Welcome to Lagos during the rainy season.
Residents of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, are used to the annual flooding that engulfs the coastal city during the months of March through November. In mid-July, however, Lagos Island’s main business district experienced one of the worst floods in recent years.
“It was very bad and unusual,” Eselebor Oseluonamhen, 32, told CNN.
“I drove out of my house… I didn’t realize it had rained so much… There was a lot of traffic on my road due to the flooding. The further we went, the higher the water level. The water kept rising. until it covered the bumper of my car… then there was water leaking inside my car, ”recalls Oseluonamhen, who runs a mainland media company in Lagos .
Home to more than 24 million people, Lagos, a low-lying town on Nigeria’s Atlantic coast, could become uninhabitable by the end of this century as sea levels rise due to climate change, suggest scientific projections.
The problem is exacerbated by “inadequate and poorly maintained drainage systems and uncontrolled urban growth,” among others, according to a study by the Institute of Development Studies.
The Nigerian hydrological agency NIHSA has predicted more catastrophic flooding in September, usually the peak of the rainy season.
Lagos is partly built on the mainland and a string of islands.
It struggles with an eroding coastline that makes the city vulnerable to flooding, which Nigerian environmentalist Seyifunmi Adebote says is due to global warming and “human-induced action over an extended period”.
Sand mining for construction is a major contributor to coastal erosion in Lagos, environmental experts have said.
Manzo Ezekiel, spokesperson for the Nigerian Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), told CNN that the shores of Victoria Island from Lagos were already “washed away … especially in Lagos Zone VI”. “There is this problem of the bank being washed away. The rising water level is eating away at the land, ”Ezekiel added.
On Victoria Island, an affluent area of Lagos – a brand new coastal town called “Eko Atlantic” – is being built on land reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean and will be protected from rising sea levels by a wall of 8. Kilometers long concrete blocks, say the developers.
While the ambitious project could help alleviate housing shortages in other parts of the city, Ezekiel fears that “reclaiming land from the sea will put pressure on other coastal areas.”
Other critics argued that adjacent areas not protected by the wall would remain vulnerable to tidal waves. CNN has reached out to Eko Atlantic for comment.
Coastal towns are at risk of being submerged
Low-lying coastal cities in parts of the world could be permanently submerged by 2100, a study finds. The study published by research group Climate Central said affected areas could sink below the high tide line if sea level continues to rise.
“Due to heat-trapped pollution from human activities, rising sea levels could within three decades push chronic flooding higher than the land that is currently home to 300 million people,” according to the report. study. “By 2100, the areas that are now home to 200 million people could permanently fall below the high tide line,” he added.
Global sea level is predicted to rise more than 6 feet (2 meters) by the end of this century.
This leaves Lagos, which experts say is less than two meters above the sea, in a precarious state, given that part of the Nigerian coast is low. In a 2012 study, the UK University of Plymouth found that a sea level rise of just 3 to 9 feet (about 1 to 3 meters) “will have a catastrophic effect on human activities” in coastal environments. Nigerians.
Adebote told CNN that the fate of Lagos “will depend on how we prioritize this scientific prediction and the corresponding actions we take in response.” “It’s only a matter of time before nature recedes and it could be a disaster,” he added.
Deadly floods in Nigeria
Continuous flooding in Nigeria’s coastal areas has left many dead and many displaced. According to NEMA data, more than 2 million people were directly affected by flooding in 2020.
At least 69 people lost their lives in catastrophic flooding last year. In 2019, more than 200,000 people were affected by flooding with 158 deaths.
“Every year we see floods in Nigeria. It’s a problem caused by climate change and we live with it, ”Ezekiel told CNN.
Beyond Lagos’ vulnerability to climate change, poor drainage systems and clogged gutters in large parts of the city are believed to have exacerbated the flooding problems.
However, as floods rage in some areas, low-income neighborhoods built on reclaimed wetlands face sinking buildings.
Keep Lagos afloat
Adebote told CNN that in order for Lagos to stay afloat in the face of flooding and rising sea levels, it must adapt to climate change.
“We need to look at our infrastructure – drainage systems, waste management facilities, housing structures… How resilient and adaptive is this infrastructure in the face of environmental pressures and when faced with our growing population? ” he said.
Authorities in Lagos have since started cleaning up the state’s water channels to alleviate the ongoing flooding.
“We are looking forward to working with the president [Joe] Biden and vice president [Kamala] Harris. We have a lot of hope and optimism for strengthening the existing cordial relations, working together to fight global terrorism, climate change, poverty and to improve economic ties and trade, ”Buhari wrote in a January tweet.
But Adebote notes that the government’s responses to climate action “have been largely poor.”
“There is a lot to do and consistent and deliberate actions by different stakeholders for Nigeria to take climate action properly, especially adapting to the impacts that already threaten our livelihoods,” he said. -he adds.
Environmental activist Olumide Idowu urged government officials to partner with the private sector to increase funds to tackle the problems.
“The government should consider partnerships with the private sector to drive climate finance to solve flood problems,” Idowu told CNN.
Nigeria’s economy has struggled in recent years, cutting funding for climate change and other critical sectors. However, the authorities are still committed to stepping up the country’s response to climate change.