4th July, 2012
Last year, at about the second week of July, torrential rains brought Lagos State to its knees, grounding commercial activities, killing people and destroying properties worth millions of naira. The situation was so bad that the state governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, declared a public holiday to enable people recover from the disaster.
Eight months later, in March 2012, the rains came again, with gale force winds sweeping through the state and wreaking havoc. Many Lagosians also lost their lives and the state was thrown into a state of panic each time it threatens to rain.
Last week, the rains came again, harder and more ferocious, flooding many parts of the state while people lost their lives and properties to the raging storm.
According to meteorologists, the unusual weather pattern will last for a while and Lagosians were warned to be prepared for heavy rains.
Lagos, like many other coastal cities, has peculiar problems and today, about 40% of the global population lives in coastal cities, a population projected to reach over eight billion people by 2050, with significant implications for the coastal ecosystem stability, human health and economic vitality. This is why coastal cities need smart urban development and economic growth while maintaining the health of local ecosystems.
That Lagos should be awarded a special status as a former capital and commercial nerve centre of the country is not in question, but the state should also begin to address its sustainability in the face of uncontrolled growth and attitude to the environment. We need to educate the population in the face of the threat to our continued existence due to climate change.
Sometimes the challenges of nature cannot be controlled by man but failing to face these challenges is a recipe for disaster. Are our drainage channels and canals capable of evacuating the kind of storm water we have lately experienced? Even where we have canals that will handle heavy rainfall, how often do we dredge them? Are residents enlightened enough to realise that filling canals with debris is inimical to their wellbeing?
Too many avoidable crises have occurred out of ignorance or crass neglect of what the elements are capable of. The result of rainstorm in areas like the Victoria Island-Lekki-Ajah axis should tell us something we are doing or are failing to do.
The flooding in Mushin, Surulere, Aboru, Ikorodu road and Ikeja are hints that something is terribly wrong somewhere. If those that live in low line areas are urged to relocate to avoid disaster, where do they go if they don’t have families or friends in Lagos?
We have had enough disasters to last us for years in the last few months but to allow these unusual storms devastate us without doing something is, at best, bad. The unusual weather pattern notwithstanding, Lagos State must put in place a drainage system that befits its status as a mega city. We cannot continue to wallow in filth and insecurity in the face of natural or man-made disasters. The time has come to think of solution in the face of changing weather patterns.
Too many have lost too much to these freaky weather patterns, and the loss continues. Must we be afraid every time the clouds gather?