25th June, 2012
Now that the rains are here, it is important to put certain things into proper perspective to enhance our understanding of related issues, and most importantly help us to embrace helpful safety tips. The first thing to consider is the topography of Lagos. A critical feature of Lagos topography is that the state is essentially made up of 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 realized 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.
Second is the fact that experts across the world have made it clear, long before now, that the intensity this year’s rains will be much more than what we used to have in the past. Recent developments have, indeed, come to authenticate the position of experts, especially with regards to the volume of rains being presently experienced across the state.
Furthermore, it is important to emphasise that irrespective of the level of government’s preparedness at tackling flooding, the impact might not be fully felt except the people fully cooperate with government by shunning negative practices that promote flooding. Lagosians need to fully 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. Also, those living in flood prone areas as identified by the government must seek alternative accommodation to avert imminent disaster. The recent experience in Ajayi Street, Ogba, where a residential building, housing scores of people, caved in the aftermath of a torrential rainfall should be a wake- up call to everyone.
As much as the government is doing its bit, NGOs, Community Development Associations, the media, members of the Civil Society and all well meaning individuals and groups in the state should partner with the state government to achieve attitudinal change towards the environment. At present, the state government is combining public enlightenment strategies to sensitize Lagosians on this development and had taken the time to proffer solutions so that the expected rains would not have devastating effects on the people and their property. The government has sent experts round the state and, based on their reports, has advised the residents of flood prone areas such as Aboru, Ketu, Ajegunle (in Ikorodu), among others, to vacate the areas.
Similarly, the state government has continued to vigorously pursue its policy on the environment in order to create and ensure a cleaner, healthier and sustainable environment that will promote economic growth and well being of the citizenry. As always, the state government is committed to a cleaner environment and quality public health through implementation of community based solid waste management, flood control, vegetal control and high standard of home and personal hygiene, sanitation, control of environment pollution (air, water and noise), beautification and advertisement control. Consequently, its approach to tackling the issue of flooding in the state is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. It includes dredging, massive construction and expansion of drainage channels, desilting and excavation of silts to dumpsites, regular repair, clearing and cleaning of drainages, canals and collector drains across the state.
As it has been stated earlier, the nature of Lagos makes it to be prone to flooding. Hence, it is important that Lagosians, especially those that live in flood prone areas, are properly enlightened on how to cope with the peculiar Lagos situation. In case of flood, it is essential that people, especially children are made to stay indoors to reduce movement to the barest minimum. In fact, if it could be avoided, it is better not to drive while it is raining. It is better imagined the extent of destruction that would have taken place if the Sunday July 10, 2011 rain that caused havoc in Lagos had taken place on a work day. Hence, it is very vital that parents and guardians keep children , and indeed the aged ones, away from flood waters.
Similarly, we need to maintain a strict personal and environmental hygiene at all times to avoid being victims of water borne diseases. Also, to mitigate the effects of cold, we must ensure that children and the elderly are properly clothed with warm clothing during the rains. It is only when this is done that we will be able to curb the spread of rain induced health hazard such as cough, cold and other related ones. Additionally, this is the time to embrace the culture of taking plenty of thoroughly washed fruits in order to boost the immune system. This is in addition to drinking water from only trusted and safe sources.
Since information is vital in all that one does, it is also imperative that people listen to news reports and information on flash floods from the various available credible mediums. This will really aid in planning movements and avoiding flood prone locations. Also, in view of the destructive thunder strikes associated with recent rains in Lagos and environs, people are strongly advised to always disconnect all electrical appliances whenever they want to sleep or go out. This will go a long way in reducing the occurrence of rain induced electrical disasters. Similarly, children should be discouraged from touching any electrical equipment when wet.
In as much as it is not in our powers to stop rains, being a natural phenomenon, we should, at least, do things that are in our powers to lessen the negative consequences of rains. This includes regular clearing of gutters and drainages in our areas, making use of LAWMA/PSP services to dispose waste, reporting anyone dumping refuse in drains, gutters and canals to appropriate authorities, moving immediately to higher ground when flooding is imminent wherever we are, staying away from submerged electricity cables, cleaning and disinfecting everything that gets wet, staying away from canals and drainages evacuating or leaving danger zones immediately, calling 767 in case of emergency among others.
On a final note, it is essential that the federal government, through its relevant agencies, collaborates with states that have peculiar flooding challenges to determine areas of assistance. This must be done as a regular preventive measure and not after the havoc has been done. In as much as it is true that we cannot stop flooding, together we can mitigate its effects.
•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja