MONDAY EDITORIAL

There is need to pay more attention to the environment

While hundreds of thousands of citizens are still counting their losses, nature is wreaking havocs on communities in several states across the country. Within the past one month, villages, schools and farmlands have been submerged as more and more Nigerian join the growing population of internally displaced. To compound the problem, the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency last week predicted more flooding in no fewer than 12 states of the federation. According to an alert from the agency, there has been a systematic rise in the water levels of both Rivers Niger and Benue in recent weeks such that Shiroro, Kainji and Jebba dams were already spilling water.

Instructively, while Nigeria has many challenges, environment is not often listed as one of them. That only shows our lackadaisical disposition to serious issues. It is therefore time Nigeria became part of the global trend of putting issues of the environment on the front burner while the relevant authorities should be more proactive, especially in the prevention of natural disasters. And when they inevitably occur, governments at all tiers, complemented by private organisations and well-endowed individuals, should come to the aid of the victims as we see in other parts of the world.

Meanwhile, elementary science teaches that as global temperatures rise, oceans get warmer and when water heats up, it expands and sea levels rise as we have been witnessing in several countries in recent times. It is therefore no surprise that in several coastal cities across the world today, climate change is creating a situation where too much water comes at an unexpected time, or in unexpected places causing serious problem. It is then little wonder that the densely populated, low-lying cities and towns in our country have also become an environmental nightmare for most of the inhabitants on account of flooding.

However, beyond the intervention of the government at all levels is the need for Nigerians to begin to imbibe the correct attitude to waste disposal because flooding in some of our major cities cannot be solely explained by the factor of nature. The habit of the people indeed plays a crucial role in what has been happening over the years anytime it rains. Most of the drains are blocked due to the indiscriminate throwing on the roads and drainages, disposable empty cans and pure water nylons, among others.

This dirty attitude quite naturally leads to blockages of canals and man-holes resulting in the type of floods that have been witnessed in recent weeks. For instance, Lagos presents a clear example in this regard as most flood-prone areas are replete with buildings erected on water channels. This ugly trend must stop while the state government should ensure that all those buildings are pulled down so as to ensure the free flow of water into the canals.

However, it is not enough for the government to just ask citizens to leave their houses built on flood path without providing compensations or any measures for their relocation, especially if those buildings have all the requite permits which then suggest that the owners are not to blame. Also, there is need for the authorities to resettle those living in flood-prone areas, especially in situations where that is the only solution for dealing with the problem. Naturally, there will be resistance from people who would not like to move from their present habitat but they must be made to realise the consequences of whatever choice they make between accepting to be resettled or risk their lives and livelihoods.

In the final analysis, Nigerians must come to terms with the fact that we are at a period in history when the forces of nature are raging and we must be prepared to deal with them.