While some parts of the country experienced flooding of greater dimension last year, the situation in Lagos was relatively pleasant. Recent prediction by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) has revealed there will be heavier rainfall in Lagos State and other parts of the country this year. The agency’s director general, Anthony Anuforom, said this year’s rainfall pattern would not be different from what the country witnessed last year, noting that the annual rainfall amount is expected to be above normal in comparison to 2012 in the northwest areas of Sokoto, Kebbi, Niger, Kwara, Zamfara and environs, while the rainfall amount will be below normal in Ogun, Oyo and Kebbi States.
While predicting the rainfall amount to be normal in most parts of the country, he disclosed that in the extreme north, rainfall is expected to range from 400 to 1000mm, while in the south, it is expected to be between 1500 and 3000mm. The DG further said rainfall onset dates will vary between first week of March in the southernmost part of the country, and late June in the far northern parts, noting that there will be early onset in Niger, Cross River, Anambra, Delta, Ogun and Ondo by one week. According to him, the predictions are based on the “Neutral Phase of the ENSO phenomenon”. The ENSO phenomenon, also known as Southern Oscillation, refers to variations in the temperature of the surface of the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean and in air surface pressure in the tropical western Pacific.
Undoubtedly, climate change has contributed to a rise in extreme weather events – including higher intensity flooding in Nigeria as seen in recent years. NIMET has predicted, as it did last year, that this change will raise the occurrence of rainfall in 2013, which may also boost the prospect of flooding and erosion, especially around the coastal areas. It advised the Federal Government, states as well as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other related organisations to ensure adequate preparedness to reduce the nation’s vulnerability to weather-related natural hazards or face the possible occurrence of emergencies nationwide.
Being a coastal state, Lagos has a peculiar flooding challenge. If not for the proactive steps the Lagos State government has been taking with regard to the environment in the last twelve years, the flooding situation in the state would have been more devastating. What we experience in Lagos anytime it rains is mere flash flooding which is natural to most coastal places. This is the outcome of the amount of work that the state government has done in sanitising the environment in recent time.
However, the state government is not resting on its oars in its bid to ensure that flooding is effectively tackled in the state. While allaying the fears of Lagosians over the prediction of more rains in the coming days by NIMET, the state government has assured Lagos residents of its preparedness for the coming rainy season. While shedding light on the government’s state of preparedness, the state commissioner for the environment, Tunji Bello, said the government is putting everything in place to prevent flooding before the rains start. Towards this end, Bello and his team in the Ministry of the Environment recently inspected drainage projects such as drainage construction, cleaning and clearance across the state to allow the government to have an on-the-spot assessment of the state of the facilities. Similarly, the state government has been alerting those that live in flood prone areas on the need to relocate before the rains commence as this is a proactive measure that would not only help in saving lives but equally aid in protecting property.
It is vital that Lagosians become conscious of the critical feature of Lagos topography which makes it essentially a low-lying terrain up to 0.4 percent below the sea level. Naturally, this arrangement is the source of huge drainage challenges that confront the state. If this is added to the volume of rain that is being experienced in the state lately, it would be realised that there is possibly no way there would not be flash flooding in Lagos. Therefore, no matter the magnitude of rain, Lagos is always vulnerable to flooding. Hence, the earlier we understand that Lagos, being a coastal city, has a peculiar flooding challenge, the better for us all.
The most important thing, however, is that the state government is being proactive. If rain falls continuously for three or four days, there might be flooding, but with limited intensity because of the several measures that have been put in place. This explains why Lagos was spared the agonising experience that characterised flooding across the country last year.
Experts have revealed that flooding can cause a range of health impacts and risks, including death and injury, unhygienic drinking water, harmful material spills, increased populations of disease-carrying insects and rodents, moldy houses, and community disruption and displacement. As rains become heavier, streams, rivers, and lakes can overflow, increasing the risk of water-borne pathogens. Consequently, Lagosians should ensure that they stop all practices that could put a clog in the wheel of government’s efforts aimed at tackling flooding. As the rains set in, Lagosians must be ready to cooperate with the state government by embracing positive attitude in their response to the environment. These include proper waste disposal, compliance with building regulations, embracing alternative energy use, paying necessary attention to sanitation issues, not building structures on drainage channels, flood plains and on water pathways. Equally, they must desist from indiscriminate dumping of refuse inside gutters and canals as well as indiscriminate tree felling.
Indeed, all stakeholders need to put up a united front in ensuring that all human-induced activities that aid flooding are stopped. There is therefore need for advocacy support by civil society organisations, NGOs, religious, community development associations, cultural-ethnic organisations, among others, in promoting issues that bother on the protection of the environment. Also, the media could help to champion the campaign for attitudinal change towards the environment.
The struggle between man and nature has, from time immemorial, been a protracted one, but it is certain that nature cannot conquer the resolve of a determined and united world whenever man decides to subdue nature and enforce dominion over the earth. The airplanes, the Panama Canal, the European tunnel, the pyramid of Egypt, etc remain clear testimonies of the indefatigable depth of human capacity for survival against the threat of nature. To mitigate the effects of the rains this year, Lagosians must work in partnership with the state government for the common good of all. Together we can make Lagos a safer and better place to live.
Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.