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Poverty and environmental degradation in Lagos

The Relationship between Poverty and Environmental degradation in Lagos

Poverty and environmental degradation both share a mutual relationship in the Lagos Metropolis especially in areas that seem to be very congested. This article addresses the relationship between poverty and environmental degradation in Lagos.

Lagos metropolis is inhabited by about 80% of the population of lagosians making it the most urbanized state in Nigeria today. With a population of over 21 million people, it is regarded as a mega city. Lagos is the commercial and industrial hub of Nigeria, thus it has attracted a high rate of migrants to the city.

The city reflects the epitome of contemporary urban decay; from overcrowded tenements, desecrated environment to growing crime. Worse still there seem to be a clear demarcation between the rich and the poor in Lagos and in such areas where there is a high population of poor lagosians, you will find environmental degradation. Places like Agege, Mushin, Ajegunle, Oworonshoki, Orile and maybe Bariga lay credence to these facts

The environmental problems confronting the Lagos Metropolis are daunting. The problems are both natural and man-made.

The critical problems facing cities of the developing world include deteriorating living conditions, increasing rates of death and diseases caused by pollution and poor sanitation. Hence, the environmental and social consequences of urbanization are quite visible.

Conversion of environmentally fragile areas to shanty towns by indigent migrants highlights the inextricable relationship between poverty and environmental degradation.

Read also: Housing and Urbanization stretched beyond borders

Therefore, environmental degradation is both a cause and consequence of poverty. This makes the slum a poster child of urban environmental degradation. Poverty puts pressure on people to engage in unsustainable and environmentally unfriendly practices.

The Lagos metropolis is replete with environmental problems ranging from slums and squatter settlements, to crime and delinquency.

Also, poverty is inseparably linked to lack of control over resources including land, skills, knowledge, capital and social connections. Environmental Degradation on the other hand can be described as the process of reducing the quality of the environment; those activities that render the environment unhealthy and unsustainable over time.

Again, poverty and environmental degradation are inextricably intertwined, resulting in a vicious cycle in which poverty causes environmental stress, which in turn perpetuates more poverty. When the physical environment in and around cities deteriorates, those most affected are the urban poor.

Poverty puts pressure on people to engage in unsustainable and ecologically damaging practices. It is believed that the urban poor, confined to economically fragile and ecologically vulnerable areas, contribute to the incidence of environmental degradation and urban congestion. Little wonder economic disadvantages, usually as a result of unemployment/ underemployment are the root causes of urban poverty and environmental degradation.

Environmental degradation creates slums, shanty towns and squatter settlements. In fact the concentration of the poor in unplanned settlements leads to the emergence of slums and shantytowns.

It is no longer news that the urban poor converge in certain geographic loci within the city, especially in areas where cost of living and accommodation is either cheap or comes freely.

In slum dominated environments, a set of forces interact to give rise to a devalued physical and social image of an area by the larger community. Squatter settlements itself are uncontrolled illegal and temporary settlements.

Slums, shanty towns and squatter settlements exhibit similar characteristics. These include poor sanitary surroundings, dilapidated structures, high occupancy ratio, physical dullness of surroundings in terms of landscaping and social amenities, inadequate provision or complete lack of public facilities, absentee landlords, low rent, haphazard architectural design and general features of vandalism.

Prevalence of miscreants, crime and juvenile delinquency, ethnic clashes, high population density, political violence, public ignorance and apathy, environmental health crisis; all these issues are dominant in the shanty towns.

Street urchins and area boys are mainly located in the slums of Mushin, Shitta and Isale Eko. Land disputes and extortion, usually accompanied by widespread violence are quite common among the Omo-Oniles of Ajah and other emerging settlements around the metropolis. Ethnic clashes usually occur in the shanty-towns of Idi Araba and Ladipo-Mushin.

Environmental health crisis are quite common in low income areas. According to a study by Nwokoro and Okusipe in 2002, high incidence of sexually transmitted diseases were recorded in the low income settlements of Ipodo-Ikeja and Tolu-Ajegunle.

Political skirmishes are also widespread in low income areas. Crime is also higher in the low income areas of Agege and Somolu.

Environmental Management by the concerned government agencies have not done so much to solve the existing problems. Legislative bottlenecks, technical inadequacies, lack of manpower, lack of public participation and corruption have rendered the attempts made by the government to eradicate the existing problems ineffectual.

These include the loopholes in the Land Use Decree of 1978 that are yet to be revised, close to 4 decades later; selective implementation of the Urban and Regional Planning Decree 88 of 1992, paucity of qualified officers on the field and the inability of government to remunerate workers adequately.

Community participation is also not being implemented. Planning is still basically “for the people”, rather than being “with the people”. Therefore, planning ends up not being sustainable as the people do not feel a sense of responsibility to their environment.

Furthermore, the problems of the Lagos Metropolis are compounded because Lagos is a city that does not have city-wide administration. There is an overlap of functions and activities by all the local governments, and consequently, friction, conflicts and waste of public funds.

Overlap of functions of the various environmental management agencies is also an issue. The case of LASTMA, FRSC and FERMA is an example.

It is obvious that in the Lagos Metropolis, poverty has a dire effect on the general environment. It is obvious that a lot of work still needs to be done if Lagos is to meet up to expectations. The major problems of urban development and sustainability are prevalent across the city and particularly evident in the numerous slums and shanty towns inhabited by the poor and deprived.

The poor, who make up a significant proportion of the urban population are the most vulnerable in periods of health crisis and environmental hazards, therefore immediate intervention in the environment is crucial in order to avoid a catastrophic event occurring.

derived from various sources

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