The issue of flooding has worsened considerably in Lagos in recent times to the extent that a man was spotted paddling his canoe on the popular Ahmadu Bello way in Victoria Island only last month. In this article, we look at possible ways Lagos flood disasters can be avoided.
Following the flood than overran the Island and Lekki area of Lagos state in July, the issue of flooding in Lagos state has once again come on the front burner.
The unrelenting rains that resulted in the Lagos flood disasters especially in Ikoyi, Lekki Peninsula and Victoria Island axis of the state spells doom for the real estate valuation of those areas.
I won’t be so far away from the truth if I were to attribute the flood disasters that has plagued Lagos in recent times to a number of possible factors including rapid population growth, urbanization, poor urban planning and climate change especially in increased frequency and intensity of rainfall.
On a global scale, the rate of flooding occurrence in recent times has been unprecedented. With 70 million people globally exposed to flooding every year, and more than 800 million living in flood prone areas.
Climate change with more frequent and severe rainfall events, sea level rise, rapid population growth and urbanization, the rate of development on floodplains, the level of awareness of flood risk and the ineffectiveness of efforts towards tackling flooding in many places are factors of concern around the globe.
Flooding disasters in Lagos have been severe due to the number of human populations exposed following the attractions of the coastal area for economic and social reasons.
As a matter of fact Nigeria is globally ranked with the top 20 countries whose present population and future scenarios in the 2070’s (including climate change and socio-economic factors) are exposed to coastal flooding.
Pluvial floods usually occur annually during rainy seasons (between July and October) and affects not just Lagos but mainly the urban areas in Nigeria. Such floods which are arguably unprecedented in recent times are caused by more frequent and severe rainfall which overwhelms the efficiency of drainage systems and soil infiltration capacity.
Moreover, the reality of widespread flooding in Lagos coupled with the notion that floods are inevitable phenomena which can never be fully constrained within the natural environment appears to overwhelm efforts towards finding a solution.
The Lagos flood disasters has been brought to the attention of various levels of government, the community and other stake holders who have been active with measures to tackle the incident. Albeit, these measures have been criticized as ad-hoc, non-holistic and not well established in the light of ‘best practices’ in flood risk reduction and ‘lessons learned’ from other countries’ experiences of flooding.
It can be argued that such stake holders’ efforts are at best limited most probably due to lack of quality data, which among other things are needed to systematically tackle flooding, poor perception of flooding among the general public, lack of funds and improved technology as well as poor political will power.
Arguably, given the growing number of flood victims and the constrained sustainable development caused by flooding in Lagos and within the country, researches into solutions to widespread flooding in Nigeria are weak towards flood risk reduction.
While the lack of definite measures and capacity to radically address the challenges of flooding within the country has been arguably overwhelming, concerted efforts in the form of environmental and infrastructural planning, policy directives, social responses, physical intervention and enhanced public enlightenment programmes, vital to tackling the Lagos flood disasters have been considered.
Other vital tools that could be needed to address and reduce the risk of Lagos flood disasters are community based early warning systems, humanitarian aids from government and private sectors and appropriate level of preparedness and capacity building.
A more efficient, robust and satisfactory flood intervention strategies is required to combat Lagos flood disasters.
It has also been argued that various flood modelling approaches are pivotal components of flood risk reduction because they are capable of quick, continuous and routine simulation of flood data (most notably flood water depth, inundation extent and duration as well as water flow velocity) required for flood hazard / risk assessment.
For Nigeria, besides the general roles of flood modelling, the technique can assist in provision of critical information for strategic planning and effective flood risk management within the country. It will equally drive an improved understanding of flood phenomena and prompt improvements into more robust flood management approaches such as flood forecasting, flood early warning system and flood damage estimation.
The fact that Lagos state, with a population of over 21 million people is the most populated state in Nigeria makes the Lagos flood disasters a unique and complex situation.
The theory that future population growth will drive future flood risk highlights the importance of urgency in finding means of preparing human population in the country to adapt to floods. It will be a welcome development for Lagos state and Nigeria at large to implement flood modelling since within European Union framework, such a technique is operationalized towards flood hazard/risk mapping of the constituting States.
In the Netherlands and the US, flood modeling, among other roles, supports investigation into estimation of damage caused by flooding.
Many Asian countries, notably China, Vietnam and Bangladesh although having ‘not too well’ established flood management systems and methodologies utilize flood modeling methodologies for flood risk assessment and mitigation, a task in more developed countries such as the US, the Netherlands and United Kingdom, and finally, to promote flood risk awareness in the general public as well as to delineate safer terrains for relocation of human populations during flooding in Nigeria underpins more proactive ways of tackling the hazard in Lagos.
Whilst Lagos flood disasters can be attributed to urban growth and coastal influence among other key factors, the peculiar attitude of Nigerians towards issues they probably have no solution to is to find a possible natural means to adapt. Although such attitude has cost many lives and properties, however, it’s arguably a significant potential for Nigerians and has severally favored them in emergency situations. Families in Nigeria co-habit and this offers a comparative advantage in the event of flood disasters.
In many flooding incidences in Nigerian cities, the general public has often offered assistance to victims, assisted in evacuation of those displaced and in protecting property from further damage. Many IDPs easily find shelter and other humanitarian needs from families and friends while awaiting intervention by authorities.
Although anti-social behavior, such as looting and sexual harassment of some of the internally displaced victims often arise, however the civilized attitudes of the general public, which may be comparable to those in the developed world such as the US following the hurricane Katrina of has been commendable.
Conclusively, to avoid subsequent flood disasters, the understanding and demonstration of the roles more scientific approaches such as flood modeling, can play in flood risk reduction within the context of Nigeria is essential to tackle Lagos flood disasters.
Finally, the roles of NEMA in Nigeria are acknowledged, but improvement is required. Lack of adequate resources especially accurate data clearly undermines the effectiveness of the agency in disaster management. Thus, improvement in resources allocation to NEMA, but also acquisition of data should be the agencies top priority.