What comes to your mind when you think about floods?

For me and many others, it is the story of Noah in the Bible. You have probably heard or read the story before. A quick summary is that God gave a warning to Noah and asked him to build a big ark to save as many persons and animals in the world then. Do you think that the Lagos floods come without warning? I don’t think so. We experience the same phenomenon every other year. What special warning do we really need? Although we know the rainy season comes every year and most times with flooding, we refuse to prepare for it. So is it safe to say this frequent flooding is a direct consequence of our actions? 

To start with, what is flooding? A flood is an overflow of water that submerges surrounding dry land. The cumulative impact of flooding cannot be overemphasized. Floods cause loss of homes or properties, loss of livestock, destruction of crops, weakening building structures and ultimately loss of human life.  There are various causes of flooding.  There is prolonged and heavy rainfall, lack of vegetation, climate change, overflowing rivers, etc.

Lagos is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean which makes it prone to overflows from the ocean. However, the floods in Lagos are mostly human-induced as one of the major reasons is the lack of proper drainage systems. It is either the drainage is blocked or is too small to handle the intensity of the water passing through. Lagos is the most populated city in Nigeria, marked by rapid urbanization. Flooding and other social and environmental hazards are common in areas like Lagos. 

Let’s talk more about the causes of flooding in Lagos.

Waste Disposal into Drainages:

Some of us are so guilty as we play a major role in blocking the drainages around us. We throw our used plastic bottles, nylons, kitchen wastes and other kinds of wastes into the nearest drainage forgetting or not caring that it blocks the flow of water. When you go to markets, you will notice that the drainage systems are smelly because they are stacked up with dirt, sand, etc. I’m not sure I would ever understand the idea of cleaning up your space while causing a massive hazard to the bigger space that affects everyone including you. The thing is, water always looks for a channel to flow through,  when it doesn’t find enough space in the drains, it takes over whatever space it can find outsidetghh and that’s how floods come about. 

Poor or non-existing drainage systems:

Our government has a hand to play in this. Some residential areas lack drainage systems or the drainage is just too small to handle the intensity of the water meant to pass through. Such drainages are prone to damage and clogging at a much faster rate than others. When the rains are heavy, if there’s no drainage or the drainage is broken or there’s just too little space, the water will fill up the roads and enter the nearest houses if need be. 

Poor Urban Planning, Improper Landscaping:

We seem to be turning a blind eye to the laws that help maintain peace, comfort and order in our environment. Nowadays, people Build their properties close to canals and in some disagreeable environments.  The irony is that many of these landlords claim that their properties have been approved by the Government.  When you build property close to or on the river bank or canal or waterway, know for a fact that anytime it rains heavily, the sea level rises and the water will come for you. Sometimes the government takes damage control measures to demolish these structures when the problem becomes too obvious to avoid. What happened to prevention being the better option?

What can we do to resolve this issue?  

  1. The government needs to start working on building proper drainages in places that lack them and increase the size of narrow ones. 
  2. This is not an easy option but people living in houses built on waterways  need to evacuate so that the Government can demolish these structures to build waterways  
  3. We all need to start taking our waste disposal measures seriously. Clean your space and while doing that, make sure you’re not transferring the hazard somewhere else.
  4. We need to take charge of our environment by organizing street sanitation exercises, sensitizing others to do the right thing and enforcing sustainable measures to keep our environment clean at all times.
  5. Rural areas that are inaccessible should have a sustainable disposal channel set up by the government like waste trucks.
  6. The government needs to come up with strict policies and regulations to help manage the increasing improper disposal methods in the city.
  7. Government and other agencies need to fund and follow up research to find solutions to the recurring floods in Lagos and other cities in Nigeria.

The losses we have recorded from floods are too much. We need to take more strategic steps to prevent a recurrence. The change we need starts with you and I being more deliberate about preventing floods in our surroundings. We can only hope that the government’s pledge to provide a permanent solution is redeemed as soon as possible. If we all are devoted to contributing our quota, we would soon have a sustainable flood-free Lagos reality.

Author: Temitayo Soneye

Photo:  The Guardian

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