It is easy to blame the Lagos state government for the severity of the floods of 10th July and their aftermath, and while they could do more especially in area of emergency response, Lagosians also have to bear their fair share of responsibility. One of the biggest reasons for blocked drainages are structures that obstruct the flow of water through various canals throughout the city. Many residents, rich and poor, are guilty of this.
In one of the gubernatorial debates, Bashorun J.K. Randle tried to put Governor Fashola on the defensive by claiming the governor refused to grant him audience, only for it to be revealed that Bashorun Randle’s house was to be demolished because it was built on a drain. There are such structures all over the city, and they must be demolished to alleviate the situation during rainy season. Many houses don’t have building permits, and as a result they violate the master plan of Lagos, putting everyone else in jeopardy. The death toll from sunday is in the dozens, and there is nothing to say it won’t happen again.
When demolitions commence, I suspect we will come face to face with the hypocrisy and selfishness of the average Nigerian. The same people who criticise the government for not having good drainages, are the very same who will protest when steps are taken to correct it, and violate every law regulating erection of structures.
Another reason for blocked drains is the wrong disposal of waste. A lot of work has already been done to stop flooding during the rainy season, but throwing pure water satchets, plastic bottles, cans and other things into gutters clogs up the drains, and sets back the efforts of the state government.
Lagos and its residents need a makeover if the city is to keep thriving, because the reality is that being located on the coast and at such a low elevation means it is under attack from rising sea levels. Sunday’s rainfall coincided with a high tide, and the huge volume meant that after some time the water had nowhere to go. This also contributed to the catastrophic flooding. There are predictions that up to two million people could be displaced as a result of rising sea levels alone in the coming years.
In addition to the short term solutions like improving drainages, better waste disposal by citizens and strict enforcement of the master plan, a long term view of the future of Lagos must be taken. Here are key questions going forward as I see them:
1. Are Victoria Island, Lekki, Epe, Ajah, Makoko and other such areas viable long term settlements?
2. What is the projected population of Lagos in the next 2 decades, and how best can we plan the city to cater for this in terms of water, food and energy?
3. What role can areas like Sango-Ota, Ibadan and Abeokuta play in reducing the strain on Lagos? How can we make them attractive for settlement?
These and other questions must be asked and answered in the coming months and years. In the meantime, Lagosians must back whatever actions are necessary, even if they will cause short-term inconvenience. Having secured a second term, Babatunde Fashola will never run for governor again. He has a chance to spare his successor and the electorate, the problems that will result from kicking the can down the road.