The Lagos State government should step up its campaign to rid the drains of filth 

The almost 10-hour torrential rainfall in Lagos and some parts of Nigeria on Wednesday presented an ominous sign of the pain and distress that residents of most cities are bound to witness in this rainy season. The reason is simple: There is no deliberate plan designed or being implemented at any level of government to protect vulnerable people, particularly those living in low lying lands or near riverbanks. This is despite repeated warnings. In April this year, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) gave a broad outline of the quantity of rain to expect across the country. That provided enough time for the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to avoid needless deaths and destruction of property and to prepare for adaptation. Obviously, there has been little or no sensitisation, as well as advisory information passed to the people.Now, Nigerians must contend with the fear that the increase in the level of flooding across the country may worsen the ravaging cholera outbreak. According to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the cholera outbreak has resulted in 63 deaths and 2,102 suspected cases as of last Wednesday. Meanwhile, NiMet had earlier in the year admonished that specific plans be made to keep people safe. “The rains may be delayed in some states, but the coastal areas would still experience flooding. Blocked drains, especially in areas where flood waters easily accumulate and generate a strong force, should be cleared, and subsequently kept free. These and other measures must be taken to minimise our individual and collective vulnerability,” the agency stated in April.

There are no indications that NiMeT’s prediction was taken seriously in many states. In Lagos, for instance, most of the canals are silted and unlike in the past, they were not cleared this year. It therefore came as no surprise that they could not cope during the flash floods last Wednesday, as the storm water overflowed, carrying solid wastes into homes, schools, roads and other structures in the neighbourhoods. It is noteworthy that Lagos has lost almost all its wetlands to housing developers, which is one of the reasons for the massive flooding experienced even with the lightest rainfall. Wetlands are those spectacular water catchment areas that hold storm water and prevent it from flooding homes. Not too long ago, there were wetlands on both sides of the Lekki-Epe road and on the Lagos-Ikorodu and everywhere else.

These wetlands were home to marine life, birds visit, rare flowers which sprout in these lakes, etc. But they are all gone. The downside is that storm water that should be held in these wetlands now flood homes.

Considering the rise in sea level, there is also the possibility that water from the Atlantic Ocean is seeping into the Lagos Lagoon instead of the other way round. Drainages in housing estates near the lagoon are taking in water and are unable to discharge into it. That this phenomenon played out last Wednesday was confirmed by the Lagos State Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Tokunbo Wahab.

“The tidal level for the Lagoon was up to the extent that the rainwater was not able to discharge for about one or two hours into the Lagoon and sea. That was what happened,” he explained while tendering apologies to Lagosians for their plight.

The situation is worsened by the bad habits of some of the residents who dump their solid wastes in drainages and canals, causing storm water to flood the streets and homes.

The topography of Lagos also makes flash floods inevitable, but it could drain itself naturally and this is where the wetlands come into play as they serve as buffer and retention places until the water is able to flow into the lagoon or dry up. There is also an ongoing abuse of the state’s urban and regional planning laws, as shanties and illegal structures sprout at every conceivable space. With little or no consideration for the safety of occupants in times of emergencies, property owners cherish and value the revenue from the shops more than the lives of the residents.• Concluded tomorrow

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