Is Lagos losing its resilience to coastal erosion?

Only two of Nigeria’s numerous cities are listed among 100 most resilient cities (100-RC) in the world, based on an in-depth research, investigation and analysis funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. They are Enugu and Lagos.

While Enugu, a historic city sited in the eastern part of Nigeria, based on many considerations and parameters, appear to be years behind Lagos in terms of infrastructural and economic development, Lagos on the other hand is only one of the few cities in Africa that are fast chasing a megacity and smart city status.

With projects like the multi-billion dollars Eko Atlantic City project which is expected to be ready in a few years time, the megacity and smart city status of Lagos seems to have been set in stone.

To show the growing strength of Lagos, a recent report made available by the 100-RC team pioneered by Rockefeller Foundation, notes that currently, well over half of the world’s population lives in towns or cities, but the report also notes that by 2050, as many as three out of four members of the human race will live in the cities, such as Lagos.

“What awaits them is an unfolding story that will make headlines on the business pages and elsewhere as towns and cities around the globe reinvent themselves to cope with the impact of migration and the consequences of climate change.

“Terms like Megacity, Smart City or Resilient City are part of the political debate. What are they? How sustainable are they? Who are the companies that are building them and providing the services they need to function? Who will foot the bill?” the report further noted.

But how truly resilient is Lagos? And if indeed it is resilient, for how long will it be able to cope with nine of the major problems it faces daily, as identified by the 100-RC team. The nine challenges are:    Chronic Energy Shortages; Coastal Flooding; Disease Outbreak; Infrastructure Failure and Overpopulation.

Others are Overtaxed/ Under Developed/Unreliable Transportation System; Poor Transportation System; Rainfall Flooding, and Rising Sea Level and Coastal Erosion.

However, these problems (alongside those of other cities) were researched into by participants at a recent workshop held in Nairobi, Kenya, including Tribune Property correspondent, where all stakeholders including the government, private individuals, professionals as well as corporate enterprises, among others were urged to look for ways of dealing with these challenges once and for all.

At the workshop, which was tagged: “The Business of Small Cities and Urban Renewal,” and organised by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and financed by the Rockefeller Foundation, it was agreed that unless all stakeholders, especially the government, rise to the occasion and finds a way of legitimately tackling these problems, not only is the “smartness” of the city under threat, the future of the city itself, as a truly functional city hangs in the balance.

Led by two media consultants, Melanie Cheary and Royston Martin, it was agreed that, among other problems, coastal erosion needs to be tackled very urgently, as Lagos stands the risk of losing all its coastal regions as well as their ecosystem to uncontrolled coastal erosion in the future.

Damage done to Lagos city as a result of coastal erosion is believed to be enormous, and exposes the city to a wide array of other environmental problems such as decline in water quality which could lead to diverse forms of health problems, among other problems.

Checks made by Tribune Property suggest that coastal erosion is still very much prevalent in the city, where many communities in some coastal parts of Lekki are still being lost to the menace.

About three years ago, it will be recalled many communities in Elegushi area of Lekki and other places witnessed an unprecedented coastal erosion that saw people’s houses being flooded with ocean water while a number of people lost their lives.

Thus, while taking a critical view about Lagos’ precarious situation, the two consultants, Melanie Cheary and Royston Martin alongside other participants at the workshop who had come from different parts of Africa, all agreed with the 100-RC report which says, “Lagos has over 21 million inhabitants and is the cultural and economic heart of Nigeria. With financial, commercial, and tourist centres located on islands in the Gulf of Guinea, Lagos is especially susceptible to damage from rising sea levels and coastal erosion, which have already led to a decline in water quality, the destruction of drainage infrastructure, and an increase in incidences of water and vector borne disease. Coastal erosion has also hurt indigenous communities that depend on coastal resources for survival.”

“Coastal flooding from storm surges has forced the relocation of resorts, businesses, and artisans from the popular tourist destination of Victoria Island. Recent initiatives involving private sector partners have already led to the reclamation of some coastline on the island, providing a model for future efforts to protect Lagos’ vulnerable shores,” the report further noted.