosphere while plants in return, consume the carbon dioxide we discharge. So the relationship between us and plants is a healthy, symbiotic one. But when we destroy these plants, we create problem for ourselves. Unfortunately, in Lagos no one cares about planting trees; existing ones are being cut down daily.
This action contributes largely to climate change because they help to alter the course of nature. Those who hack down trees do humanity a lot of harm.”
But would it surprise anyone that only a handful of Lagos residents know a bit about climate change and how trees can save the city?
Painfully, this ignorance doesn’t subtract from the growing fear that global warming, climate change and the city dwellers’ penchant for abuse of the environment bring. To underscore this, in the recent past, never-seen-before flooding, storms and ocean surges have been commonplace. A few months back, for instance, the Atlantic Ocean roared like an angry animal and furiously attacked residents of Kuramo Beach in Lagos.
Last year alone recorded severe storms and unusually heavy rains which caused heavy flooding. The tragic disasters destroyed lives and property worth millions of naira, leaving many to rue the ruin they left behind.
Dr Ege said one way to reduce this menace is to let “people know the importance of reducing their carbon production and input into the environment, for example, refuse dumping. People are still dumping refuse into water bodies and drainage channels.
"These practices in one way or the other lead to the production of carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and other injurious gases to the environment.
"So residents destroy the city with the waste they generate at home and where they dump them. If we can control our waste and ensure that it is dumped indiscriminately, then we can save our environment.
“When we burn our refuse, we cause a lot of dangerous gas to be released into the atmosphere. They get concentrated there. These gases make some parts of the atmosphere which are supposed to be permanently cold to become warm.
"Not only that, some areas in the cold zones of the world which are supposed to be cold also become warmer because of this practice. What that means is that huge icebergs in those zones now melt. Water released from those cold regions now drifts towards warmer regions and cause the ocean level to the rise above the normal.”
The implication of this for Lagos, he said, is that “most parts of Lagos State below the sea level are affected. So if we have a sea surge and it is not controlled then we are in trouble.
There is much to fear, as Lagos is one of the cities in West Africa adjudged vulnerable to ocean surge.
So if our government does not listen and apply what the Rotterdam model says – find a way the excess can percolate or settle, clear the drainages of refuse, and erect a mechanism to wedge the surge, then we are in trouble.
Dr Ege commended Governor Fashola’s environmental crusade, but insisted that “the state government still needs to build more recycling plants and ensure that there is a conscious way of harnessing waste. His tree planting campaign, too, needs to be re-invented. More and more people need to understand that they have a duty to protect the future of Lagos by caring for the environment.”